They Said What?! {How to Treat Unsolicited Advice}

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“Enjoy it now. They all grow up to be monsters,” snarled a random woman at me as I changed my newborn in a public restroom. This hurt my heart more than I would like to admit. An already challenging day was thickened with the addition of some unsolicited doom and gloom from a complete stranger. They said what?!

A dear friend and I recently were sharing all of the interesting comments and “drive-by mom advice” we’ve received as mothers. We have lost count of the number of insensitive and nonconstructive comments that strangers have hurled at us – some that have felt as though they have lit a fuse and peacefully walked away with no consequences for the emotional turbulence they have conjured. We all have heard that “doom and gloom” tone of “you think it’s hard now–oooh! You just wait!” Which is not supportive, constructive or hope-instilling in any way. Which made us question….”Why? Why do they….we do it? They said what?!”

If you have found yourself dishing out the motherhood misery memos, here are a few ideas we have to curb negative impulses and to instead promote encouragement and support to all moms.

Tips To Prevent Giving “Drive-By” Parenting Advice

  • Switch this for that. Think about the phrases you default to when talking with other parents. Try sharing positive notions and joy-filled verbal high-fives instead of the typical discouraging defaults. Use, “It seems like you have a lot of joy in your life” instead of “You look like you really have your hands full.” Many parents have prayed and yearned to have their hands full. Or try, “You must cherish the time you share together” instead of “He’s an only child? I bet he gets lonely.” There are many beautiful moments I share with my son and he has yet to meet a stranger – believe me – he isn’t lonely and his life is full of adventure.
  • Ditch the “Misery Loves Company” mindset in motherhood. We are all stressed and living each day to our emotional max, it is vital we work to uplift each other whether in-person at the park, via text or DM’s, and in online forums. Let’s give space for each other to be seen and heard without judgement and unconstructive advice. One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” It is important to share your story– while showing up for each other in motherhood.
  • Recognize parenthood is supposed to be an emotional spectrum. As parents, we know there are highs and lows. There are challenging days and harmonious days. The challenging days are never our favorite, but it is the contrast that gives vibrancy to the roller-coaster of parenthood. I deeply appreciate the positive, uplifting comments from parents when we are out and about. It is truly nice to feel support from strangers. Thank you to each of you. Whether you are begrudgingly listening to my son talk about tsunamis in the grocery store, offering a supportive glance, or simply choosing to withhold unnecessary advice, I appreciate you!

How to respond when receiving “drive-by” parenting advice:

  • “Oh! I am glad that worked for you!”
  • “Thanks for the idea!”
  • “This strategy works for us right now, so we plan to continue on this path”
  • Walk away. You don’t have to attend every conversation your invited to. Sometimes it is the best choice in the moment.
  • Tell them what they want to hear and move on with your day. You don’t owe anyone explanations. My friend shared this with me and it saves a lot of time- everyone moves on. Ex: “How is he sleeping?” “He sleeps great!” Absolutely Brilliant!

Do you have any other tips for moms who might be dealing with unsolicited advice? What has worked for you? What hasn’t?

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