If I want your advice, I’ll ask for it

It’s the bane of new parents everywhere: the unwanted, unsolicited deluge of advice, comments, touching and general reaction of the public towards a newborn. I’ve been dealing with this for the past month and frankly, I’m fed up. What is it about someone becoming a new parent that makes people think they suddenly need to intrude on your life, ask you ridiculously personal questions that are none of their business, touch your child without your permission, and give you unwanted advice?

I knew when I was pregnant that I would probably be overly protective of my baby. Or maybe appropriately protective — I’m not quite sure yet. I could tell by my reaction to watching movies and TV shows. I could tell by my reaction to people trying to touch my belly all the time (absolutely infuriating, by the way. If I don’t know you and haven’t given you permission, then what makes you think you can walk up to me and put your hands on me? Would you like it if I walked up to you and started rubbing your belly? I don’t think so.). I knew that I would absolutely go mama grizzly on someone if need be. And yep, I was right. For example: why is it that people feel like it’s OK to walk up to someone’s child and touch them? I get it, babies are cute, mine especially so. But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to touch him without asking me first. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, either. For some reason I can’t quite understand, it’s the hands people automatically go for. I’m no germophobe, but I don’t know what people have on their hands. I don’t know if they washed their hands after they used the bathroom last, for example. Wouldn’t normally concern me except you’re touching Ben’s hands. And those hands will be in his mouth numerous times today. On top of that, if I don’t know you, then why is it OK to put your hands on my child without asking me first? I don’t mind people looking at him or asking how old he is. You want to touch him or hold him? Fine. Just have the common courtesy to ask first. Touch my child without asking me first and you are liable to get smacked. Fair warning.

Then there are the inappropriate questions. There’s the lady at Wal Mart that I’ve never met before who asks about whether I delivered vaginally or via c-section. There’s the woman who wants to know what his sleeping habits are, or whether I got him circumcised or not. I’ve been a mother for a little over a month, and I can already tell these women are trying to drag me into the Mommy Wars, something I have absolutely no interest in. I don’t care if so-and-so who just had a baby is breastfeeding, if she had her son circumcised, how she delivered her baby, how he’s sleeping, if she’s using a pacifier, or anything else. But for some reason, it seems like every woman I run into to just needs to know the answers to these questions. And they have to brag about their baby, too. Oh, little Hayden was sleeping through the night when he was only two weeks old! Is your baby sleeping through the night yet? No, of course not — he’s a NEWBORN, and I would bet good money that you’re LYING. How did you deliver? By c-section? Oh, don’t worry honey, that’s OK. No need to feel guilty. Oh, thank you so much for your approval. I don’t feel guilty, by the way, considering that my goal in childbirth was a healthy baby and not a “birth experience”, and had I continued with a vaginal delivery I would have been risking my son’s life. But thank you so much for letting me know it’s OK. I was awash with guilt until you told me that. Are you breastfeeding? No? Well, breast milk is better and all, but no need to feel bad. Formula’s OK too. Oh, gee, thanks for letting me know that breast milk is better. I’ve been told that a million times already, but until YOU pointed it out I guess it hadn’t really sunk in yet. And nevermind that I probably have my own reasons for formula feeding and not breastfeeding. Why do so many women feel the need to find out so many details about how other women parent? It’s really none of their damn business.

But the worst is the unsolicited advice. Now, I don’t mind advice. I’m a first time mom, after all. I have questions. A lot. And when I do, I’ll ask someone — my mom, usually, or one of my friends that already has kids, or a friend of mine that’s a nurse. That’s who I go to when I have questions. The advice I don’t appreciate, though, is the kind that comes completely out of nowhere from a complete stranger. I’ve been hearing a lot lately, for example, that I need to put cereal into Ben’s bottle to get him to sleep at night. When I’m told that, I politely point out that my pediatrician told me not to do this for any reason. Oh, yeah, my pediatrician told me the same thing. But I have ____ kids, and I did it with all of them, and they were just fine. Trust me, when you have ____ kids, you know better than the doctors! Riiiiight… have children means you are somehow more knowledgeable than Ben’s doctor, who went to medical school, had years of training, and has been practicing medicine for years on top of that. Obviously I should listen to the complete stranger at Home Depot simply because she has kids. But hey, fine. The advice the stranger is doling out obviously worked for them. But if I did not ask for your advice, then why do you feel the need to share it with me? Do I look lost, confused, or stupid (or some sad combination of all three)? I don’t get why people feel the need to tell me do something a certain way when it comes to parenting my son when I didn’t ask them to. Like I said, I’ve got a lot of questions. I often do want advice — just not from a complete stranger whose opinion and/or advice I didn’t ask for.

I think I’ve come up with a solution, though. I’ll just get a T-shirt made. On the front, I’ll have printed “I am not an idiot” and on the back, “If I want your advice, I’ll ask for it”. And I’ll order a million little onesies that say “HANDS OFF” on them. Maybe then people will learn to remember that just because I have a newborn, it doesn’t mean that they get to throw all of their manners out of the window and act like a nosy idiot.

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