I bet you have all met mothers like me. I am the mom who can’t wait to tell you my parenting tips and philosophies, as if I am some kind of mothering-savior-guru-priestess. I think I know everything. I even have charts.
I know why parenting evangelists—people who constantly suggest their parenting philosophies— are annoying and insulting. I give advice where it is not wanted. I ruin pleasant kid-centered conversations by turning them didactic. I even make people feel guilty. Listen to what I learned in developmental psych! Listen to the latest research on phthalates! Have you looked at the ingredients on that? I know that for other parents, this translates to: Listen to what I think you are doing wrong!
Of course, insinuating another mother is doing something “wrong” or acting like a pseudo-expert is not my intention. And on top of that, it is not what I think I am doing in the moment. When I am talking with other parents, it seems so innocuous… Naturally this mom wants me to tell her about mineral sunscreen! Hadn’t I wished someone had told me sooner? To me, I am trying to be helpful; to the person enduring my sermon, I am one more voice shouting recommendations, suggestions, even chastisement.
It is only in retrospect that I realize I may as well be handing out propaganda pamphlets while wearing a sign around my neck threatening parenting damnation, decorated with poorly painted flames.
It is only in retrospect that I realize I may as well be handing out propaganda pamphlets while wearing a sign around my neck threatening parenting damnation, decorated with poorly painted flames. And what usually arouses this retrospect? When I am the one being preached at. Haven’t we all had that moment when we needed an ear and instead got an earful? People like me bug the shit out of me. Who the hell do I think I am?
I think us would-be converters have a set of common motives. First of all, I’m a believer, damn it! When I hit upon something that helps me get through a particular parenting issue, the excitement of the discovery blinds me to something I already know: people don’t want advice unless they specifically ask for it.
Second, there is the search for my mamahood-congregation: a body of like-minded thinkers who prove I’m not crazy. To prove I did something “right.” I will admit I believe there is a thread of insecurity in my evangelistic tendency. Parenting feels like such an enormous mental and moral weight, the dissonance in wondering if my efforts are pointed in the right direction can be brutal. Sometimes, as I am talking about my mothering decisions, when I know I am coming off as a know-it-all, what I hear myself really saying is, “I did the best I could. I am going down with this ship. Is anyone with me?”
I am making a pledge: I will try to keep parenting propaganda to myself unless it is specifically asked for. I will continue to search through and share my experiences here, where you can tell me to shut it with a click away from the page. But I will try to free you polite nodders in my everyday life from my philosophical mom banter. You heard that right, playgroup moms, sisters and pregnant girl behind me in class — I promise.
Look, I even made a chart: