How to respond to unwelcome parenting advice
Ho-ho-hold the unsolicited advice
Here at Elvie, we care about your wellbeing, and Christmas can leave some parents feeling more stressed than #blessed. So, If you feel like you're having a blue Christmas while everyone else's is merry and white, you're not alone.
For many parents, Christmas means a break in routine, organizational mayhem, and potential family confrontations hovering over the month. Disagreements over parenting styles, unsolicited advice, tension over holding babies or feeding babies, the stress of keeping to a schedule, etc., can all spark under new parents like a powder keg ready to explode.
So, if your mother-in-law has more opinions than gifts and your nearest and dearest are jingling your bells— we see you, mama, and we're here to help. We're here to arm you with some knee-jerk phrases to fire off as and when needed. So, when your in-laws catch you on the back foot or your sister is getting a little sassy, you've got a few handy go-to retorts to drop like a smoke bomb and fade into the black like 'Not me. Not today, people. I'm not the one.'
But, before we launch into our TED talk, we'd like to give you all a friendly little reminder:
' No' is a complete sentence.
We've been conditioned to protect everyone else's feelings at the expense of our own, but you're a mama, and you know what's best for your child. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, you're well within your right to tell them' no.'
"Can I hold your baby?"— No.
"Give me the bottle, and I can feed her." — Nopedy Nope.
"Oh, come on. She's five months old, and she can have some Christmas Cake." — Ho, Ho, No.
Your baby, your rules, and you're allowed to lay down the law
That being said, there are many of us who aren't comfortable with being so blunt— especially with people that we love and who mean well (we hope). So, here are some courteous comebacks to help soften the blow, so you can say 'no' without wilting the mistletoe.
"Thank you for your advice, but that doesn't work for us."
"I appreciate your input, but we've worked out a routine that suits us."
"Thank you for sharing your experience, I'll bear that in mind."
"That's really interesting, thank you for sharing."
"Sounds like that worked really well for you. We're enjoying finding what works for us, but thank you".
"Thank you so much, but we've got this covered."
Also, these phrases aren't limited to family or to the Christmas period— because this stuff isn't always limited to either family or Christmas.
Personal space up in this place
Women are often subject to opinions left, right, and center from total strangers (ever been told to "smile, love"?) and this doesn't stop when you become a mama. Usually, the demographic shifts from inappropriate men to older women and family— but it can feel equally as violating when someone enters your personal space to give you a lecture out of the blue. So, whether you're confrontational by nature or not, you can put these responses to good use.
Question: "Can I hold your baby?"
Response: "No, sorry, that isn't convenient for me right now." Optional extra, (if you're feeling generous): "But you're welcome to look at him."
Opinion: "You're holding her wrong. Look, you do it like this."
Response: "Oh, no, thank you for your concern but she actually responds really well to this."
Opinion: "She's too old to be breastfeeding"
Response: "This is what works for us, thank you."
Opinion: "You should never wake a sleeping baby."
Response: "We have a really good routine that works for us, thank you."
Thank U, next
We've put 'thank you' in our responses but you are (insert T Swift vocals) never, ever, ever under any obligation to thank anyone for their unsolicited advice. So, feel free to delete the pleasantries as and when desired.
"This works for us."
"That doesn't work for us."
Remember these phrases. They're not snubs. They're not rude. They're not confrontational or dismissive. They set out to tell any well-meaning (or not) onlookers that they're welcome to their opinions, but parenthood is not one-size-fits-all. A happy bonus— they don't really invite a response.
So, go on. Sprinkle a subtle STFU over your tense interactions like a little festive Salt Bae. Then, fix yourself a Christmas Spirit, and let's deck these halls.