Don’t You Love Advice You Didn’t Ask For?

An older couple pulls up next to me in the parking lot of Office Max while I’m loading up the minivan to leave. The gentleman goes inside, and his wife immediately rolls down her window to talk to me. I’ve just completed a quick print job for 4SmartyPants and happen to have my 4 munchkins in tow. Noticing the volume and ages of children I’m strapping into seats, she feels the need to inquire if they are all mine. “Are those ALL your children?” Having heard this question more times than I care to count, I jump into my usual response mode. (Seriously, people must think they are the first ones to point out to me that I “have my hands full.”) “Yes, they’re all mine.” I answer her politely. “I can’t believe you even left the house with that many. How old are they?” Deep breath, she doesn’t know I get this all the time and it got old a long time ago. “Well, there are things to be done, and we can’t just hide out at home all the time. The twins in the back are 3, the little pumpkin in the middle is 2, and the baby is 9 months.” She doesn’t stop there, “And you’re having another one?? When are you due?” Still, this isn’t out of the ordinary, and I will likely be asked this again before the day is over, provided I spend anymore time in public. “I am due with #5 in October, it’s a boy.” Now it takes a turn for the worst, “I don’t know how you do it, that must be exhausting. You know, you really need to have your tubes tied after the next one is born. It’s not really fair to these kids not to have more attention from you. Does your husband help at all?”

She survived, if you’re wondering. I didn’t harm her physically, or even lash out verbally in anyway. I’ve gotten pretty good at fielding comments like these from people who seem to think they know what I should be doing with regard to my family and how. I can be sweet and civil long enough to get out of the conversation.

If you have children, you’ve certainly been there. Maybe not the exact situation, but something equally infuriating. Why do certain people think they have the right to tell you how you ought to be handling matters with your children? And even if you’re married without children, you’ve been given marital advice from someone who observed your life for possibly just a brief moment and thought they knew best what you should do.

It’s frustrating, for sure. Whether these people mean well or are just know-it-alls who think they’ve got it together, it’s hard to hear their words of wisdom, especially if you weren’t looking for any. Here’s my method for dealing with these helpful friends: who cares? My husband and I have been entrusted with this family, and we are responsible for making the decisions that affect it. No one else. We are choosing to raise our children according to our own convictions and discernment. There have been times so far when we haven’t known exactly what to do about a particular situation or event, and when those times presented themselves, we sought out answers, either advice from trusted friends/family or through books. Apart from that, I’m generally uninterested in how anyone else thinks I should be raising my children. BUT…. part of my “who cares” method also involves not making a big deal out of the fact that people are always quick to advise me. So they stuck their nose where it didn’t belong. What am I going to do? Rip them a new one and make them feel like trash? It might make me feel better for an hour, but I highly doubt that it’s going to cause that person to suddenly become someone who keeps their great ideas for others to themselves. They will walk away either defensive or embarrassed, but it won’t transform their personality.

Sure, it’s not their place to offer unsolicited advice. But ultimately, the ball is in my court with regard to how I respond to/feel about/process the event. I can let it get under my skin and dwell on the fact that I didn’t deserve what they were dishing out, or I can blow it off and choose to continue making my own choices and have confidence in my ability to raise kids (or be married) without their unwanted wisdom. (And to tell you the truth, half the time I think to myself “Have you ever met YOUR kids? NOT exactly the way I’m hoping mine will turn out. Thanks anyway!) If I intend to be fabulous in every aspect of my life, (and I do) I need to walk away from these situations feeling like despite the rudeness and insensitivity of the person in question, I was kind and polite and didn’t allow myself to develop a “victim” complex. So what? These are my kids, what do I care what SHE thinks, she isn’t raising them? They are happy and healthy, and I am doing a great job.

A couple of things to consider:

If someone wants advice on parenting/family, they will ASK for it. If they have not asked, chances are they will not be receptive to advice. Keep it to yourself. Just because what you did worked well for your family, doesn’t mean others need to adopt your methods.

