How can I respond politely to unsolicited conception and child-raising advice?

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Tummy Monster In the past, you’ve posted “copy n’ paste responses” to help navigate awkward conversations with family and friends. I’ve found these to be really helpful, and I was hoping you might post one more (or point me in the direction of a post I may have missed).

My husband and I are planning to start trying to conceive this summer. I’m so excited about the prospect of starting our family and becoming a mother! We’re doing everything we can to prepare (including taking the Purposeful Conception course!). I want my friends and family to be excited for us too, but so far that’s not the response I’ve gotten.

Instead of support, I’ve mostly received a heap of unsolicated advice and opinions (on our timeline, on the kind of birth I want, on parenting, and so on). It’s been less helpful and more a damper on my hope and excitement for the future. I know these comments are well-intended, but we already have a pretty good idea of what we want to do and how we want to do it, and we’re taking the necessary steps to be as prepared as possible.

What did you say to keep commenters at bay? Do you have any tips on how to respond to unwelcome or negative comments?

Comments on How can I respond politely to unsolicited conception and child-raising advice?

  1. Some people are sensitive and insecure and when you say, “we’re doing x with our baby” what they hear is “I judge you for doing y with yours.” When people are very insistent with their parenting advice, it’s more about having their own choices validated. Remembering that it’s not about me helps me respond more graciously – “it sounds like that really worked for your family!” “I’m glad you had such a good experience with that!”

    • I still have to remember that now. Such great advise! I’m still having problems coming to terms with the realty of my son’s birth and the issues that came with it, so I tend to get a little uppity when people talk about how well something I wanted to do but wasn’t able to do worked out with their families.

  2. Some people are downers.It is just the nature of the beast. Tell only a few that you are trying to have a baby and then find friends you trust with kids to go to for advice and let the other stuff fall by the wayside. If you asked anyone about my daughter they would tell you I am doing it all wrong, but it works for us. You know your partner and you know yourself. Deflection always works but unfortunately it will just have to bug you a little. For the people who don’t agree – oh well you can’t change their minds but when they see a happy healthy baby they will realized that you are awesome!

  3. There are also a bunch of interesting/crazy TTC/Pregnancy/birth/childrasing website chat rooms if you just want to vent, get/give advice, etc. The one I used was the Bump. There were actually really helpful/supportive groups there as I am a lesbian who gave birth at home, and had to deal with a Jewish mother! You can still be sort of anonymous and present at the same time and your friends and family in real life don’t need to know anything unless you want them to.

  4. For generational stuff like tummy sleeping or cirb bummers or such, we are just doing what the peditrition told us, or that’s what they reccommend now. Very neutral and doesn’t make people feel. Like you think they did it wrong. Also helpful is just because they sell it doen’t mean its safe.

  5. To echo another comment, I’ve found VERY good success with pre-empting any problems with bluntness. Knowing that many of our family and friends will unquestionably launch into a diatribe of suggestions – even demands for action – as soon as I tell them I’m pregnant, I immediately follow it up with “I’m definitely curious to hear any ideas/opinions/advice/etc… you might have to offer, but since this is our first child, we’re really excited to rely on each other to make decisions together. We are approaching everyone’s input as research until we can talk it over.”

    For the rare few who don’t take that gracefully, I offer the excuse (which happens to be true) of being too easily overwhelmed to argue about anything, then complain that I need a cold drink or something, which removes either me or them from the conversation!

  6. Oh gosh I hated unsolicited advise when I was pregnany (well, now I think back on it and hated it now-then I was a glowy ball of happy hormones). But it comes from a good place. However you decide to respond to it, remember that most of it comes from the heart, and some experience, and you can take whatever you want with a grain of salt. Also, remember that those same people who are giving you unsolicited advise now may be the same people you rely on later if, say, your baby is screaming at midnight and you have absolutely no idea how to make her stop.

  7. Honestly, for most people giving advice is how they engage you in conversation about the topic. The thought is that if you don’t want advice then, well, what do you want them to say? Is there much to offer other than “Oh that’s cool … ”

    I think your original post actually includes the best possible option. You said “we already have a pretty good idea of what we want to do and how we want to do it, and we’re taking the necessary steps to be as prepared as possible.” TELL PEOPLE THAT! Either you can tell them as a response to their advice, or say it as part of you telling them your news. It not only lets them know that you aren’t looking for advice, but it gives them another way to engage the conversation.

    “Oh really? What are you planning then?”

    Because the truth is, at the trying to conceive stage, most people don’t have a plan so it probably doesn’t occur to your friends and family to ask about yours. They don’t realize that there is any option other than trying to help you form one. Just let them know.

    You will still get advice or disagreement of course. After all, people are trying to have a conversation with you. But you can meet them with “Yes, we considered that, but we really prefer the idea of ____.” And who knows, you might be surprised when someone mentions something you *haven’t* considered.

