The arrival of a new family member is a moment of intense joy but also extreme anxiety, fatigue, and self-doubt. The new mom goes through a carousel of feelings, or better yet imagine the biggest, most abrupt roller coaster that you’ve ever seen- yes, that’s how a new mom feels. She needs as much help and support as possible wherever and whenever she can get it. She will be grateful if you make her a healthy dinner, or clean the house a bit, or watch the baby while she gets some much-needed shut-eye. This is the kind of practical help that actually, well…helps.
Introducing a special breed to the equation: the “good-willed” person. They don’t really do any practical help but they give advice in relation to anything and everything regardless if they have any clue about child-raising or not. They know everything and feel offended if you don’t take their advice into consideration. It is not that they mean any harm but they simply don’t realize that by trying to impose their already unsolicited advice on the new mom, all they do is antagonize the exhausted mother.
You know who the “good-willed” people are. It can be your neighbour, one of your friends, a stranger in the park, the old lady in the supermarket or the overly enthusiastic aunt. Any of these people can suddenly turn into a guru of parenting and feel the urge to pour their unending wisdom onto your unsuspecting self. Have you asked for their help, for their advice? No. But this is not what matters, not when you are about to something that might spoil your child.
Good willed person: – “Don’t hold the baby for too long. She’ll get used to that and cry to be picked up all the time!”
Mom: – “You know, studies show that babies need human contact and depriving them of this can have detrimental effects later on.”
Good willed person: – “Suit yourself! But when the baby doesn’t stop crying unless you hold her, don’t say I didn’t warn you!”
Good willed person: -“Put a hat on the baby’s head!”
Mom: – “But it’s very warm in the room.”
Good willed person: – “It doesn’t matter. Newborns must wear hats”
Good willed person: – “What are you feeding him?”
Good willed person: – “Are you serious that for 6 months you don’t feed your baby solids?! We used to start giving our children soups and mashed vegetables at 2-3 months old. We’ve been doing it for hundreds of years and babies have turned up just fine”.
Good willed person: -“Did you put any salt in it?”
Mom: – “No. Studies show that up to 12 months babies should have a limited intake of salt. Their kidneys are not fully ready to handle a large amount of salt.
Good willed person: – “Forget the studies. The food needs salt to taste good. Let those scientists eat food without salt!”
Sounds familiar? These are just a few examples that I had to deal with from my “good-willed” people. I’m sure you’ve got many more. Undoubtedly, what you’ve probably noticed is that they gladly give the advice but they can’t really back it up with credible sources, except “my mother, grandma and her great-grandma used to do it like this, therefore it must be the only good way.”
You try to explain that since great-grandma’s time, science and the world, in general, have evolved and we have a deeper understanding of things. I mean, we like to take advantage of electricity, mobile phones or airway transport. None of us still read by candlelight, communicate by pigeons or travel by carriage, do we? So why shouldn’t we embrace the advances in childcare as well? I’m not saying that our grandmas did things the wrong way. For the times they were living in and the science of the day, they did a great job.
However, what can we do when we have a “good-willed” person in front of us you may ask? Well, depending on the person, they will either accept the reasons that we’re giving them and never bring it up again, in which case, the problem is solved, or they will keep nagging, in which case I see 2 options: you either ignore them or blatantly tell them to leave you alone because you’ve got this. Of course, they will get upset, but hey…my peace and quiet is so much more important.
I realize that I may have portrayed the “good-willed” person as a mean, terrible individual. They’re not. They are trying to be helpful to the new mother the only way they know how. Still, what they don’t realize is that, sometimes, an avalanche of unwanted advice, besides being annoying, can have an adverse effect on a young, first-time mom. She will start doubting herself. She will wonder whether what she’s doing is the right thing for her baby or not.
In conclusion, if you are a “good-willed” person and you think that the new mom simply can’t do without your advice, find a gentler way to give it. Don’t make it sound as if you’re saying: “You’re doing it wrong!” Back your advice up with credible sources. And whatever you do, don’t try to impose your point of view. Mothers want the best for their children, so if they have any questions, rest assured, they will ask and you will have the chance to impart your knowledge.