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! 🙂