Unwanted Advice: Who Needs It?

new-katieI’ll never forget the first time a stranger gave me unsolicited parenting advice. My daughter was a few weeks old and my good friend convinced me to go for a walk at the mall.
It was winter, and visions…

of flu germs danced in my head, but I knew I needed to get out of the house for my sanity.

I zipped my infant into a footed sleeper, threw a blanket over her seat and we strolled through the mall.

Plenty of people stopped to smile and “awww!” at my baby.

CeCe started to fuss a bit, and before I could judge if it was from hunger, sleepiness or another common reason babies cry, an older woman stopped and reached in the stroller.

She pulled the blanket off CeCe and said in a reprimanding tone, “She’s trying to tell you she is too hot.”

I froze, racked with guilt that I was overheating my baby and ashamed that I didn’t realize it.

I felt a swirl of self-blaming emotions take over, but before I could fall into that endless pit of Mommy Guilt, my friend, Azra, took action.

She snatched the blanket back and said something along the lines of, “Oh, so you speak baby, do you? You have no idea what she needs. You’re not her mother.”

Then she steered us away from the smirking advice-giver and told me to ignore her.

Five years later, I still play that scene back in my mind. I think of all the things I should have said to that woman, and I still wonder why she couldn’t have used more gentle language if she was truly trying to be helpful.

I remember checking my daughter’s forehead, second-guessing myself to see if she was overheated.

Azra repeatedly assured me that my baby was dressed appropriately, and reminded me that the meddling woman should be ignored. I’ve had many more moments like that one in almost six years of parenting. In the mall, on Facebook, from family members or colleagues – everyone, it seems, has advice to give, whether you ask for it or not.

Of all the advice I’ve been given, the best piece came from  my friend that day at the mall.

“Ignore that (B-word.) You’re the mom.”

Photo:Katie Saltz with Ezra & CeCe