I had my daughter a few years before most of my friends began procreating, so now I have a six-year-old while most of my friends have freshly birthed two-to-six-month-olds. This has been great for a lot of reasons: I love seeing my friends being parents, and I can get a baby fix by hanging out with their kiddos.
But here’s my problem: in the last few months a small group of my friends have become self-declared parenting experts — and they have infants! They’re constantly railing on and on about what they’ll do when their child hits this stage or that stage, preaching to me about their enlightened child-rearing plans, and telling me how I should handle things my own child is dealing with… even though they have zero experience parenting a child older than six months.
Part of me knows this is a phase a lot of new parents go through, but another part of me is just annoyed. How do I politely listen to my friends without eye rolling or “you’ll seeeeeeing” them to death? — K
My new mom friends are suddenly “parenting experts” — how do I deal?
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Comments on My new mom friends are suddenly “parenting experts” — how do I deal?
A lot of their blather is probably their way of working through their own philosophies. Nervous prattle, in other words. Maybe something like, “I’m so glad you’ve started thinking about these things. Everyone raises children differently” will help them understand that you’ve got your own way of doing things and you don’t have to listen to them, without having to say that they’re really pushing your buttons. Repeat as necessary until it sinks in.
When my son was almost two, I was on the phone with my friend and she overheard me suddenly break from our conversation to yell over to my son, panicked as he pulled on a plug, “Astin, no!” There followed an uncomfortable silence. Her daughter was about six months old at the time and when the conversation resumed, my friend said, rather worldly, “I will never say ‘no’ to my child. It’s too negative. All that negativity imprints on the brain, you know.”
“Really? What do you plan to do when your daughter does something she shouldn’t?”
“I will say, ‘That is not acceptable’ and then calmly explain why. So she learns to act in knowledge rather than fear.”
I took in a deep breath and said evenly, “Oh. Okay.”
About a year later I was at my friend’s house for a BBQ when the girl — who was across the patio — reached up to the heat. Suddenly, I heard my friend shout, “No!” Her daughter’s hand hovered, stopping in mid-air as she turned to look back at my friend. I said, “What your mother meant to say is ‘That is not acceptable” and I burst into laughter!
Our kids are 25 and 23 now and we still laugh over the story. While it’s nice to study all the ideas, and admirable to make plans, sometimes simpler is better and, for Pete’s sake, one shouldn’t judge what they haven’t experienced. Mile in shoes and all.
Crazy. I’m pretty sure the child of whom you speak is dating my friend. Same age, name, and mom’s name. Small world.
Hey guys: as always, let’s try to leave other people’s names out of conversation unless you have permission from that person to share their story. I know this story isn’t really that big of a deal, but you never know. Thanks!! 🙂
For editorial peace of mind: It’s all A-okay. I tell this story in public all the time. They’re cool with it.
PS It’s funny, though, I did write this up as [name redacted] throughout in the beginning but it sounded awkward.
I totally figured in this case it’s fine, but we have had quite a few people email us about comments that mention their names/stories about them, so it’s better to err on the side of caution. 🙂
My kid is younger than yours, at almost 4, and my worst offender “non-qualified expert” friend actually has zero children, so it`s not exactly the same, but I found it most helpful to just stop bringing up parenting and child development or behavior issues when I`m with that friend.
I only vent to my mother, because when you complain, people think you`re soliciting advice. My Mom and I have an understanding that if I call her, it`s not for advice, it`s to calm me down so that I don`t overreact .
It’s true. I’ve basically stopped talking about certain things around other parents unless I actually am looking for advice. It just gets too annoying.
I would do some variation on “I can’t wait to see how that works out for you!” (nicely, not sarcastically).
The other thing that you can do is shift back to what their babies are doing _right now_. They bring up how they’re going to only serve organic fruit and vegetables and never eat sugar and you say “have you started solids yet? How’s that going…” They say their kid is never playing contact sports, you say “is baby X crawling or rolling over now?” They say that they’re going to cosleep and nurse until their kid is 72, you say “I was so tired when so-and-so was born – how’s sleeping going for you now?” Deflect.
If they bring up stuff about your kid, it’s polite to still listen nicely, because maybe they do have good suggestions (out of the box thinking and all that). But if it’s totally unhelpful you can just give a polite brush off. This phase will likely pass, but yes, it’s super annoying.
Is this level of tact and grace natural? Your advice seems so… evolved. 🙂
You made my day 🙂 I’d like to think that I externally have this much grace and tact, but I promise there is a whole lot of inner bitchiness in here. BTW, I would give this behavior 12 months, and then either I would ween off the friendship or ask them to stop. There’s only so much leeway new moms get.
Just be upbeat about it! They’ll realize they were being silly (if they are indeed being silly) eventually. You don’t have to point it out.
Also, remember when you had a six-month-old and you were never sleeping and you were cleaning up baby shit all the time and it was awesome because babies are cute, but, in another way, it was also TERRIBLE? It’s so nice when you have an infant to imagine some future time when they can actually talk and go to school. Let your friends have that lovely fantasy. It’s cruel to take that away from them, lol.
Conversations can go like this:
Them: “And I’ll only let my family eat organic produce, and probably we’ll be vegan and paleo at the same time and I’ll do it all on a budget of $7 a week with this meal planning method I read on a blog!”
You: “Sounds awesome!”
Them: “Also I think we’ll start learning calculus by the time they’re 2 because calculus is actually not that hard and they don’t teach anything in public schools.”
