Often times as I sit in the supermarket parking lot checking coupons, the grocery list, and being ignored by my toddler while reciting the usual threats for bad behavior, I notice several mothers hoisting their capable, walking, bundles of joy onto their hips and heading into the store. As I watch, I wonder how often those mothers were told early on to “put that child down because she can walk”, “You’re going to spoil her”, they say or “you’re making her way too clingy”, or “children need to learn independence early.”
Parents everywhere feel my pain when I say how irritating it can be when “experienced parents” freely share their opinion on how you should handle your child. Even though they mean well there is still a point where you want to tell them to tend to their own business. In fact, right after I had my baby, a friend brought us a meal, walked in, saw me holding my sleeping baby, and told me to “put that baby down”, before she even said hello. I ignored her because I subscribe to the school of “hold ‘em and hold ‘em often” and I think the holding should continue until they are toddlers for as long as your back can take it.
So how should you handle other child-bearing humans that will not let up even when you nicely tell them that you really do not mind holding your child? For one thing, stop wasting your energy trying. Then take that extra energy and focus it on yourself because your new goal is to avoid getting upset when someone makes a comment about your parental choice.
Try these suggestions:
1. If you choose to respond, keep it simple. Try “thanks, I’ll keep that in mind”. Do not launch into a discussion about why you hold your baby, or instigate a fight by telling them it’s your business if you want to hold your baby, or get deep and philosophical on them about how the world would be a better place if more children were held. You don’t have to explain yourself. It’s your decision to hold your child and that’s that!
2. After such an encounter, ask yourself why it upsets you so much. Is it really because you’re tired of everyone’s advice or are you a new mom and unsure about what you’re doing anyway so you take any advice as a testament to your terrible parenting skills? Whatever your answer, allow others to have their opinion but stay true to your personal right to parent your child the way you choose.
3. Next time you plan to attend a social gathering, decide in advance that you will not take any comments about holding your child personal. You know which friends and family members are most likely to give advice. Steel yourself for their comments. Since you will be expecting comments, it should be no surprise when you hear them.
4. Try to accept that these advice generous parents really do mean well. A lot of them are commenting from personal experience and really want you to avoid the issues they experienced with their own children. In fact, I have found these parents are more than willing to also share the horrors of dealing with a toddler who has been informed they will no longer be carried. Apparently, the decibel level blows through the roof!
However, regardless of how you choose to handle these comments, learn to trust your choices as a parent. No matter how you parent, someone will have an opinion and will be more than willing to share it. Just accept that opinions are not always a bad thing, other well-meaning parents really do want to help, your reaction is up to you, and as long as your little one is happy and healthy, trust that your parenting choices are just fine.