It happened the other day.
I got “you should”-ed by another mother.
It’s that moment when another person, well-meaning or not, looks at you and utters those ultimately very unproductive words, “You should “ in reference to your child. I like to call this “should-ing” (yes, that is 100% made up). It may also be used in the context of, “Can other mothers just shop ‘should-ing’ me already!?”
This is almost always in connection to their belief that you haven’t done something in your parenting role they feel you should do. Think blanket statements like, “You should try to get her to eat more vegetables” – Gee, thanks Karen, I hadn’t thought of that. Or, “You should enjoy every moment, you’re lucky to have the opportunity”… and my personal favourite, especially when it comes from men, “You should keep trying to breastfeed, it’s what’s best” – Back off Brad, they aren’t your boobs.
“it’s a bit like navigating a minefield of unsolicited opinions when you become a parent”
Last week I was the victim of “should-ing” at a local drop-in play gym, and it made me feel like crap. Everly, who is newly two and has the will of a hundred twonagers combine, was jumping on the trampoline, which has a one kid at a time rule. Now I can promise you I’ve been
pleading trying to teach her to wait her turn for some time, but you know… she’s two. So she was getting a little cranky with me while I held her to wait for her turn on the trampoline, all the while reiterating to her, “guess what? Your turn next! Everyone gets a turn”.
And then it happened.
While I was trying to wrangle my toddler in the early stages of meltdown another mother tossed out the ever so unproductive advice: “You really should teach her how to wait her turn”.
I’m going to be really honest here, it stung. Plenty of other parents witnessed it so I was embarrassed, sweating from trying to wrestle my toddler off the trampoline and my social anxiety was already riding high (because when you struggle with social anxiety, these mom/parent groups and drop-ins are kind of the worst).
And so I hauled my kid out of there, a mere 20 minutes after arriving, while she kicked and screamed in true toddler meltdown fashion. In my head, I thought, “Surely this woman must have seen I was trying to teach her?” “Isn’t it a bit unrealistic to expect a young 2 year old to have perfect manners?” and most notably “Shouldn’t she just mind her own damn business?”
But what it really boiled down to was, that it was completely an unnecessary dig.
While there are a million books on parenting, no one writes the book on how to raise YOUR child. We do our best as parents, and our intuition guides us in incredible ways. The beauty of that is we know what works for our families and our children… and our children only. We teach our children to think before speaking, to be mindful of others, and to consider how it will feel, so why do we disregard this as adults sometimes? Why do we do this to other parents? There are so many other ways to word things in a way that is productive and beneficial.
A quick think-before-speak approach makes it easy to react, but also support your fellow parent. Some quick examples:
“Oh boy, I remember that age – it’s so hard to teach them to share!”
“Don’t worry, we’ve all been there with our kids”
“I struggled with this as well and I found XYZ really helped to teach my child how to do that”
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by another mom | The Mom Shame Chronicles – Unsolicited Advice Edition” quote=”‘Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by another mom'”]
I’ve gathered some incredible advice from the motherhood hive around me, and it’s an invaluable resource. MOST of this came in the form of a non-judgemental, mutually respective and solicited way and I’ve been open and grateful to receive it. There is something about being told what I should do, when I’ve not asked for the insight, that rubs me the wrong way.
Turns out, I’m not alone either. When I mentioned this instance over on my Instagram stories (my platform of choice for sharing this crazy motherhood world), I heard from loads of you who also hated how it made you feel when others butted their noses in. Now, of course, this can go for all manners of things in life, but it’s a bit like navigating a minefield of unsolicited opinions when you become a parent, and more so a mother. It’s human nature to do it, I know I’ve unintentionally done it.
But we can be better. It’s 2020, and being mindful of our words and actions is the way forward. The next time you get the urge to tell a parent how they should raise their kid, you should probably just mind your own business. See what I did there? 😉