You: “That’ll be epic!”
Then change the subject.
Then, years later, have the grace not to mention the insane things they said to you.
Or, do this, but write down all of the things and present them to the parent on their child’s sixteenth birthday. I’m not as nice a person as Michelle.
PS Talk about perfect timing… Vince and Owen weigh in: ‘ Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, discuss having their children on set and how their parenting styles differ.’
I “THIS!”ed an actually useful response (deflect!) but when my childfree friend starts a sentence with, “When I have kids I’m going to…,” I let her finish her thought and then bestow this blessing upon her: “I wish for you a large, loud brood with many hyperactive children.” Sometimes I even say it out loud.
I often hear this from my sister, whose daughter is a year younger than mine and has pretty much relinquished custody to our mother, and I have a hard time keeping my “oh REALLY…” look off my face and sarcasm out of my voice. She’s the worst offender in my circle but I have heard this from a few others but once they see my “oh REALLY…” face they usually shut up.
I had one girl chastise me for scolding Booger in public, but she was pregnant with her first and didn’t even appear as if she was old enough to buy the cigarettes she was chain smoking. I honestly just looked at her and said,’Glass houses…’ with my “oh REALLY…” face on.
I just can’t abide uppity people or unsolicited advice. When my Booger was born I was asking all kinds of advice until we found what works for us; but if I don’t ask, don’t tell.
That is absolutely the worst. No one is a parenting expert. And a lot of people do it WRONG. I get advice all the time from people I disagree with. “Just wait!” from someone who uses the cry-it-out method is beyond aggravating. Their advice means nothing to me. I usually say “well, every child is different”. Or I tell them how I’ve chosen to do it. “Oh, well, we’re cosleeping”.
A wise friend of mine who has older children said that she tries to be sympathetic. People with young children are going through a very intensive period of study, huge learning curve, with the subject of their fascination right there. No wonder their head is completely full. But it is crammed full of thought that can’t be used for anything else and will be useless within the foreseeable future. No wonder they have to spread it about.
It is a shame that others have to hear it, but it is like first-year law students or anything else all-engrossing. They have to talk about it and they’ll leave it behind in a year or two.
I can usually deal pretty well with, “Well when my little Priscilla is 4, I’m going to…” I can listen politely and giggle internally pretty easily. But when it gets into, “Why don’t you just do x with your little Hortense? It will fix allllll your problems” I feel way more defensive and upset. Honestly what’s worked best for me is being open about my feelings and struggles. When I say, “It’s tough and I haven’t really been sure what to do,” the tone of the conversation changes dramatically.
The only real parenting experts in the world are the child-free: my friends and I joke that ALL the time! So, I guess if you’re friends have littlies, they’re just transitioning between stages- “know everything”, which they used to! and “know not sooooo much”… the next stage!
My more serious thought is- they’re probably struggling more than they care to admit at the moment, and having all the answers is a good way to feel in control of the situation.
Although I agree this is annoying (and have begun to wonder if I have ever annoyed my friends with this very thing in the past year of parenting) it is also worth remembering that many brand new parents may have very up-to-date knowledge. They might be able to tell you about a theory or idea you didn’t know of, or new research. I agree experience is the 99% when it comes to parenting, but there is a chance they have something interesting to add. As long as it is not being said in judgement I think it’s worth listening to with a half cocked ear. As a teacher I am always really interested to hear ideas from new gradates as I know their training is fresh and their ideas are often really innovative. Could it be the same from new parents?
You could always politely agree to not talk parenting. But I am afraid you are right and it is a phase they have to go through. I remember my older sister raving about cloth-diapering, and her daughter hated the cloth diapers… I think they had a month-long battle before my sister gave in. (My niece has her stubbornness from me, I swear. She also talks as much as I do. Strong genes. ^^ )
Smile. Nod. Resist the urge to say, “I told you so” in six months.
I don’t have any kids yet. Some of my friends do. My husband and I are adopting older children and have done a lot of reading and learning about development and parenting. We are not experts. There is no way we can ever be “ready” just by reading books.
That being said, I talk a lot about parenting with my parent-friends. We discuss ideas and sometimes (gasp) I even give advice based on research that I’ve done. My friends haven’t stopped discussing parenting with me so I don’t think it bothers them.
I think what I’m trying to get at is that sometimes “advice” can come from a place of love and learning. It isn’t always because someone is trying make themselves seem better than you. Sometimes it is and you can feel free to roll your eyes at those folks.
There is a WORLD of difference between “I’ve been thinking about doing X, Y, or Z” or “I’ve read that such and such is a a good idea – have you guys tried it?” and absolute proclamations about what’s the best thing for kids, specific things that you’re going to do as a parent, etc. My sister is pregnant and has been doing a lot of reading, but I always appreciate her sort of couching her ideas in the reality that I have lived with kids and she hasn’t.
I’ve got a 3 month old so I’m in no way an expert on anything but I have to say, when a child-less friend’s ‘advice’ is that I shouldn’t vaccinate my child because ‘they don’t need all the vaccines offered you know…’ it makes me see red. I have quite a bit of patience with people giving advice and usually I’m pretty happy to listen to opinions but when it comes to my child’s health and I get told what I should and shouldn’t do, my tolerance for other people’s opinions goes right down to zero. Especially when I’m made to feel like I’m a bad mother for trying to do the best thing for my child.
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