Week 15: Unsolicited advice

Posted by Rachel Cashen

14 weeks and the bump is out! Enjoyed a little R and R at my grandmother’s beach house last weekend, where I received no unsolicited advice.

Positive pregnancy tests should come with a flow chart that demonstrates the conversations to expect once you announce you’re pregnant. It could be a novella, even: “What to Expect When You’re Announcing.” The questions are all the same at first: When are you due? How did you find out? Are you excited? (Has anyone ever said “no” just to mess with people? Of course I’m excited!) Is Dan excited? What did your parents say?

I’ve learned that once these initial questions are out of the way, the conversation quickly spirals into a line of questioning on controversial issues and/or heaps of unsolicited advice. Since some of these questions can be challenging, I’ve been working on some “stock answers.”

The hardest question I’ve been dealing with, since I have a lot of stay-at-home-mom friends, is about going back to work. When they find out I’m taking 12 weeks of FMLA leave and then resuming my job, they have said things like “You’ll change your mind about going back to work, just wait until you hold that baby” or “I could never trust someone else to raise my child.”

I try not to delve into a feminist manifesto of my beliefs that includes “I think it’s important for my children to see me work” or “I didn’t go to college, intern and then start a career I love just to walk away when I have children.” Instead, I opt for neutral answers like “Our family needs two incomes. College isn’t cheap these days!” or something light-hearted like that. The key is: neutral answers that don’t commit you to a “side.”

People love to give unsolicited advice. I should start counting how many times I hear the phrase “Oh, you don’t need that.” Someone even told me that literally all we need are a crib and diapers. In light of this, I sent an email to all my close mama friends who have had babies in the last five years or so that said: “There are so many baby products on the market; I’m trying to choose what I need and what I don’t. Can you send me a list of your “must-have” products (including brand!) and “don’t even bother” products? I’d love to get your input! Thanks!” This has been wildly successful. Not only have I gotten TONS of ideas for what products to use, I’ve gotten insight into my friends’ parenting styles and even been offered a few items to borrow once Baby Cashen is here. I’ve already started two registries to keep track of all the items that are recommended, and it’s helping me stay organized with all the suggestions.

Bottom line: most people are well-meaning, but not everyone expresses their concern in the most tactful, helpful way. Take the negative comments with a grain of salt, and earnestly try to seek help from those who have been-there, done-that. After all, once the baby is born, those people will all be living their own lives, not hovering over my shoulder (except maybe my Mom).

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