Advice from Strangers

The advice i have for you on how much advice to give to a new mom? DON'T | Twin Cities Moms Blog

True Story: I’m dashing through the aisles of Target, randomly tossing food into my doublewide cart with three kids in tow. At the same time another woman, footloose and fancy free, is carefully smelling melons and pinching avocados. Said woman spots my rolling-circus and instead of going on her own merry, organic way, she steps in front of me and says:

“You know that’s full of harmful additives!” pointing to the Kraft Mac & Cheese taking up most of my cart. I stop, assuming she’s saying something important like “I think you picked up decaf coffee by mistake” or “You have poop on your face.”

She goes on:
“You shouldn’t feed that to your children.”

Now I want to run her over with my cart but my words fail me so I say “thanks” and make a bee line for the register.

Has this ever happened to you?

Perhaps your last encounter with advice was a little less aggressive. Maybe your hairstylist, whilst referring to the bags under your eyes (thanks for noticing), recommended the latest craze in sleep training. Or maybe another mom masked her advice by leading with a story about her #perfectnotsoperfect children and how she chooses to parent them. The truth is, encounters like this and MANY others have made me wary of others’ attempts to help. At its best, unsolicited advice seems irrelevant to my family’s unique circumstances and at its worst, it is just thinly veiled criticism. In fact, if you asked me my advice on giving advice (especially to a mom with young children), I would say:

“DON’T!”

Here’s the thing, it’s not all bad. Despite my better efforts to drone out all random comments by reenacting Murder She Wrote episodes in my head, a few tidbits made it through. Much to my dismay, I was given the following good advice:

  • A friendly older woman recommended making three lists. One list for all the things I need to do. Another list for all the things I should do. And a third list for all the things I want to do. Then, she said, “throw away the list of things you should do.”
  • In the same vein, another woman and I were discussing a class I said I should sign up for. She said, “Or don’t because you really need to stop shoulding all over yourself.”
  • Finally, after admitting that I was puzzled about how to help one of my sons be less negative, a new friend shared that she too had a “no-no” boy and she required that he tell her about three good things that happened that day. (Already our car rides home from school are more positive.)

There you have it, not all advice from strangers is terrible. Yes, I could probably go on living without any of it. But whether I like it or not, people are going to keep on giving it. If I’d tuned it all out, I would have missed some real gems. So my new motto for advice is: Take the good, leave the bad, and laugh at the stupid.

What are the best and funniest pieces of advice you’ve gotten (or given) lately?

One Response to Advice from Strangers

  1. Gail Helgeson February 24, 2017 at 2:56 AM #

    Thirty-five years ago I made the mistake of letting my husband book my flight with our 2 year old & 7 year old from Portland, where I was staying with his parents, to Washington, D.C., where he had driven our car, sans children, in 3 days. NEVER again. I asked for a red eye straight from across so the kids could sleep, and me,too. I got a 4 leg trip, thanks to the oh, so helpful ticket agent he talked to: Portland to Seattle to Denver to Atlanta to D.C. The 2 year old finally fell asleep 1/2 an hour from Denver…and woke up as we landed. 2 AM and I’m chasing her up and down an empty airport trying to tire her out…and tiring myself out instead. We all got some sleep. Then we started the descent into Atlanta and her 2 year old ears could not handle the air pressure changes. She screamed at that volume only a 2 year old can and nothing could relieve her pain…til we finally got off the plane into airport business travel rush hour with yet another flight to catch.
    I realize I haven’t said much about my 7 year old. That’s because she rose to the occasion and tried her best to sleep or help with entertain her sister. The last flight we were all stretched to the edge our coping abilities. The 2 year old with sore ears especially. As we landed and let the business people deplane first, a young woman, no doubt an oldest child, handed me a note. It began, “Maybe it’s none of my business”. Yup, if you haven’t been on this trip all the way from Portland, it is none of your business. In fact, if you start a note with those words, I guarantee it’s none of your business. Just don’t.
    Oh, her sage advice? She wanted to point out to me that I favored my younger child. Darn right, I wanted us to make it to our new home on time and relatively unscathed. I had, surprise, discussed the situation with my older daughter, who had already moved crosscountry twice and across the ocean to Hawaii & back, a seasoned traveler at seven. She got a little cranky on that last flight & I was pretty much stretched to my limit. I reminded her we just needed to tough it out for another half hour and try to keep her sister happy & not screaming.
    I opened that note hoping to find encouragement, or something positive about my parenting, but instead got a wholly unnecessary critique, at a wholly inappropriate time. It’s a good thing I had no way of catching up with the author…I was in no mood to be polite.
    “Just don’t,” is great advice, especially if you haven’t walked a mile (or flown over 3000 of them) in the other person’s shoes.

Leave a Reply