The audacity of strangers never ceases to amaze me, especially when it comes to people you barely know offering advice.
Never is this more apparent than around parenting — and rarely is this advice helpful.
The only thing a pregnant woman needs to hear is, "Congratulations!" The only thing a parent needs to hear is, "You're doing a wonderful job." Of course, if you genuinely have concerns about potential red-flag issues, like verbal or physical abuse, that's a different situation altogether. But let's operate under the assumption that most parents are, indeed, doing the best they can.
Everyone with kids knows that parenting is the hardest job in the world. Because there's no manual, it can feel like you're stumbling around in the dark half the time. When someone offers unsolicited advice, the unspoken message is, "You're doing it wrong," which is the last thing any loving parent needs to hear.
Over the years of working with pregnant women and parents as they navigate this tricky time of life, I've heard more than enough pieces of advice that they didn't need to hear. The following 10 are the most common and most unhelpful:
1. "Don't worry, you'll lose all that weight once you have the baby."
Does being pregnant trump the golden rule of never commenting on a woman's weight? I don't think so.
2. "Your life will end as soon as you have the baby."
While many elements of life do go underground for a while as you adjust to life with a newborn, it's not helpful to emphasize it unless the couple brings it up first. And while there is a loss of freedom, having a baby does not spell doom for anyone or their marriage.
3. "This is what you need to do about [fill in the blank]."
Did I ask? Any unsolicited advice — whether it's about breastfeeding, sleep, sharing, potty training or any other parenting issue — is invasive and disrespectful, and often undermines a new mother's already fragile sense of self-trust.
4. "Your child should be [fill in the blank] by now. You should have his [fill in the blank] checked."
Any comment that indicates a comparison against a milestone chart or the "should" of the culture is best kept to oneself. It's all arbitrary, and parents need to be trusted regarding how they're handling their own child's development.
5. "Stop worrying."
Telling someone who falls on the anxious-sensitive continuum to quit worrying, especially about their own child, is like telling a frog to stop being green. Highly sensitive people are wired to be hyper-vigilant, and telling them to stop being who they are will only lead to self-doubt and shame.