The first thing you find out as a soon-to-be-mom is that everyone—people who are moms, who have moms and who have maybe met a mom once in the mall—will have plenty to tell you about how to be one. Not only does it get annoying, but you can begin to feel as if you unwittingly signed yourself up for a bizarre reality show. All of a sudden, you start getting unsolicited critiques, along with instructions from people you don't even know, on the most private of matters.
At the beginning of my second pregnancy, a guy in my office told me, "You should really consider natural childbirth. My wife did it and it was great! Hardly any pain at all."
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I wanted to say, "Hardly any pain at all? Really? What happened? Did you almost miss the game against Syracuse while she was pushing that seven-pound ball of flesh from her vagina?" While it may have been the most wonderful experience ever for her, I'm 100 percent sure there was some pain involved (unless she suffers from that rare condition wherein one feels no pain, which could explain her tolerance levels for surviving such a husband). I smiled politely and made my way past him to the bathroom, taking note to avoid him as best I could during the following nine months.
He wasn't the first person to offer unrequested guidance. Since then, I've had people with zero medical background telling me what I should and shouldn't eat while pregnant, when I should stop breastfeeding and why my baby was crying. Others have given me input on every other parenting detail you can imagine.
Once you take on the job of continuing the human race, it's understood that you and your lifestyle are up for discussion by whomever sees fit to give you advice. It's enough to make you second-guess every single thought you have. Add pregnancy hormones to the mix and you may find yourself in book-buying debt because you've ordered every single parenting book Amazon sells.
So what do you do?
With strangers, I don't say a word. Depending upon how offensive the advice is, I either smile (like when you eat something that doesn't taste good, but don't want to offend the chef), or I immediately turn my back and walk away. I save my best stares for those days when I'm at my worst... when the last thing I want is the lady in line behind me telling me how much sugar the candy I'm loading onto the conveyor belt has. It's that look that says, "I may or may not have a dagger in my purse, so it's best to hush." I then start a conversation with the teller or with one of my kids in order to divert any further commentary.
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It's rarely a problem with friends because, well, they're friends. They know me, and know when to comment and when to bite their tongues. With acquaintances, I offer a friendly thanks and, again, change the topic. (Distraction is one my strongest virtues.) I also regularly use lines like, "I'll have to remember that," or "What a unique idea." I use the word unique even when the idea isn't; it's my passive-aggresive way of getting my point across. It may not be the most emotionally healthy response, but it makes me feel good.
Where do you draw the line when it comes to unsolicited parental advice?