Finding My Voice As A Parent: Also See STFU

Alternate post title: Quit effing telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing with my kid.

Three months in and I’m already over people’s “helpful advice”.

Some advice for advice givers, just don’t.

Commiserating about being tired is welcome, but telling me things that start with “you should” or “you shouldn’t” or “don’t ever” isn’t welcome or helpful. What works for you and your family works for you. All kids, parents and families are different.

Including mine.

Recently someone asked me how I was and when I replied that I was exhausted because Ruby had been kicking me, hitting me and or bumping into me all night {while she was sound asleep}, the woman replied, “You shouldn’t be sleeping with your baby!”

My eyes stung with tears (from exhaustion and let’s be honest, being admonished). I said through clenched teeth – “Well, we are. It is our decision to continue bonding with our newly adopted baby throughout the night. We have made our decision about what works for our family right now and when you are parenting an adopted kid please let me know.”

In case you are wondering, I’m still pissed.

This comment implies I haven’t thought carefully about this (and every other) decision we’ve been making in regard to parenting Ruby. I have been weighing my loss of sleep and the rage that accompanies it (which is a whole other issue unrelated to Ruby) and wanting to make up for those nine and a half months she wasn’t with us {also see: the dark ages}.

I’ve agonized over the “cry it out” people telling me I could train her to self-soothe by letting her sob alone in her crib. Dude, I’m not going to do it.  So stop telling me how well it worked for your kid.

Friends, I’m new at this parenting thing and Ruby is a special girl with lots of people interested in her well-being. In other words, we’re doing this thing kind of more publicly than I’m comfortable with. Usually I like having at least a basic handle on things before I share them with the world. That doesn’t work in parenting. It changes by the moment and so does what works for your family.

It’s a lot like yoga in that way. What works for your body in this moment is what is right for you. Who am I to tell you are wrong because it looks different than what I would do?

I’m working on finding my own voice as a parent. As a natural worrier and as someone prone to deep feelings of shame over being “wrong”, please be kind and thoughtful in your comments about what I “should” and “shouldn’t” be doing.

Nobody likes when you do that.

+++++

So tell me, how do you handle unsolicited advice?

20 thoughts on “Finding My Voice As A Parent: Also See STFU

  1. Oh, Tami, Stop it. I am so there with you– I believe that in my rules for how to welcome a newly adoptive family in your life it included something along the lines of shut your pie hole (but nicer because that is what I try to be: firm, clear, but nice). Find your voice and don’t shy away from what you know to be true and right. The only moments I’ve regretted haven’t been about my parenting decisions but about when I faltered in my voice in expressing our very clear, very deliberate parenting decisions. You are doing great. Don’t forget it.

  2. O to the M to the G. Love this post and all the comments. I don’t even know where to start except that you’re right. Period. I felt like I did a bunch of s#$t wrong. Like, as far as food goes, my kid just sucks on that front and that is totally my fault. Also, she still pretty much sleeps with me and she just turned 6. I was never going to have her in my bed because I was going to do it “right.” But it was easy to breastfeed and then she NEVER EVER EVER was a baby you put in a crib who goes to sleep and I tried that “cry it out” thing for like 10 minutes and I wanted to bleeping kill myself. I decided it was more important that if my kid is a year old or younger and I can’t explain stuff to her I’m not going to have her thinking, “Hey, this is really sucking for me, which is why I’m crying, and why is my mom not comforting me??” Like, I just decided that pretty much, my main deal was going to be to let this kid know I always have her back. Always. And I would probably never want to do those first couple of years over because they are really hard so ANY WAY you get through it that works toward producing a nice kid who knows how much you love them is the right way. And yes, sometimes she says she is going to sleep in her own bed. And frankly, I miss her when she’s not with me but of course I encourage her independence. And to say she came out okay is an understatement in my book so sometimes doing stuff the wrong way makes for awesome kids. So keep on keepin’ on, lady! It only gets better and STFU is, by the way, always RIGHT!!