  8. To friends I’ll smile knod say that sounds interesting.
    If they push or start talking about how so and so’s way of doing things is ridiculous, I smile and say everyone is different.
    My mother and sister get
    Leave me alone you telling me to relax and I’ll get pregnant is ridiculous, in order to get pregnant a serious of events have to occur and me relaxing isn’t a physiological neccesity, what needs to happen is sex with my husband and he travela alot so YES I need to know when I am ovulating!!! Not everyone gets pregnant the first time or accidently!!!!!! (My mother got pregnant the first time all three times my sis is on her second oops) so yeah I lose it with them. but seriously that is the most annoying suggestion just relax, it causes me to instantly flip out. lol

  9. I had to deal with this from my husband’s uncle a month ago. The whole time we were there everything was advice from him to us. About raising kids and marriage. It irked me honestly.

    I come from a very independent family that doesn’t nose in on each others lives. They don’t offer advice unless the advicee brought up the problem themselves. Thats how I am too. We just see it as a sign of respecting each other to do what they feel is best for them.

    So when his uncle, who is maybe 10 years older, started giving advice out of nowhere it made me feel as if he thought we needed it for some reason. That he overstepped his bounderies. Especially since he doesn’t know me that well at all, I felt insulted.

    My husband just let it all slide off and actually ignored most of it except for the parts he liked lol. I need to learn that.

    I can handle tips on how to put a fussy baby down or something that isn’t really personal, what I can’t stand is advice about things that are soley our business, like how our family runs and whose role is what.

  10. One option to consider for your repertoire:
    If the problem is advice that you disagree with, instead of reacting defensively, instead ask them for more information why they feel that way. The trick, though, is to genuinely mean it when you ask. Then you can potentially say, “that’s interesting, we were planning on XYZ”

    Three benefits for this: 1) you engage them and they’ll feel as if they got to be a part of your pregnancy by elaborate, 2) you have an opportunity to hear their reasoning and evaluate (who knows, maybe you’ll change your mind), 3) you get to assert yourself as a parent who has ideas, so you can communicate that you’re actually in charge of the situation.

    Bonus is 4) you may find out you’re actually uncertain about your decisions; but in the process of teaching your parenting decisions to others in this context sometimes helps you solidify the kind of parent you want to be.

    Of course, this does open up the opportunity for arguments, so pick your battles. I liked the previous commenter’s post about circumcision (thank God we had a girl so I didn’t have to deal with that ball of wax). I had it far easier than my wife on this, but still I felt as if I had to defend our (future) parenting style. For the types of interaction I had (and indeed still have) it hass worked well.

    Really isn’t it better to be honest than beat around the bush?

    Having said all that, it does get rather old after awhile. Sometimes it’s not worth the conversation — so just realize that they’re expressing their excitement/love for you in a misguided way. Then ignore them.

  11. I was just chatting with my husband about this last night. We are in the very early stages, so we have some time. But I want HIM to be educated on WHY I want a natural/unmedicated birth. That way when things are said, he can explain why, and not be as easily swayed by what other parents will say. (Because I really feel we’ll get some flack as this is our first, and we can’t possibly know what we’re talking about, you know?)

    • To help counteract the you-can’t-possibly-know mentality, I found that responding with “I’ve done a ton of reading on it” (whatever it is) worked wonders in letting people know that I actually did know something. Or if your husband wants an easy out “my wife has done a ton of research…”. Experience teaches you things sure, but you’re not sitting alone in a dark room until you experience something. Research counts for something too.

  12. I agree with what some other posters have said — just a quick “Thanks, I’ll think about it!” and change the subject.

    With some people, I had to have a more serious talk, and calmly explain that I was finding the pregnancy difficult and scary already, and their constant unnecessary warnings were only making things worse. (Although this did need to be repeated a couple of times before it really sank in.)

    Honestly, though, I didn’t actually get nearly as much unsolicited advice as people on the Internet had led me to expect. I certainly never got advice (or belly-grabbing) from strangers. Since having the baby, there’s been a few comments, but staying calm and explaining my position has usually helped a lot.

  13. I have to agree with the poster above who mentioned that it might have to do with your own family dynamic as to whether you feel unsolicited advice is intrusive. In my family, you don’t give advice unless asked. It’s not, as another poster put it, “a way to connect” or “converse,” so if someone tries to give me unasked for advice I consider that exceptionally rude. It doesn’t matter *what* it’s about. From my own perspective, I don’t see why parents should just nod and smile when beset by busybody know-it-all’s. All that does is encourage the bad behavior. A firm, “I’m sorry, but I’ve already got a good idea about how I’m going to handle X,” is not unreasonable and any friend who continues to push the issue is more interested in his/her own agenda than what’s best for the parent or child. Such a friend, then, would not necessarily be the best friend worth having.

  14. Ha! I am so glad this subject was brought up because I am going through the same thing right now. The 2 most challenging things that have been said to me over and over is a.) it’s HARD to be a parent 2.) it’s EXPENSIVE to be a parent….. wow? really? such sage advice, I know. To these people, I have rebutted with surprise and tell them I had no idea that it was so expensive or hard and that I never thought of it that way. Then, I thank them for their unique advice and usually they realize how silly it was for them to say it to begin with. I realize not everyone can laugh things off, but shoot, sarcasm sure does feel good sometimes.

  15. I don’t know if this will help but for the next person that tells you just relax and it’ll happen. I figured out my cycle was much longer than it used to be (try 35 vs 28 days) and this time we got it. I’m pregnant so to those naysaysers saying just relax sometimes being actively aware of your reproductive system does do the trick. You can’t get pregnant unless you have sex around when you ovulate.

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