The Parenthood Disease - Advice Overload Syndrome
Originally Published On: Lifeblooming
The Advice No-one Gave You About the Advice Everyone Will Give You
Having a baby brings countless joys. It also brings other things. In becoming a parent you have unwittingly exposed yourself to A.O.S. – Advice Overload Syndrome. This condition is most likely to occur when you are the recipient of unsolicited advice about your child rearing. Symptoms of A.O.S. include a tightening of the shoulders, throbbing temple, stiff neck and an urge to scream.
Every parent will experience A.O.S. at one point or another. It is important to know that you are not alone and there is something you can do about it.
Thank You for Your Advice
When you have a baby you will discover that family, friends and complete strangers standing next to you in the checkout line will feel free to offer you advice. They will proffer their views and suggestions on subjects you may be surprised to discover are up for public discourse.
Oddly enough, in the case of complete strangers these insightful beings never fail to get the gender of the child wrong. If your child was bedecked in a pink, frilly dress with the word ‘girl’ emblazoned on it in lilac glitter, they would invariably refer to them as a boy. This is a very good indicator of the quality of said advice.
What Your Child is Wearing
Your child will never be dressed warmly enough. Your new advisors will be particularly anxious about your child being sufficiently bundled to withstand any vicious squall that may suddenly spring into being. The fact that it’s the middle of summer is completely irrelevant.
Your child’s ears and feet will warrant specific focus. The ears are a portal into which all manner of disease and illness can obtain access to your child’s inner workings. If a child ever feels a soft, gentle summer breeze upon their ears they will immediately be struck down with anything from colds, influenza or pneumonia to an inability to tie their own shoelaces before they are twenty.
The feet will never attain the correct temperature being either too hot or too cold. In either instance they should of course be covered in thick woollen socks.
A Crying Baby aka Please Go To Sleep!
The Oxford Dictionary defines sleep as a condition of body and mind which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended. As a parent it helps to refresh your memory of what sleep is, having not had any for several months.
There are numerous ways of trying to convince your baby they should go to sleep right now. The key difference between the methods is the amount of crying involved. By you or your baby. Occasionally both of you will be emitting synchronised howls or piteous mewls in the gentle amber glow of a night light.
It goes without saying that whatever approach you take in supporting your baby to gain sweet slumber will be the polar opposite of what your advisors believe you should be doing. When you are sobbing heartfelt pleas to the baby to sleep these advisors will naturally be taking forty winks themselves having discharged their duty of care in its entirety simply by pointing out what you’re doing wrong.
During the first half of the twentieth century, New Zealand mothers were encouraged to get baby into a strict routine. A 24 hour clock indicated when various activities should take place, with an emphasis on four-hourly feeding. Babies were to be fed for fifteen minutes at 06:00am,10:00am, 02:00pm, 06:00pm and finally at 10:00pm after which they were to sleep until their early morning feed.
Baby was plain out of luck if their desires didn’t quite align to the prescribed activity times. Coincidentally, the period during which this method was sternly encouraged upon young mothers and their wee babes was the same time wild-eyed housewives were pouring themselves a robust gin and tonic at 2:15 in the afternoon to drown out their baby’s protests.
Feeding Your Baby
It is not often that your bits and bobs will be the focus of polite conversation around the water cooler. It may feel decidedly odd that people can be so heavily invested in your bobs. But invested they are and so without shame they will advise you on nipple preparation, how you suckle your offspring, the length of time you intend to breastfeed for and so on and so forth. Whatever your own views on the matter may be, rest assured they will be incorrect. The fact that they are your bobs is immaterial.
Advice on bottle feeding will also be free-flowing. Some advice which may on the face of it seem like the babble of misguided loons might simply represent outmoded views. Proponents of uber-strict feeding cycles might have been the young mothers who felt the threat of social condemnation if they so much as veered a minute from the cycle themselves all those decades ago. So do try to be gentle but if that fails, try to be elsewhere.
Your baby’s first solid foods will also be the subject of much fascination. All the advice will boil down to this – if you are doing things right your baby should be eating a full buffet lunch by the time they are 4 days old. The odd relative will attempt to feed them half the menu within hours of baby popping out. Be ready for these sneaky sneakertons.
These same people will also suggest you dip everything that might go into your baby’s mouth in sugar. Pacifiers, bottle teats, nipples – there is nothing that shouldn’t be coated in it’s powdery yumminess. Get ready to duck and roll if anyone approaches you looking furtive and holding a bag of sugar.
Managing Your A.O.S.
A.O.S. is a frustrating condition. However whilst the condition is interminable it is not terminal and there are a number of things you can do to lessen its effects.
Ignore at will
You have the power to simply ignore the advice. You could also play with adopting one of the following to complement this approach:
A far away, ethereal gaze. You may need golden, curly locks and some sort of tie-dyed garment to pull this one off. Try it in the mirror. If you don’t look totally demented, this is the one you should use on family and friends. If done right, you’ll find conversations petering off at a satisfying rate. If it all goes pear-shaped, you can blame the sleep deprivation.
A grim, steely eyed look. This sounds very good in books and is likely to be most effective in deterring complete strangers. Practice it on your partner at random moments.
Politely turn down their advice
This is a risky game plan and best used with people you’re not worried will never speak to you again. To accompany this strategy you will also need to develop the following:
A handful of ready replies. You will need to fashion courteous, considered responses that are aimed at stopping the flow of advice. I suggest testing the responses on your in-laws. If you don’t cause offence you’re onto a winner. If you do cause offence, well you may feel you are still on to a winner.
Very thick skin. People who offer unsolicited advice expect you to implement it immediately. That is after all, why they offered it in the first place. But if you don’t then these are also the sorts of people who get very, very angry. Dr Bruce Banner angry. Be prepared to run.
Listen and learn
You will need a good ear and even more patience. Amongst the advice there will likely be counsel that is useful and relevant to you and your baby. To be able to spot these gems you will need to learn to trust your instincts and understand what your own parenting style is. This can take time. One way of learning who you are as a parent is to pay attention to what sort of advice feels right. By working out why it resonates with you, you strengthen that intuitive voice. In the meantime you may just have to nod. A lot.
At the end of the (incredibly long) day
You can’t avoid being given advice on how to rear your child. But you still get to make the decisions about what’s best for you, your child and how you raise them to be kind, capable adults. Weeding the good advice from the other stuff provides you with a good learning experience when you’re developing your parental sixth sense. And at the very least, it gives you a chance to practice being patient. As a parent, you’re gonna need this.
You can read more from Lisa on her blog Lifeblooming.
She's also written the following posts right here on BlogHer:
Lisa also attempts to utilise social media. If you want to check out her amateur efforts aka how NOT to use social media, here are a couple of her links:
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