  3. I think Jen said everrything that I was thinking, especially that people do give lots of advice that is well-intentioned and maybe even because they learned the hard way, but it doesn’t all need to be taken or heard. My mom gave me lots of comments and I had a hard time even hearing them because I was a new mama and lacked confidence. I co-slept with Noah by accident really and was never willing to make the hard adjustment to him sleeping alone (ie crying) but I knew right away that I would never co-sleep with Gabriel. A mama of 2 needs her sanity! But I think that your decision to co-sleep with Ruby makes crystal clear sense– as you said, she needs you now but won’t forever, and it really does build a stronger bond… But who cares what I think because you are the mom and you are an awesome one! Xo

  4. Pingback: Saturday Senses « Teacher Goes Back to School

  5. This is hard because although I know you primarily online, I only see you give support and love, not unsolicited advice. And, when you’re in the habit of not telling others how to live their lives, it comes as a real shocker when others do.

    It can be unsettling, upsetting and downright hurtful. I know an animal is NOT a child, but it really hurts when people give me unsoliticited advice or feedback about my dog. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a child.

    People’s opinions are like a**holes. Everyone’s got ‘em…. :)

  6. If blowing smoke from my bong into my daughter’s face is wrong, why does it feel so progressive? I still don’t understand the nasty looks I get when my daughter drinks out of the cup I wrapped with a medical waste sticker!

    Keep on living the dream!

  7. It takes time to develop that confidence as a parent, probably several months at least for any parent, and I can only imagine longer for an adoptive parent. During that time any kind of advice, even that which may be well intentioned and maybe even in retrospect something that made sense, is kind of like nails on a chalkboard. Total strangers, or even outer circle of friends, can STFU for sure. For everyone else, you can choose which part to accept, reject, or file away for later consideration. But regardless, every time you hear it, just take a deep breath and recite the mantra I AM AN AWESOME MAMA. This is not really about these other people, it is about you and your confidence in yourself. I have been there, and sometimes I go back there to visit that land of low confidence and mama guilt.

    Parenting is not something you ever really master. I think you have to constantly learn and feel and weigh and experiment and decide…and sometimes make shitty decisions and have to deal with that too. No one is really an expert but a lot of people have figured out things that work. I understand wanting to share when you figure out something that works. But of course it is not always welcome or appropriate. Some of the advice I got along the way ended up being great. So as much as you need to protect yourself and your emerging confidence in parenting, perhaps remain a wee little bit open to it as well. No one expects you to be a perfect parent, because none of us are. But you already have what it takes to be the perfect parent for Ruby. And that is all that matters.

    Keep up the good work!

  8. Look, I’ve been around a bajillion kids and let me tell you what: Ruby is just about the happiest, most loved-on, adored child. You’re doing it right. Even when you’re not.

    As for unsolicited advice, I have been known to put up the hand and say, “You know, I’m sure you mean well, but I’m not really looking for opinions right now. Can I come to you later if I need help?”

  9. I slept with my children, breast-fed 2 at once and did what I felt was right. When people offered advice, I usually “oh yeah” and put them on my secret – not really a friend/supporter list. Sometimes it really upset me – really. I’d have a good cry but continue on with what I knew was right. If I was in your position I would always sleep with Ruby. I’d even have a nap with her when I could. Your are doing what you know is right for your family and you are trusting your intuition. You’re doing a wonderful job! Keep it up! :)

  10. in my book, the only “should” of parenting (and life) is “you should trust your instincts/listen to yourself/respect your own judgment”– but i think you have that covered. what’s ironic to me is that the one person i’m least likely to heed is the one who is insistent about what i should be doing. who the hell needs that?

  11. Tami:

    Are you still able to achieve an upright position? If so, you’re doing parenting correctly. Well intentioned people say horrible, mean and thoughtless things that, if they thought about it for even half-second, they wouldn’t actually say. I’ve had people ask me some horrible things. My personal favorite was the woman who, upon hearing that my child was in daycare while I was at work, drew back from me in horror (like she’d just seen me stick a lit cigarette in my child’s mouth) asked me what I was doing at work while my poor, poor child suffered at daycare. I gritted my teeth, smiled and thanked her for her opinion as I opened my first book to read to her child at my storytime. Successful parenting comes in a variety of forms and so while I’m happy to offer advice, I don’t expect people to take it if it doesn’t work for them. At the end of the day, what works for you is what works! Don’t spend too much time second guessing – you’ll just drive yourself crazy. Just smile, say “fuck you VERY much” and walk away.

  12. t’s a really tough one, Tami.

