Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Thoughts on Advice

I would like to preface this post by saying that having a blog is tough because you want to share your innermost thoughts, because it actually helps settle some of the chaos in your mind (and may help others in the process), but you also have to be aware of your audience.  That actually stops me sometimes, from saying things I really want to say, because I know who is reading.  But, the point of having a blog is to share your thoughts, and be true to those feelings, no matter who is reading.  It is truly a paradox.  So, when I write, I feel that sometimes I walk a very fine line and have to stick to what I really want to say but also try not hurt anyone's feelings, inadvertently, in the process.  It's really hard to do and I hope you can appreciate my efforts.  I have shared, with the people closest to me, how I feel about this topic, already, so this may be something most of you have already heard me say.

I do apologize in advance if I offend anyone but please know that I am not speaking about anyone/anything in particular when I write this.  I appreciate all of my friends/family so much; especially everyone that helps us out with Lemon, my wonderful husband, and even those who have given me advice in the past.  These are just my overall thoughts on the subject of advice, from my only almost 9 months of being a mom (and I am aware that it is a very short time to have such an opinion, but I have it none-the-less).  

Oh and one more thing - you don't have to agree with my opinions but this is my blog so it's where I write them down.  If you don't want to read it, you don't have to.  :)

I have a problem with moms giving other moms advice.  I understand why they do it, I understand that sometimes we ask for it - but it really doesn't make sense, when you get down to it, because every family is different and every baby is different.  What works for your family may not work for someone else's - so why do we do it and why do we even ask for it?  I've asked, I've even listened and put into practice something that someone else has shared, but I feel that sometimes when we ask, we don't really want it and end up more frustrated then we were before.

I think that part of being a first time mom is the utter confusion you have for how your life is all of a sudden.  You are tired, you didn't really get a chance to recover from the (in my case) 36 hours of labor and now you have this baby at home that you really have no idea what to do with.  Your husband has his opinions, your parents have theirs, your in-laws have theirs and your friends have theirs - so it definitely gets overwhelming.  But, you have so many questions:  Why does this baby sleep good one night and then horrible the next?  Why does she wake up crying and no matter how much you rock her, hug her or feed her she won't stop?  Why does breast feeding hurt so badly and no one told me?  Why am I spending my whole Saturday trying to get this baby to nap and no one told me this either?  And then so many other things come up that, of course, you want to talk about too:  Why does my husband want to solve all of my problems when really I just want him to listen?  Why don't some of my friends understand that I can't go out until the baby goes to bed because I have a whole bedtime routine and am afraid that if I do something different that one night then someone will have to be up all night and that someone is me?  Why don't some people understand why I have to be home for naps or a nap won't happen at all and then bedtime is ruined?  Or why I can't make plans or be anywhere on time because who knows when my baby will decide to nap or not?  So many things to talk about, complain about and discuss - no wonder people give you advice because it seems like you are asking for it, and sometimes you do ask for it, whether you realize it or not.  I have done this many times, come right out and asked for advice here, (see my nursing post) and on Instagram and have totally appreciated all of the responses, even though some helped and some didn't.

But for some reason, I have hit a wall.  I no longer want advice because I now realize that my Lemon is different than your so and so, and what works for you and your baby may not work for me and mine.  I also have come to the conclusion that if you are a mom that hasn't been a new mom for awhile you tend to forget the rough stuff so that it's hard to relate to someone going through it right now.  No matter how much I talk or whine, I realize that most of the time I am not really asking for advice, I just want someone to listen.  Sometimes we want to just complain and commiserate with other moms, we want to hear we are not alone and that everything will be ok and eventually get better - we don't want anyone to solve our problems or offer suggestions because, chances are, we've tried it all.  If my baby doesn't like to nap (see my previous post) I have probably already read a ton of websites and books about it and have already probably emailed a sleep expert (for reals).  From you, another mom, I just want to hear that you are either in the same boat, or I want you to just listen and let me whine about it, and just tell me that things will get better.  If I am complaining about my nursing woes, I want to be cheered on, and my successes praised - I don't want to hear about how it was easy for you or how I should just give up if it's that bad.  I think the best thing that other mothers, and family/friends of new moms, can do for each other is to support each other, even if it seems like the person is having a really hard time.  Especially if it seems like they are having a really hard time.  

All of the advice offered just gets confusing and makes my head spin.  It's hard to keep track of, hard to agree to (even if there's no way I will actually do it) and hard to smile and nod at.  It gets tiring and overwhelming when we, as mothers, are already tired and overwhelmed.  The best conversations I've had with people are the ones who have said to me, "Allison, I have no idea what you should do but it sounds like you are doing everything you can and I'm sure it will work itself out."  There are times that I've wanted advice and have appreciated it, and I'm not saying I don't anymore (because I know it all comes out of love and being helpful), but it sometimes gets you down when you are already at a point where you have no idea what to do. 