If the person offering you unsolicited advice is a friend or family member, and it is a recurring issue, it is entirely appropriate (and necessary) to let them know in a very polite conversation or email that it is making you uncomfortable and that should you feel you are in a situation that would benefit from their knowledge and wisdom, you will approach them to ask for it.

Don’t sweat the small stuff! (And this is small stuff, in the grand scheme.) It won’t benefit you, and you’re better than that anyway. There will always be people who think they know better than you how you should run your life. Who cares??!! They don’t get to run it, you do! And your level of amazingness will increase each time you choose to let it roll off your back and move on.

Have you experienced some unwanted wisdom? How did you handle it?

P.s. Any advice offered on this blog is considered solicited, if you clicked a link to read it! πŸ™‚

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Categories: Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Don’t You Love Advice You Didn’t Ask For?

  1. Martha

    Stephanie you are amazing I probably would have told that lady to back off, but you did it in the way God wanted you to. I am so proud of you… Have a great day Love you!!!

  2. Stephanie, you have approached this with so much wisdom and grace. For obvious reasons, I don’t get unsolicited marriage/family advice, but I’ve noticed that the older I get the more unsolicited relationship/life advice I get (usually by people who married in their early 20s who honestly have no idea what it’s like to be 28/single/childless). You have given me a little gut check in my own heart on how I respond. Usually I keep my mouth shut but I boil a bit inside. Thanks for giving me a better perspective.

  3. MacIsMessy

    I’m pretty liberal with my splashes of unwanted advice in areas I know little about, but I can never imagine telling someone they should get their tubes tied!!! Yowza! You should have unbuckled all the kids and set them on attack mode!

    You should train all your children in the art of the ninja for just such occasions! That would be awesome.

    And that’s the end of my advice. (for today)

  4. Abby- you are so right! The audacity of people to offer their thoughts on how others should live is not limited to married and married with children! Singles get their fair share of unwanted advice, as well. Glad you brought that up, as not all of our readers fit into the married category, and this post is as much for them. Thanks! And I’m glad you are encouraged by this post to not let insensitive thoughts of others define you. You’re classy. πŸ™‚

  5. Coretha Cooley Fulton

    How did you get so wise? Certainly not from your mother! I am proud; and you are a great Momma.(However, I do NOT waive my right to give unsolicited advice on behalf of my adorable grandbabies-and, believe me, I’ve got lots! I will also take your side if anyone else does so in my presence. Deal?) πŸ˜‰

  6. Bectoria

    When my husband and I were expecting our first biological child, we had already had years of parenting experience having been foster parents. Whether people knew this or not, anyone I bumped into ALWAYS gave me advice, to the point that I sometimes found myself lying and saying “no. I’m not pregnant. I’m just fat.” Granted, this probably wasn’t the best way of dealing with things, but I can fall back on the excuse that I was not in my right mind (wink!). Oh! And a quick note… All of the advice was HORRIBLE!!

    That said, I am a hypocrite. I always give this advice whether new moms want it or not… “ALWAYS take any unsolicited advice with a grain of salt because we’re all just flying by the seat of our pants!”

  7. I think of advice as sentences that start with things like: “you should” or “you ought to” and not so much “you could” or “I usually.” It’s ok to offer possibilities, as long as you aren’t presenting your idea as the right or best way when the person to whom you’re talking hasn’t requested your position on the matter. “You should get your baby on a schedule,” is inappropriate. However, “We’ve had a good experience with scheduling our baby,” is not so off-putting.
    Side Note: I am personally against scheduling babies, but please feel free to have an opposing opinion. πŸ™‚

  8. Stephanie, your comment about baby scheduling really makes me crave some controversy. What’s the worst advice you ever received? This question is for anyone and everyone, whether you’re married, single, parenting, or whatever!

    I actually ASKED for a lot of advice and still do as I pass through uncharted parenting waters. I was told countless times to rely on my “instincts” with my first kiddo. Well, I didn’t have any instincts to rely on at that point. (I’m pretty sure parenting instincts are something you develop as you get better aquainted with your kid, not something just bestowed upon you when you leave the hospital with an infant.) This advice would frustrate me to my core! If I instinctively knew what to do, I wouldn’t be asking for advice, now would I?

