In my previous post, I began to touch on the subject of young mums being criticised and judged because of their age. In this post, I hope to cover some techniques or suggestions on how to deal with criticism or unwanted advice, whether it be your age or another factor of your mothering situation.
Firstly, I do not pretend to be an expert on anything, I simply observe, assess and reflect upon life situations. While we are pregnant, and after we have had our baby, many people feel it necessary to share their opinion or advice on a particular situation. It is often given with the best intentions but sometimes that ‘helpful advice’ can be quite the opposite. Even complete strangers may add their two cents worth, without realising what impact their words may have. It is particularly difficult when it is someone close to you, like family. Some not-so-helpful advice I have received has included: “just give him a bottle, he’ll sleep far better”, “don’t pick your baby up when he cries, he needs to learn the hard way”, “i used cloth nappies, so you will to”, “don’t cosleep, you’re only creating a rod for your back” (what does this even mean?!), “he’ll still be sleeping in your bed when he’s ten if you don’t make him sleep in his cot”, “just let him cry it out”.
As I said, these opinions are usually given as advice to solve a problem, but often they only create more problems. Many a time I have doubted myself as a mother because I’m not raising my son exactly how others have suggested I do so. Breastfeeding exclusively until 6 months and co-sleeping have been the biggest two ‘issues’. I have literally been in tears when Ryder has refused to sleep and is still screaming at 2am. At these times I have been tempted to put Ryder in his cot and let him scream himself to sleep, as I have been ‘advised’ to do. There have even been times when I have thought “someone bring me some formula so this kid will sleep!”. But then I have realised, neither of these ‘solutions’ are what I want for my child. Nobody likes to cry themselves to sleep, much less a baby who doesn’t know better. And giving my breastfed baby a bottle of formula felt like quitting to me. During these times I’d just brace myself and go through the mental checklist: is your nappy wet/dirty? Are you hungry? Are you too cold/warm? Are you in pain? Sometimes I would get to the end of this list and still have no idea. And I would think to myself “WHERE’S YOUR HELPFUL ADVICE NOW?!”. But we soldiered on without resorting to methods that conflicted with my mothering style.
Dealing with criticism can be hard. Even when it is not direct. The dirty looks from strangers in the shops, the whispers as you walk past. It is enough to make you ask what on earth you did to upset their perfect little world. Here are my suggestions for dealing with criticism and unwanted advice:
- smile and carry on – don’t let them get to you
- when asked a question such as breast or bottle, cloth or disposable – say you haven’t decided yet
- ask why their opinion is so important
- politely tell them that you are doing things differently
- some people need to be reminded that you are raising your child, not theirs
- reassure yourself that you are doing the right thing
- have someone to support your decisions
- choose your battles – sometimes it’s just not worth it
- educate yourself – having facts to back up your decision shows you put serious thought in
- remember, life is too short for small minded people
At the end of the day, you are raising your child, your way. Do not feel pressured into changing the way you parent your child, unless there is very good reason to. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for advice! We are not superheros, as much as we would like to think we are. Asking for help can be hard for some people, but if you can realise and accept that you need help, put your pride on the shelf and do so. I hope this post has or will help at least one person deal with unwanted advice or criticism.
Feedback: did I hit the right buttons here? Is there something more you’d like me to add or discuss further? Was I way off the mark? Was this unwanted advice? Let me know! Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org