We've all met her at one time or another. You know, the woman who offers unwanted parenting advice. She has probably never set foot in your home, nor knows the particular quirks of your brood. But nonetheless, she feels obligated to help you become a “better” parent, offering up advice faster than you can say, “I haven’t showered in three days.”
As much as I hate to admit this, I was that girl. Yes, I gave other women parenting advice and worse, gave it without ever having been a mother.
Before giving birth to my daughter I was a full-time dental hygienist. The dental office was the perfect setting to hone my advice-giving skills. What better way to offer up advice than to a person who can't respond? I would always start my appointment with the same opening line “how are you today?” Some mothers would tell me how their babe wasn’t sleeping and how tired they were. With my instruments scraping gingerly at their teeth I would express, “So many of your problems will go away if you start a schedule. Literally, if you Google the benefits of a schedule the first thing that pops up is how helpful it is with day-to-day functions like naps, sleeping at night, and eating." In my heart I knew if they heeded my advice by their 6-month recall appointment momma and baby would be well-rested, I mean come on it’s on the internet!
During some appointments, mothers would tell me they co-sleep. Of course, I took this as another opportunity to give more of my remarkable advice. “Did you know that co-sleeping creates a child who awakens more often during the night?” I would ask. (another quick Google search). Followed by, “Also when it’s time to transition the baby to their own crib it’s going to be difficult. You’re better off putting the baby in their own crib right away.”
I’m even embarrassed to say that I declared if I was a stay at home mom I would cook all the meals and keep an immaculate home. This was not advice I offered, but a bunch of gobbledygook I voiced over and over.
Now I’m a mother and let me tell you how all this so-called remarkable advice I gave is going for me so far…
As for a strict schedule, I would like to share that ever since my little bundle of joy arrived I do not even know what a schedule looks like. I look at the clock and I don’t know if my sweet babe took a nap an hour ago or three hours ago. I do my best Sherlock Holmes impersonation and look for clues like eye rubbing or crankiness. But it is always too late and a full-blown meltdown ensues. Yup, her last nap was definitely three hours ago. I average two hours of sleep a night and when I get three I sing Hallelujah. It truly is the Wild West over here. Nap times are accidental and meals are on the fly. The truth is our babies are not automobiles that have strict maintenance schedules. Sometimes they are hungry, sleepy, or need a diaper change and this can occur at different times on different days. I now know that your child does not care about your intended schedule.
As for co-sleeping, I wonder why my sweet baby even has a nursery. The only function her room currently holds is that it is a very pretty place to keep all of her belongings. The thought of her sleeping on her own makes me want to ugly cry. I love having such a good cuddle buddy (when she is not practicing her Taekwondo). Co-sleeping when nursing throughout the night is so much easier too.
Oh yeah, and as for the immaculate home and homemade meals, the tumbleweeds of dog hair, the sink currently full of dishes, and my husband cooking every meal would prove that I had no clue what I was talking about.
A much younger me thought that I knew what was best for other people. Maybe it was my age, maybe it was my inexperience, or maybe it is just my personality. But I’m happy that I have finally seen the error of my ways. I also find it humorous that my child is hell-bent on making a mockery of the advice I bestowed on those poor mothers.
As a grown adult with a child of her own I would like to say this…
To all the mothers I offered my ridiculous, outlandish, ill-advised, and naïve advice, please accept my sincerest apologies (especially my sister). To the other women who give advice as I once did, while it may be well-intentioned you cannot grasp what other people are going through. So I leave you with this… if no one asks for your parenting advice don’t give any.