At every phase of the motherhood journey, from pre-conception to conception, to pregnancy to birth to parenting, the road is littered with so many advice that most likely would make you go arrrrrrrrgh! Yes, they drive you crazy.
And when you become a mother for the first time, everyone and their dog has an opinion about how that child should be taken care of. Whether, it needs to be swaddled in shawls or not, whether, the soft top ion the baby’s head needs to be bathed in Silverbird ointment to wave off cold or not, whether the child is wearing gloves to reduce transference of germs from people who touch baby’s hand. The advice just goes on and on. It is endless; everyone would jump on your back, if you allow them.
Even at this stage in the lives of my children, who by the way are still alive and very healthy, I still get lots of unsolicited advice from people, who have been through motherhood, and so, think they know better. Recently, I asked my brother-in-law who stays with us to make some noodles for my kids, should I not come back home early when one I-too-know mommy jumped in and asked if my seven years old twins could not make noodles for themselves.
I told her that they probably could, from watching me cook so many times but that they were not yet allowed near the stove. That led to a lecture of how, her mother brought her up cooking. How, she often helped her mother in the kitchen when she was the same age as my twins. She went on to tell me, how her five years old baby girl was always in the kitchen with her and would even make noodles, if you lit the stove for her.
I knew it was time to end the conversation, in fact, it had gone too far but I was humouring, considering our r. I began to wonder, why she did not allow her five year old baby to lit the stove by herself and make herself a meal, while she was around, all because she was training her.
My older twins have never cooked and they will not, until I can be sure that when I leave them to it, they will not burn down the house or in their arguments, over season the meal or undercook it. They can watch for now and manage the cereal box by themselves. Advice are welcome but not necessarily taken.
However a new mom, Onyinye was hedged in on all sides, when her husband’s family came visiting and they discovered she was only breastfeeding her four month old baby without the addition of water or any solids. The baby was healthy for it but they were aghast that she did not already know the taste of pepper or any solid like Amala with crayfish infused ewedu.
Ah, no, the situation was not palatable to them, as the grand mother and her husband’s sisters started to tell her how she was starving her daughter by her exclusive breastfeeding practice. When it slipped that she even breastfed her during the night, the uproar increased as they suggested a bottle given to the baby at night would ensure that she slept through-out the night, barring any need for diaper change.
When Onyinye tried to tell them that, her doctor had not forced into it but had she researched it and knew breastfeeding her exclusively for six months would boost her immunity and general wellbeing, hence, her decision. Besides, she ran her own business and could take her baby everywhere with her, so breastfeeding her was never a problem, as they were both always together. That incensed the women as she ridiculed her ‘always together’ talk, “So you mean, you cannot leave her with anybody, no wonder, we did not see your brake light all these days even after mama went back home from Omugwu” said one of her sisters-in-law.
Onyinye felt small with all the parenting advice that came her way that day. She wondered about the ones they talked about when she was not there to hear. She questioned if she was truly doing what was right for her baby. But that is all right and well, Onyinye worries now, because she is new to the game; by the time she has her second or third child, she would have become an expert at passively listening to unsolicited parenting advice.
But one of my friends, Moji is an expert. First of all, she does not give the room for you to give advice, she always had the perfect retort to every piece of advice you give her. Whenever we are together, and the ITK moms come along to offer their advice; her response sometimes wish I was not there. At times, she can’t be bothered to be nice, but if she likes the adviser, she makes some rasping noise and change the subject under discussion or let the person talk, because all they really wanted was an opportunity to talk about their experiences, so, she indulges them.
Take for instance at a gathering, people see her with her daughter, scurrying to find a corner to breastfeed and says, “you are breastfeeding her again, you will spoil her” Moji will reply, “we are following the doctor’s order, how’s that drink you are holding, save some for me” and off she goes.
At other times, when someone questions her parenting choices, she raises her eyebrows and asked them, how they made same decision and there goes the tap. That’s when you will realize that women tend to brag a lot about their children and exploits or non exploits. It made me realize that when people give advice, they are often just looking for an opportunity to talk about their own experiences. Give them the chance to do so, and the focus is off you and your choices and onto them and theirs.
Building some thick skin is essential but if you really think about it; (at least in my own case, it was true) the only times, I felt insecure when people criticized my parenting choices, where in instances, I actually had self doubts.
God’s wisdom for us all on their motherhood journey!
Oluwakemi is a member of The Fertile Chick family, and she is a writer, dreamer and mother of two sets of twins. She is passionate about issues that concern women, and does not shy away from airing her views. And words are her weapon of choice! She is reachable on her handle @oluwakemine
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