Before I became a mother, I didn’t realize growing a human attracted so much attention. The moment my pregnancy began to show, I became a target for unsolicited advice.
I would leave the market with more pregnancy anecdotes than groceries. I couldn’t go to the mall without being stopped at least twice. As an introvert, the constant attention made me a little uncomfortable.
I already felt flooded with suggestions as a millennial in the tech age: “You have to co-sleep or your child won’t develop a secure relationship.” “Never co-sleep. It’s dangerous and your child will be codependent.” The amount of contradictory information out there is staggering and difficult to wade through.
The attention of strangers seemed to double when I was pregnant with my second. This time, I had an outgoing toddler to boot. Over and over I heard, “Two is a game changer!” I would laugh politely and shake it off. It wasn’t until I went into labor and left my 2-year-old asleep in his bed to head to the hospital that it really hit me. I turned to my husband, overcome with emotion, and said, “This really is a game changer.”
Walking through Target the other day, I gave my 3-year-old some slack and let him walk beside me. He immediately tested the boundaries of his newfound freedom.
“Listening ears, Jack. Stay right by me. Not so far,” I repeated.
I was about to scoop him up and plop him securely in the cart when I felt a tap on my shoulder. An older woman told me about her own boys (now grown) and how she misses these days, as frustrating as they can seem. She smiled at my sons and said, “You’re doing a good job. I hope you are enjoying every second of them.” This is a suggestion I will gladly take.
I’ve finally come to welcome and appreciate advice from other moms. Even if I don’t take a parenting tip to heart, I feel grounded and connected to well-meaning parents on this most fulfilling and heart-wrenching journey. I’m thankful for helpful hints (“Carry around a few Matchbox cars in your purse”) and feel comfortable disregarding advice that doesn’t work for my family (“Don’t nurse your baby to sleep.”).
So here’s my unsolicited advice: The next time someone approaches you, just enjoy connecting with another mom. Parenting is hard; it’s easier knowing you’re not alone.