I am not perfect and I'm sure I have given advice to others that hurt their feelings just like advice has been given to me that has hurt mine.  (And I know it's silly that it hurts feelings, but it does because it somehow implies that you are doing something wrong.)  I have also been told that if I don't want advice I shouldn't say anything at all or tell anyone anything.  But isn't that what the people in your life are for?  For you to talk about what is going on with you, good or bad, and for them to listen and support you?  As a new mom if we didn't talk about being a new mom, what else would we have to talk about - it is definitely an all-consuming job!  But now that I have been a mom for almost 9 months, I just want the support.  So, I will do the same from now on for my fellow mamas too - this is my official promise to you.  I'm here to listen.

From my experience, being a working mom is hard and leaving your baby every day is really hard.  If someone tells you how you should be doing things differently it makes it even harder.  You know what would make it easier?  Hearing what a great job you're doing instead.  I understand that "it takes a village to raise a child" and everyone has an opinion, but sometimes those opinions are too much along with everything else you are struggling to balance.  And, I'm sure stay at home moms get just as much unsolicited advice too.  The best thing someone who is babysitting can do it stick your schedule/expectations/procedures because it makes it easier on baby and the rest of the family.  (We are lucky enough to have two people who do this for us, every week, and do their absolute best with No Naps McGee.)

None of us are experts in our field and none of us know what is best for someone else's baby.  We don't know if that specific carrier will actually harm that baby or if giving (or not giving) a baby a certain food (aside from the common "no, no's") will do this or that to them.  Almost everything you research online has two points of view and conflicting evidence, so while I agree with some suggestions about a product's safety (like finding someone to install your car seat properly), moms are really going to do whatever they think is right/best for their baby, no matter what anyone else has to say about it.  So, why say anything at all?  (We used the Nap Nanny long after it was recalled but made sure Lemon couldn't fall out and get wedged against her crib.) 

There is, however, another side to this.  Sometimes you really do want help and if you ask for it and someone helps you - it's amazing.  We have received so much help from all of our family and friends, as new parents, and we are truly grateful for their support.  I had so much trouble with nursing and my mom hired a lactation consultant to come and see if I was doing everything correctly, and it changed everything for me, I will never forget how much she helped me by arranging that.  Lemon also had really bad acid reflux as an infant and my friend Melissa told me some things that helped us with that too, which made her more comfortable.  In no way am I saying to not ask for help when you need it, but instead to know the different between someone ]asking for help and someone just wanting you to be there for them and to listen, and keeping the advice you give them positive.  Sometimes we have to listen first, before just jumping in with advice, to find out what someone is really wanting from us.  There is indeed a difference and a way to avoid making someone feel like they are doing something wrong.

So, what do we want when it appears we are struggling?  The best thing you can do for a first time mom, or really any mom, is to offer support and encouragement and let them know what an awesome job they are doing.  As I've said before, we are all in this together, no matter if you're doing this now or if you did it 40 years ago.  Being a mom is hard enough sometimes and instead of criticizing or offering advice - we should just stick together and tell each other how great we are.  Because we are great.  Wouldn't that be lovely?


  1. I know I keep commenting, but I can't help it. I really relate to your struggles because I'm going through them too, usually at the same time! When baby E was little and not sleeping I would ask anyone and everyone what they did/do with their kids to get them to sleep, but just like you, I've come to realize that my baby just is the way he is, and I just have to follow my gut. I think every mom probably comes to this realization at some point with their first baby. It is all so hard! And you're right, we all really need each other. I've found that just talking to other moms, and listening to their stories and struggles really helps me to feel so much better! This is great- thanks for calling all the mama's on to be helpful rather than critical.

  2. I get it, mama. And even as a second-time mom, the advice keeps rolling in---and I've basically just gotten better and ignoring it. It sounds like you are getting to that point, too. As you get to know your child and yourself as a mom, you don't really need someone else to tell you what worked for them. You can figure it out on your own---but I totally agree that the commiseration as a group of mothers, who are all sleep deprived and worried about our children growing up the best way possible---that commiseration is the best. It really helps to know you aren't alone and that other people made it through the thick of things, just like you will do!

    This comment doubles for the post below, too. Sleep will come someday and then I promise you that the blur of the sleepless months will fade. And of course, you will get MORE sleep as Lemon gets older but there's always some random THING that will throw that wrench into beautiful sleep! Keep on keeping, on mama. You are doing great!

  3. I really resonate with this post Allison, Advice if solicited or NOT can be a tough thing. I have several friends and family members who tell me a myriad of things about how to raise my trio, what to do, what not to do. I have a soft heart, I wear my heart on my sleeve and am sensitive so when people tell me things it can hurt. I have been a mommy for nearly 4 years and I learn new things daily, what to do and what NOT to do. We need to learn it for ourselves and although I believe people to be mostly good I am sure the advice comes from a loving place. I am here to be your cheerleader! Lem is adorable and happy and you and Ian are amazing. I love your blogs and they always help make me feel a little less lonely in this parenting world that can at times be a tough place! XO friend.

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