    When people give me unsolicited advice, I tend to take the parts that work for me, if any, and discard those that don’t. No harm, no foul. I have to trust that this kind of advice usually comes from a good place; rather, I believe that peoples’ intentions are inherently good; and I have to remember that people often speak before thinking… myself included. I’ve been guilty of giving unsolicited advice, and have tried to become more sensitive to my place with it over the years, and to recognize that there is a very fine line between its usefulness and lack thereof.

    If I trust the person doling out this kind of advice, I do as I said above. If this person is not in my close circle, I might flippantly say something to the tune of, “SHOULD I?” and dismiss any further conversation on the topic with that person.

    I like your reaction to the person who said you shouldn’t sleep with your baby, but I can see how it leaves you feeling unfulfilled, and criticized… beat when you’re down, so to speak.

    Melody is FIVE and I still am trying to find my place as a disciplining mother when in public and the situation calls for it. I’m just not comfortable with it yet, but I do it anyway. I fear all that silent judgment, when I should just be thinking, “Screw you all. This is MY kid, and I’M the mama!”

    Chris and I had a very unique nightly routine when we had Melody, but it worked out that he or I would sleep with her every night. I am not saying this just because I adore you, but I LOVE that you and Jed are sleeping with Ruby. I would give anything in the world to relive those days when Melody was an infant so I could sleep with her all over again. Those are very intensely loving and precious times that are all too fleeting.

    We only bathed her once a week. My brother and his wife have bathed their daughters every night since they were born. Who’s right here?! Our take on it was that she was a baby…and she just wasn’t getting that dirty..

    We waited almost a YEAR before giving her sweet food of any kind (including fruit!) b/c we worried she wouldn’t go for veggies, etc. Other people I know have given their babes ice cream, cake, fruit, etc… Who’s right here?! We drew the line at sweet potatoes until we changed our minds on the matter.

    Hell. I just read an article yesterday about a mom who gives her children (around age 4) coffee (very little of it, mind you). Before reading the article, I thought it was absurd and wrong, but after, her reasons made perfect sense. I’m not going to go rushing out to my local cafe to bring Melody home a cappuccino, but I understood this woman’s position and agree with her decisions – for HER family. I’m reminded of when Melody used to ask if our drink had “coffeine” in it to determine for herself if she could ask for a sip or not. Coffeine. Too cool. And we don’t even drink coffee.

    “STFU” is probably the best answer, and one that should be accepted with a healthy dose of humiliation and returned with a whopping apology.

    Sorry for the wordiness of this reply! :)

  13. HUGS! You have all the instincts (and smarts) you need and Ruby is lucky to have such a wonderful family!! Being a mother changes everything (as J&J puts it – smiles) and I am sure you are a GREAT mother with Ruby’s best interest in mind. Keep doing what you are doing and I LOVE YOUR BLOG POST, so honest and true!

  14. I think you handled it brilliantly. Absolutely brilliantly!

    I would get things like this from relatives. Relatives that felt I was nursing my children for too long (“oh, just wait until you get the first bite! then you’ll see!” “If she can ASK for it, she’s too old!” and on and on and on), felt that co-sleeping was just bad news.

    And the cry it out? I tried it exactly once (and I stayed in there with her) and that was it. I think I lasted maybe 7 minutes. It was too awful for words.

    So, when people (especially the relatives) would say these shoulds and don’t evers etc etc with me, I started just doing one of those sort of non-commital noises. At one point, I believe I said something to the effect of “Are you disappointed with how Irene is growing? Rob and I have been pleased as punch with her growth as has her doctor.” This horrified the relative that was shoulding me and she backpedaled in a big way *smile*

    You’re clearly doing a really good job. Parenting is hard. Each family, like you said, is different.

  15. Love this post. My baby was about 10 days old, and I still looked very much pregnant when a woman in a grocery store asked me when I was due. I told her and she started hurtling advice at me, like “don’t start solid foods until she is at least 19 months. Don’t ever sleep with her. Don’t stop breastfeeding ever” so I smiled kindly and said “But its okay that I left her alone in the car, right?” and walked away. Obviously my child was safe at home with her MiMi, but for the love of all things, DON’T be an asshole, especially to a new mom! I feel your pain. Keep smiling at the idiots- the are everywhere.

  16. Feisty! I love reading this side of you!!!!

    Ugh to crying it out (really dumb advice IMO) and co-sleep as much as you fricking want to!!!

    Sheesh. People need to chill out.

    But, like somebody once said, it’s all yoga.

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