As an offshoot of my job writing about moms and kids, I find myself giving a lot of parenting advice. It's a state of affairs that I have mixed feelings, On one hand, I feel like my work has given me a lot of useful knowledge that I'm sure the moms in my life could benefit from. On the other hand, I absolutely hate it when people give me unsolicited parenting advice, and who wants to be a hypocrite?
Because of my aversion to receiving most advice about parenting (seriously, if I didn't ask, don't tell), I try to follow the three guidelines below before I offer up my own. If you're debating whether to speak up to a mom friend, relative, coworker, or acquaintance, ask yourself whether you're in one of the following positions. If not, no matter how good you think your intel is, it's probably best to keep it to yourself.
- You're directly asked for advice. One of the biggest lessons I've learned as a mom is that every baby and child is vastly different and therefore has individual responses to parenting methods and baby products. So telling everyone in town how you have cracked the code on getting your newborn to sleep (trust me, you're just lucky) or have found the one baby product that no child should live life without (your kid loves it; hers probably won't) just makes you look braggy and downright silly. However, if a fellow mom should ask you directly how you dealt with sleep or potty training, separation anxiety, or breastfeeding issues, feel free to offer up whatever good advice you have. Just provide the caveat that it's what worked for you and isn't necessarily a cure-all.
- You hear a mom complaining about something specific, and you have a genius fix for it. School drop-off, gym locker rooms, and moms' night outs are rife with women talking about issues they're having with their little ones. If you should overhear someone bemoaning their struggles for something specific you also went through and survived, now's the time to speak up. Maybe you found a parenting hack that helped or can just tell her that in your experience, it will get better. Sometimes just knowing she's not in it alone helps more than anything.
- You see something that's a real safety concern. See a child who's about to fall out of a shopping cart at the grocery or a stroller at the park? Say something. We moms need to support each other, and when it's a situation that either requires you to get out of your comfort zone and speak up or a potential trip to the ER for her, you know what the right decision is.