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

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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  • James says:


    Totally agree. Can’t tell you how often my wife and I went out after we had our first and second kids and how much I wanted to separate their limbs from their torsos for going anywhere near my kids.

    And if I hear one more sniveling nutjob brag about how dialeted she was…. well, it’s not going to be pretty.

  • Chris in NC says:

    you need to screw with them some. Like this: When one asks you why you’re using bottles and not breast feeding, whip up a fake tear and scream “I had a mastectomy because of cancer” and stomp off. Seen that one done. It’s priceless…

  • Code Monkey says:

    When I see cute babies at the store, I smile and move on. I consider myself lucky to see something that makes me smile. End of story. It’s just not my place. But then, my mom raised me to have manners. Well, that and babies scare me a little. All that cuteness can be overwhelming. 😉

  • I R A Darth Aggie says:

    people trying to touch my belly all the time

    Waaaaaay ahead of you on that one. Of course, I’m a guy and obviously can’t get pregnant, but I have a beer gut going on. There for a while women I knew or vaguely knew would come up and give it rub.

    I think I got the point across when I complained that I’m not some damn Buddah whose belly you can rub for luck. And it just stopped as suddenly as it started.

  • I R A Darth Aggie says:

    Oh, and you should retitle this post:

    If I want your advice, I’ll beat it out of you.

  • maddmedic says:

    They grow up.
    Become teenagers..
    Eat everything….

    Enjoy your little one…

  • Jim Armstrong says:

    You mean you don’t want me to come along and just pick Ben up and hold him, while telling you how you’re such a lousy mom for not doing exactly as we did 24 years ago with our kids, seeing as the world is exactly the same as it was a quarter of a century ago, and knowledge of childhood development hasn’t advanced one bit since then? Really? You don’t like that? Funny, we didn’t like it back then, either.
    I hate stupid people. Touch my kid (well, my grandkid, now), and I’ll touch you. Only not so gentle.

  • Marilyn says:

    Great post!

    Yup, people can sure be maddening. I love the idea of the “hands-off!” onesies…you should market that one!

    I’ll comment on the c-section part…funny how women are about that. I had two of each… I shut a lot of “natural birth” fanatics up by telling them my c-section babies grew up to be healthier adults than my naturals.

    Sure is fun to mess with people!

  • Linda says:

    ha. Good rant. The advice can be awful. I wanted to say: “I understand you think you know better than I do what is best for MY kid. You can go away now.” The bragging, however, angered me most. All these moms whose babies supposedly sleep like angels for 14 hours every night. Doesn’t matter whether it was lies or truth, I hate ’em either way.

    I’m gonna risk annoying you now, by siding with one of your advisors: the doc’s advice isn’t always best. They say what is safest on the whole, i.e, what avoids lawsuits. For ex, when my baby only slept 45 minutes on his back at night, and 4 hours on his tummy, guess what? My mom’s advice (“all three of you girls survived on your tummies”) suddenly trumped the doc’s.

    Best of luck to you and yours. It’s gonna be a blast. Except when it isn’t.

    /hits submit button and runs away/

    • Cas says:

      Linda, I get your point — if it comes from someone I know and trust, like my mom or a friend or another family member. But from a stranger I know nothing about? No way in HELL I’m going to trust their advice over a doctor’s!

  • Here’s some advice you didn’t ask for: carry one of those plastic spray bottles with you in your purse. When someone rushes up to pat your belly like a pet who wants a treat, give her a good spray and, “Bad dog!”

    Okay, maybe that would be extreme, but people (especially women) do that stuff because they are counting on your good nature. They do not expect you to verbally or actually smack them for their horrid manners, but think that you’ll placidly take their rudeness.

  • 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”,

    Okay, another reason that people are rude: their priorities are out of whack and they cannot conceive of the idea that your values are not just as messed up as theirs are.

  • Jay says:

    I was about to offer some advice on how to deal with unsolicited advice … but then I realized the implicit irony.

  • Instinct says:

    I think my sweet, adorable, loving wife has developed a death stare to keep people away from Matthew when they look like they are going to swoop in for the “he’s so cute…” grab.

    And yes, there are times that mom’s advice has trumped the docs, but a stranger – no way in hell.

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