Thursday, January 21, 2016

Your Unsolicited Advice Doesn’t Make You Helpful. It Makes You A Jerk

Dear Well-Intentioned Third Cousin/Long Lost High School Acquaintance/Random Lady at Target,

You know that saying about opinions being like assholes? Well, did you know that forcing yours upon me may make  you an asshole? Since I am sure you had only the best of intentions when offering your unsolicited advice to this new mom, please allow me to explain.

I didn’t think much of it when we came home from the hospital with my beautiful son, who looked so impossibly tiny and overwhelmingly fragile, when I worried over every little thing—that is what new moms do, right? We worry.

And you, you well intentioned advice-giver, you popped up and made it all so much worse.
Remember that adorable video I shared of my kid repeatedly spitting out his pacifier? I am sure you thought it was helpful to respond by explaining to me what I was doing wrong in trying to get him to take one. Did you know the only reason I offered it to him was to cut down on the risk of SIDS? He slept that night. I watched, panicked that he might stop breathing because I had failed at this basic task.

Remember when you called to check on me and I mentioned being tired? I sure do appreciate all of your advice on getting my 3 week old to sleep through the night. Did it occur to you that I might spend hours googling “newborn sleep” to see what I was doing wrong? Instead of playing with my baby, I was trying to figure out how you were just instinctively so much better at being a mother than I was.

Remember when you needed to stop me, a complete stranger, in the aisle at Target to tell me my baby was too cold (which you could tell by watching him sleep peacefully in his carrier)? Did you mean to make me cry all the way home because even people who had never met me knew I couldn’t do this?
Yep… all of that advice sure helped this exhausted and terrified new mom feel like a failure.

Sure, it wasn’t actually you. It was that bitch estrogen and her friend exhaustion. After multiple reassurances from my son’s pediatrician that he was doing just perfectly, and a few weeks for the hormones to wash out of my frenzied system, I finally felt like I had a handle on things.

Nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder how you could fail to remember how scary being a new mom is. It’s terrifying. I need a ton of advice, but I ask for it when I want it from people that I know a little better than I know you.

I can give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your intentions were, in fact, good.  Perhaps after surviving my son’s infancy and childhood, I will find passing on my sage wisdom to new moms rewarding… but I probably won’t do it because I will remember that your unsolicited advice made a tough time in my life a little worse. You took just a few more minutes that I could have spent staring lovingly at my amazing kid and filled them with anxiety and doubt.

Thus, I have some unsolicited advice for you—always remember that new moms know how to ask for help and feedback, and if they aren’t asking, and their kid isn’t in danger because of something they are doing, it may be best to keep your thoughts to yourself. Let not being an asshole be your reward. 

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