How To Share Parenting Advice Without Wrecking Everyone's Buzz
Prior to taking a role on a parenting website, I foolishly thought that motherhood was similar to personhood, in that you can do it any way you like provided you have a healthy respect for general safety and nobody gets a tattoo until they're 18.
What I've learned from hanging out with my mom friends and colleagues and our many mom readers all day, is that you can parent anyway you like, but if you ever plan on sharing your parenting experiences, you better be mentally prepared for a complete stranger to tell you that you are making a complete and utter balls of raising your kids. Because bizarrely, this is a thing.
Thankfully, there is plenty of real, wholesome, gal to gal support out there. I've seen the way HerFamily.ie readers come to each other's rescue time and time again on our Facebook page, offering solid advice, self-deprecating experiences and good old-fashioned positive reinforcement to other mothers they've never met. I've watched my colleagues discuss what parenting tricks worked for them and rally to solve a problem when another mum is struggling. Super heroes, all of them.
Online however, on the rare occasion a difference of opinion occurs, things can descend into pinching and hair pulling faster than you can say 'baby formula'.
It starts with a tone (you know the one), then a retort in a similar tone, along with an inferred slight on someone's intelligence or character. Before you know it, someone else has rage-typed: 'Well I wish we could all be such BLOODY PERFECT PARENTS ALL THE TIME. A-HOLE.' into their phone and followed it up with 15 eye-roll emojis (that's the PG version).
And all of this because someone who hasn't slept in 42 weeks said combination feeding was the work of the devil himself, or admitted they had a glass of wine while they were pregnant?
Hakuna your tatas, everyone.
The thing about parenting is that there is no one right way to do it. There are different strokes for different folk; co-sleepers and no sleepers, breast feeders and bottle feeders, buggy pushers and baby wearers; and what works for one today might do the trick for another tomorrow, provided they’re open to hearing about another person’s experience.
Why then, when we could be so helpful, so understanding and so positive, does the opinion offered online so often elicit a negative reaction from other parents who have had a different journey?
The main reason this is all so frustrating is that, to an outsider, it is painfully clear that both women want all the same things: a healthy, happy child and the vague respect of other women who are going through or have gone through the same challenges.
In the interest of fostering a kind of inter-mom respect, here are some things everyone could do with remembering:
1. Your way or the highway? Way out of line.
Where children are concerned, Fear of Getting it Wrong can turn a normally open minded adult into an obsessive student of all things child-related. When something works, it’s natural to assume it’s because you did something right. In reality, there are lots of right ways, you just found one that worked for you. Everyone wants what you want: a healthy, happy baby. Blind conviction is nobody's friend.
2. Leave Super Mom at home
Your method worked for you and that’s fantastic. Now imagine what it's like for people who tried your method and failed. Try to set aside your pride for a second. If you've been there, know this: your experience is worth it's weight in gold – but only if you can articulate it in a way that doesn't come across as judgemental. Perfection is alienating and lectures don’t work, try to relate.
3. Gently does it
Anyone who's given birth knows how lonely it can be, how overwhelming. Remember that emotion and offer your advice accordingly. Put yourself in their shoes. Be kind. If you can see that somebody is making a mistake, use it as an opportunity to share and be of value. Remember that somebody who seems angry is potentially just sleep deprived, overwhelmed and scared. Treat them accordingly.
As a parent you are a graduate of a crazy intensive course, a privileged holder of knowledge the rest of us don't even know we will ever need. Don't let what you've learned go to waste. Talk to others, offer your insights, tell us your secrets. Your advice could make all the difference to somebody who is struggling, provided you give it in a voice they can hear.
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