Do you take parenting advice from non-parents seriously?

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Advice I don’t have any kids of my own, but I have been a full time nanny for children ranging from newborn to 15 years old throughout the years. My friends have just started having children of their own, and the pleas for advice on Facebook seem endless. Questions on things like what to do if diapers are leaking during the night (changing how the diapers are positioned depending on how the baby sleeps+diaper inserts), activities for toddlers on long car-trips (magnetic play-boards and stickers!), and the best music for toddlers to dance to (anything you enjoy dancing to, the toddlers love everything you love).

I responded to a question once, ending with a somewhat standard disclaimer of “Whatever you feel is best for your baby is right though, this is just what I have found to work” and got considerable negative back-splash along the lines of “You are not a mother, anything you say is invalid.” And now I am afraid to offer any advice about anything.

I feel that I have a lot of experience dealing with many common situations that arise during parenting but I am not actually a parent — so does that make me unqualified to give any advice? As parents, is any advice from a non-parent appreciated? — AllieJean

Comments on Do you take parenting advice from non-parents seriously?

  1. It depends a lot on the situation and the person. For things like activities, music, education by all means a nanny or childcare provider is sure to have a ton of great suggestions whether or not they have kids! When it comes to more complicated issues like breastfeeding problems, weaning, co-sleeping, and so forth I am less likely to ask a childless person and if they offered up advice on it I wouldn’t feel like they necessarily “got it”. Plenty of other parents give bad advice though, but when it comes to tough situations I’m just looking for someone to empathize with. Sometimes there just isn’t a solution (like with my daughter’s constant night wakings until she was over a year old) and the best thing to hear is pretty much “that sucks so hard, I went through it too, and it will pass eventually”. I definitely wouldn’t rule out helpful (not condescending) advice from a childless person even on complicated parenting issues, but in my experience my (brilliant, helpful) childless friends seem to think there is always a “solution” and if nothing works the parents are just doing it wrong, when sometimes there just really isn’t a fix and ya just have to power through the rough patches.

  2. Parenting is so emotionally charged .. for myself add to that a bit of sleep deprivation, sometimes feeling like you don’t know what your doing, irrational guilt, and the pressure of every where you turn to having conflicting opinions and I can sometimes get my hackles up to anyone sweet soul offering to help and it is so not their fault. I’m not a type to lash out at someone whose advice (judgey or not) rubs me the wrong way but I’ll do some inner seething. Sometimes we act or react in ways we are not proud of. That said most days if anyone gives me support, as long as it doesn’t come with what I perceive as judgemental overtones, I’ll grab it with two hands. And I’ve always appreciated the advice of my kids child care …. They’ve studied both academically and through life experience, and probably are not so caught up in the same type of emotions Im in a tangle with at the time … Sometimes it is their non charged perspective that gets me through and I thank my lucky stars for it.

  3. As a both a former nanny and mother, I understand the backlash. Personally, i appreciate feedback from experienced care-givers I respect just as much as “mothers”. Professionals are often just that- professional in their observation with less of the emotionally tinged/biased opinions. Your loving experience is just as valid.

  4. In your situation, the person was asking for advice so I think they should have welcomed whatever advice people offered. Also, being a nanny gives you a ton of experience with kids and loads of ideas to share! Like others have said, I definitely take advice on activities, games, naps, etc from nannies and childcare workers!

    However, I’ve worked with kids for 8 years – 2 of those years were in an infant room at a daycare – and after having my daughter, I realized that having your own child is TOTALLY DIFFERENT than working with them during the day and giving them back in the evening 🙂 I thought I was gonna have this parenting thing down automatically, but in reality my learning curve was just as long as anyone else’s. I’m not saying this to justify your friend’s response, but I’m just recognizing that it is a different ballgame (as I’m sure you know) 🙂

  5. I completely understand how you feel! I am the eldest of eleven children and have also been working in childcare for years now, but just because I don’t actually have children of my own, some people like to think that means I can’t possibly understand anything about parenting. T.T It’s a pity, but oh well! Good luck!

