I was recently scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across a post written by a first-time mom.
In this post, she lamented how difficult it was to function when her sweet 7-month-old daughter was still not sleeping through the night. My eyes drifted to the comments section and my heart sank as I read that every single comment was giving this new mom advice on how to get the baby to sleep through the night.
No, set up their own bedroom with a sound machine on crickets!
No, formula feed!
Hire a sleep consultant!
No, Mama always knows best and the baby just needs Mama!
Buy the magical swaddle!
No, put her in a diaper because she must be too hot!
Use essential oils!
No, sleep her outside under the stars of a full moon dressed only in an herbal onesie that smells of the fields of the woman (ok, I made that one up).
And, then, of course there was the one or two token comments saying “Just wait until you have FOUR kids!” or “Just wait until they are teenagers! Then you NEVER sleep because babies are THE BEST AND TEENAGERS ARE THE WORST THINGS ON THE PLANET.”
Seriously, guys. I think the mom was hoping for some comments more along the lines of: “I’m so sorry!”, “You must be exhausted!”, “Hang in there, one day she will sleep!” or even “Do you want me to take her for a night so that you can get some rest?”
It happened to me a few weeks later.
I shared on Instagram stories how I had a headache. I didn’t ask for advice on how to cure the headache, and yet almost immediately the messages started rolling in, offering free advice ranging from essential oils to rushing to the ER because death is imminent.
Suggestions and advice are great… unless I didn’t ask for them in the first place. Then, it can just feel defeating. It feels like everyone else has grasped success in this one area that I am struggling with.
As an online influencer, I am constantly balancing how to share my day-to-day highs and lows. Sometimes I will choose to not share my daily struggles because they are personal or very challenging. But sometimes I will open up and share the struggles because it seems like being vulnerable is a characteristic that encourages so many other people. But being hounded with advice after sharing a struggle is often the exact opposite of helpful.
You see… It’s really easy to be an armchair warrior. It’s really easy to have a solution behind the keyboard. It’s not as easy to just be sympathetic or empathetic and just BE with the person in their struggle. Our culture is great at problem-solving. If there is a problem, we are READY TO SOLVE IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND AS CHEAPLY AS POSSIBLE AND BONUS POINTS IF IT’S HOLISTIC. WE ARE HELPERS, BY GOLLY.
But most of the time, we don’t actually need our problems to be solved. Instead, we need someone to sit with us in our problem and work through it with us. We need someone to acknowledge that a struggle is hard or that an opinion is valid.
Just to make it a little easier, I have created a simple little chart to help us when we see a situation online that makes us so desperately want to share our advice/opinions.
While the two examples that started this post with are simple and basic examples of sharing advice or opinions online, this concept can also be applied to more controversial subjects, too. If the poster is sharing about breastfeeding/formula, or circumcision/non-circumcision, or even political issues, have you taken a moment to LISTEN and hold your tongue, to acknowledge their opinion/viewpoint (even if you vehemently disagree)?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving advice or having advice to share, or even having a strong political opinion on something. But sometimes a relationship could be built by just practicing the simple practice of listening and acknowledging, not jumping immediately to giving advice or sharing opinions. Then, once that relationship is established, a dialogue can be opened to have a REAL conversation with the REAL person behind that opinion.
Now that… that will solve some problems.