    I guess what I really NEEDED to hear was that I wouldn’t damage my kid by trying new methods or by going without any methods for a while. I was scared to death! What would I go back and tell myself today? I’d say that as a parent, there’s pretty much no baby care strategies that can’t be undone, whether they’re working or not! You’re really NOT going to cause permanent psychological damage if you snuggle your baby too much OR let them cry it out too long. If you pick the wrong methods with your newborn, is that really all it takes to undo a lifetime of love and care? I should think not! When in doubt, ask some good hearted, emotionally healthy adults what they know of how their parents raised them. You’ll get gobs and gobs of different answers! Kids are just not that easy to ruin!

  9. kathy foley

    Who knows what was going on in this woman’s life but she saw an oppertunity to unloadon on soeone who couldn’t fight back. Sometimes we need to be thankfull we are not those people.

  10. Lisa Kidder

    I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my grandmother one day (after I had my twins #’s 3 & 4) and she looked at me and said “can I give you some advice?” Before I even thougt about it, I looked at her and replied, “sure, but that doesn’t mean I’ll take it.” I don’t even remember what the advice was.
    I think back on that moment all these years later and wish I would have had the grace to have been a little kinder to a woman who loved me very much.
    Stephanie, you don’t know me, but I when I go into your mom’s office I always admire the pictures of all of your glorious little ones. Congrats on number 5. Heck…. Congrats on numbers 1-4! I think you rock!

  11. laura

    i despise unsolicited advice about how to raise my kids or how to be a good wife. i’ve been told i need to stop taking naps, i need to cook more at home, i need to stop reading ___ book, i need to not snuggle my baby to sleep, i need to do this, i need to stop that, on and on and on it goes. this advice has come from anybody and everybody…from total strangers walking down my street (literally!) to my closest friend who supposedly knew me better than anyone.

    and instead of just viewing these unsolicited advice-givers as being nosy and intrusive, i let it discourage me into believing that people must think i’m such a horrible mom/wife because they told me what to do. i have to always remind myself that it doesn’t matter what these people say because if they don’t live under my roof, they HAVE no say. they can hate everything i do, but in the end they’re not my spouse and they’re not my kid so it really doesn’t matter what they think.

    i get a lot of unsolicited advice from family too, but it’s easier to brush that off because i KNOW they think i’m a good mom. because they TELL me that i’m a good mom and they praise how wonderful my children are turning out to be. maybe if all unsolicited advice came with heaps of compliments and encouragement, it would be easier to swallow! something for us all to think about when WE give out advice to others…because, let’s face it, we all do it!

  12. Stephanie

    Kathy- you bring up a great point. Who knows what might be going on in that woman’s life at the time? There’s no reason for me to give her a piece of my mind, especially if I consider the fact that today could be a really hard day for her for any number of reasons. A great perspective when receiving advice we don’t care to hear.

    Lisa- thanks so much! My mom speaks highly of you, I think you’re a fav of hers. πŸ˜‰ I appreciate your story about your grandmother. We really ought to step back and consider whether the person offering us advice has made a real investment in our lives and is therefore a little more deserving of our openness to their perspective of us. Advice is not always wrong, especially coming from those who love us most.

    Laura- I hear ya, girl. I get it all the time from anyone and everyone. I guess my main point is just that what we do with it is our choice. If we allow ourselves to be discouraged, it’s because we chose to. (As a general rule, there are exceptions.) The people trying to advise us don’t have the power to make us feel like bad moms or wives unless we give them that power. It’s the “victim” complex that I think we have to avoid, because it’s a dangerous spiral that makes us seem and feel weak and elicits even more advice from people in the long run. That being said, it sure is easier said than done sometimes! From what I can tell, your kids and husband are well-loved and cared for by you, and you aren’t in need of anyone’s advice on family. Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let anyone’s opinions of you shape how you feel about the job you’re doing. You got this! πŸ˜‰

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