  6. Thank you so much everybody! (op here) I read all the comments, and before I give any advice I’m going to thoroughly edit to make sure it comes across as non-judgmental and begin with “in my experience as a nanny.” I’m hoping I didn’t sound judgmental before, but when I speak(type) before thinking it might have come across that way. Thank you, I’ve loved getting everyone’s insights!

  7. The myth of the parent PhD. Obviously if actually giving birth to a child gave you all of the answers parents wouldnt be asking so many questions. Its only from LEARNING after you become a parent that you acquire those answers. Its just as easy for someone else to stumble across those answers as it is a parent. I mean… how many women with out kids read OBM? Which certainly provides a few perspectives that most mainstream parenting sites dont, but you dont have to have had a child to read it.

  8. “You are not a mother, anything you say is invalid.” This breaks my heart.

    I am a 30 yr old infertile woman. I have nannied and babysat for babies and children of all ages too. I have my niece 25% of the time.

    I have a lot of experience, but I get the same response when I try to offer advice and it kills me.

    Look if you’re going to ask for advice on facebook, don’t act all offended when people offer it up. Take it with a grain of salt, different things work for different people. I’m not being judgmental or telling you how to raise your kids, but you asked and I told you what I’ve read and tried and what worked.

  9. As a childless individual, I generally stick to giving advice in the areas I actually have expertise. I have taught swimming lessons for 15 years. So if a friend of mine has questions about kids and water, I pipe right up. I make sure to use the disclaimer that all kids are different, but I’ve seen and done a lot when it comes to kids in the water. I’ve worked with special-needs kids, I’ve coached sobbing children into laughter by the end of my class, and I’ve watched kids terrified of the water go on to join the swim team. I feel qualified to give advice on this topic…but ONLY this topic. I know shit about diapering, nutrition, behavior, etc. I can only nod and murmur sympathetically when these topics are brought up by my parent-friends. Unless someone asks me straight up “What do you think about this?” I try to keep my opinions to myself. But I think experience as a nanny is valuable…hell, let’s be Facebook friends, and I’ll pick your brain when I have kids of my own!

  10. For me if I ask for advice I listen to whats being said weather or not it comes from a parent or not. It took us 10 years to receive our child, and I often had down to earth advice for my friends with children. Looking back I would and still do give the same advice. So yes depending on the situation and the person giving the advice I do appreciated it.
    You have much experience with children so your advice would be most welcome.

  11. I too was a baby for year before I had my son. I wouldn’t completely dismiss any advice from a non-parent friend but it might now hold as much weight as a friend with their own kids. One of my best friends is a nanny right now and I just wouldn’t believe a word that came out of her mouth. My sister has been a nanny for years, but I know she has good advice unlike my friend.
    Funny thing is that when I was pregnant/first had my son, everyone treated me like I was an idiot and never took care of a baby before. They seemed to forget that I had all that nanny experience. Lol

  12. I approach it with a sense of humor. When a few of my friends asked me to help them put together a registry my daughter was about 5 months old. I joked to them “I can help you keep them alive until 5 months but anything past that…I’m not real sure about.”

  13. I also nannied several age groups and worked in AFB Child Development Centers for many years and didn’t become a parent until this August. Many friends immediately had babies as soon as they were married or in long-term relationships, and we waited 5 years, but in that time, a few were accepting of my humble advice, but most did react with,”Yeaaa okay. You’re not a parent though…” and then when I finally became pregnant with our first child, they were SO GODDAMN OVERBEARING with heaping advice (I didn’t ask for!) on to me. That more than bothered me. I thought, “So all of your child advice comes from your very specific experience with YOUR OWN FUCKING CHILD and my knowledge means nothing because I don’t have my own child yet? I think mine actually carries more weight and substance because I’ve experienced Many Different children of all ages in many different settings and situations, and that allows for more of a well-rounded approach. Argh, I stopped saying Anything after that. And of course, now with my own little one at home, I’m happier just caring for her and her alone, but I surely won’t be forcing what “werks fur mee” on anyone like they did. Appreciate a variety of perspectives and you’ll build a humble library of knowledge 😉

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