Unsolicited Advice

What I like most about this sign is that it’s been assaulted.

I don’t know what actually attacked it – probably a car? – but I like to imagine that a crazed and/or violent woman happened upon it while her children were either screaming or crying or fighting and she took a sledgehammer to it.

Pregnant women and mothers (especially of young children) get a lot of unsolicited advice and it’s usually about as useful as the message on this ill fated sign. Before I got pregnant I was terrific at blowing off other people’s opinions. I worked in a bar for many years so I was trained in the art of recognizing that most people are drunk and/or everything that came out of their mouths was more about them than it was about me. Anyone who began a conversation with “You know what you should do?” was automatically (and quickly) jilted, with or without a fresh cocktail.

But when I got pregnant, for some reason, that changed. I became a target for viewpoints on vaccinations, bedtimes, breastfeeding, caffeine, exercise, standing up, reading, diet… Basically anything anyone had any thoughts on whatsoever were hurled my way from close friends and outright strangers. My appearance was constantly used as a device to dole out advice. “Your belly is perfectly round – you should have professional photographs taken,” or “That’s a big baby in there – you should put your feet up.”

What’s worse – I listened to it. I was so unsteady on my feet, so concerned about my ability to make the transformation from regular person with a poetry problem to mom, so desperate to make sure I was doing it right that I took it all in. I’m so glad I’m not a new mom anymore – the uncertainty weakens the ability to tell the random know-it-alls to go eff off. (For me, the hormones didn’t help with that either.)

Now that I’m an old parenting pro, I know that I don’t know what I’m doing any more or any less than anyone else does. I know that hot dogs and mandarin oranges might not make the most nutritious breakfast, but at least he’s eating. I know that bathing is overrated and that Elmo can save entire afternoons. And I know that commiserating with moms at the playground or on a FaceBook group beats all the advice I never asked for.

Posted by

Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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