Your world will change dramatically once you step off the cliff edge in to parenthood, one of the most noticeable and surprising changes you will discover is that EVERYONE you’ve ever known is suddenly an expert in child rearing. It’s really quite extraordinary – people you may have known your entire life will all of a sudden reveal their profound parenting wisdom despite never mentioning an interest in pregnancy or babies ever before. From the moment you go public with your pregnancy everyone will have an opinion, some welcome – most…ridiculous.
To be fair, as a woman in general society will see you as fair game to criticise and chastise for every decision you make anyway (what size you are, how much makeup you wear, career choice, sexual history, marital status, etc etc). We are under constant scrutiny at all times regardless of whether we choose to become mothers or not (that will be a major talking point for everyone in your life by the way) and as women we are accustomed to always getting it wrong (fact of life – a woman can never get it right). However – there is a special kind of scorn and criticism reserved only for parents, it’s everywhere.
First off, how old are you pregnant lady? You’re probably too young. Or too old. Whatever age you happen to be it will be all wrong. And are you married? Do you own a home? Career first? Career at all? What are you eating? You’re not showing enough. Or maybe you’re too big too soon? Your birth plan? Too posh to push? Breastfeeding? Weaning? Spoiling the baby or too hard on the baby? Going back to work you selfish thing? Staying at home to care for them – what a lack of ambition! Baby weight? Nursery? No nursery? What are you feeding them? What are they wearing? Too many activities! Not enough activities! Your routine is all wrong! You’re disciplining them wrong. Always wrong! Planning more? Too many! Oh but you don’t want them to be lonely do you? And so on and so on and so on, basically every single action or decision you make as a parent will be completely wrong in somebodies eyes, and a lot of the time they will make it known.
One thing I quickly realised is that there is no point justifying your decisions to anybody, it’s really none of their business after all. A lot of the time these people are well meaning, they think they’re helping you – they don’t realise you have had every single move you have made since announcing your pregnancy criticised and picked apart by everyone and anyone with a second to spare, they don’t know how you have yourself questioned your own decisions over and over, they don’t know the hours and weeks and months you have probably spent deciding on how best to parent your precious child, how many different opinions you have already heard on that particular aspect of parenting they are commenting on, in short – they are not in a position to know what’s best for you or for your baby. Only you are.
Likewise, there is really no point resenting the people who think they are bestowing their pearls of wisdom on grateful ears, most people are just trying to improve your life with the things they have learnt from theirs. There are of course a minority that are intentionally trying to put you down in order to make themselves feel superior – I often find this behaviour comes from an insecurity they themselves harbour – it’s really themselves they are trying to convince about their own decisions. And that’s fine in my eyes too, I’ll just ignore them, and also hope that they find some peace within themselves – because we are all just doing our best. That’s all we can do. The real answers are that there are no right answers. There can be an infinity of difference between one baby and the next, between one mama and the next – so sadly a lot of the time any advice given is largely irrelevant.
My approach is now to just listen to people’s opinion politely, acknowledge their feelings and thank them for taking the time to express them, like I said, most of them are only trying to help. And that is lovely of them. But I don’t take what they say on board unless I think it might actually suit me or my baby girls, after all – there’s only one expert in how best I live my life and raise my girls – and that’s me!