This week at work, one of the other employees admitted to me that he was going to be a father next January. Almost immediately, I emitted a high-pitched squeal of delight…and began to spew unsolicited parenting advice and need-to-knows. The disclosures were general and fast-paced: “Time goes by so fast, enjoy sleeping now, babies are beautiful work, he may be tall like you, oh-my-goodness-if-you-have-a-girl…”
Soon after said employee left, I was impounded with the echoes from the 10 minutes of extra time I stole in the name of being friendly and helpful. Yet, I wasn’t being helpful. I couldn’t have been. I was mindlessly pushing my own agenda upon a victim leashed by my past kindnesses. I held him hostage because I was talking way too damn fast.
Who was this woman?
He did not particularly ask for any words of wisdom. He did not seem to openly invite the scene I pressed upon him. Nothing close to it. This man could have been scared out of his mind of fatherhood, for all I knew, and what did I do? I imparted way too much about myself, then rationalized it instantly as supportive comfort.
I did not do this man a favor. I did not tell him anything worthwhile beyond what was forced upon me when carrying Jrue and again with Jai. What gave me the right to boast what I thought I had already “knew to be true?” Why did I feel like he needed my guidance in any way? Why did I think I was an authority on all things moms and dads and babies?
I have to dial way back on the parenting advice faucet fast. I exhaled word vomit and parenthood stress all over this young man.
It had never occurred to me before that I may be fixated on ministering my value to others. Thrusting may be more the phrase.
I recall being pregnant with a fond amnesia. With Jrue, the hubs and I welcomed guidance because we were anxious parents-to-be. Each week, the hubs would snap open his emailed BabyCenter newsletter and read to me how big of a fruit Jrue was and what we could expect in his upcoming growth. I would alternate online articles with the entire “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” series. I couldn’t get enough of conversations from family members and random strangers and my doctors regarding the challenges and excitements of parenthood. I ate it up because, at one point a few moons ago, we were unsure we could even biologically have a baby.
By the time Jai rolled around the development wheel almost three years later, I still actively listened when people patted my belly and predicted how tough it would be with two children. However, I sported a been-there-bought-the-shirt acumen that I communicated by taking everything others said in stride and adapting what fit my family into my mommy worldview.
I know, though, that many mothers and fathers loathe involuntary parenthood consultation, and I am especially empathetic as to why. “For those who are pregnant, you think you’re a pro — you’ve endured the patting of strangers, the prying questions about your ‘birth plan,’ your baby’s name, and whether you’re going to breastfeed,” said WebMD writer Diane Lore. “Eyebrows raise every time you go near alcohol, coffee, Diet Coke, soft cheese, shellfish. Suggestions have been made about what you should do with your cat — once a furry little friend, now carrier of horrible pregnancy outcomes. And yet, you are still a rank amateur. Once Bouncing Baby arrives, you will discover that everything — how baby sleeps, what baby eats, why baby cries — is up for open, public debate.” (Lore, 2015)
Therein may be my specific issue. Am I a product of an ever-sociable society? A stark deliverable of my Westernized, millennial ways? And how do I put a cap on this…consequence?
In an article on Babble, Lori Garcia highlighted the poetic nature of parenthood. “Parenting is a complicated, highly personal game of trial-and-error, with each day offering a Groundhog Day kind experience that somehow makes us just a wee bit wiser in the ways of our kid than we were the day before. The process is a long, slow investment of the heart.” (Garcia) With each day, parents seem to gain that much more experience in the culture of parenting. Pair that with the fact that we all exist in this continuum where everyone wants to be heard; why else would social media be the powerhouse means of communication that it is today? Our inclinations to provide unwanted conversation yields from our singular desire, as interpersonal beings, to have an individual voice and to share that voice with as many as possible.
Reality television. Hello.
Dads get the brunt of uninvited recommendation, too. One father, Clint Edwards, described his experience for Scary Mommy. “People regularly give me unsolicited advice on parenting, both in person and online. And you know what, I get it. You think you’ve figured something out and you want to share your great revelation. Or perhaps you don’t have kids, so that makes you an outside observer with a fresh prospective. But really…I’d rather you just shut the hell up.” (Edwards)
I cannot speak on whether or not I believe some people will learn the power of business-minding. I cannot say that society will throw a warm cloak over our tendencies to overshare. Living under such a damp, seething sociopolitical atmosphere that follows the billions of us around, it is difficult to say that the whole of our human population will later discover a new grain of humility and reticence.
It’s all very far-fetched.
But I will. I recognize my wrongs. I have mentally beaten myself up about it and will now keep my thoughts to myself unless explicitly requested…family, friends, all. And that’s almost as satisfying as quietly listing my awesome qualifications, in all their glory, as a “seasoned” mommy (but with so much more internship ahead).
Edwards, Clint. “6 Pieces of Unwanted Parenting Advice and How I’d Like to Respond.” Scary Mommy, n.d., http://www.scarymommy.com/unwanted-parenting-advice/. Accessed Jun. 23, 2017.
Garcia, Lori. “The Single Best Response to Unsolicited Parenting Advice.” Babble, n.d., https://www.babble.com/kid/the-single-best-reply-to-unsolicited-parenting-advice/. Accessed Jun. 22, 2017.
Lore, Diane. “Beware the Know It Alls: How to Handle Unsolicited Baby Advice.” WebMD, Sep. 4, 2015, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/beware-the-know-it-alls-how-to-handle-unsolicited-baby-advice#1. Accessed Jun. 22, 2017.