My advice? Don't listen to advice.
When I was pregnant, my husband and I began to notice and compare all of the advice that we were getting from, well, everyone.
- You’ll sleep when you’re dead!
- You should totally sleep train the baby.
- You’re breastfeeding, right?
- You’re bottle feeding, right?
- Say goodbye to your social life!
- I did everything this book said - here, you should too.
Now before you get the wrong idea, we courted this advice and listened intently. I took notes, bought the books, read the blogs. As an expecting mom, I wanted to be as prepared for this new experience as I possibly could be.
As I got larger and rounder and the arrival of our new reality was imminent, we made a conscious decision together: to stop listening.
I put down the manuals. I’d listen politely when people gave me tips or talked about their experience, and then I’d file it away in the back of my mind rather than making plans for or worrying about whatever I had been warned against.
Advice has its time and place. And certainly I’ve given my fair share. But the only advice that my husband and I tend to give now to new or expecting parents is this:
Advice is often subjective and based on a person’s personal experience. Of course, it usually comes from a kind and generous place. The advice-giver wants the recipient to benefit from and hopefully avoid the struggles or hardships that they themselves experienced.
For me, the issue became not the advice itself, but how I was reacting to it. I was drowning in a sea of what I interpreted as cautionary tales and “should's”. I was worrying about all of the things that could happen or that I might experience. And the baby wasn’t even born yet.
So, we stopped listening. And that gave us the space to navigate our own experience and accept what was hard for us and rejoice in what came more naturally.
We did our best to not let the advice we received color our experience and how we dealt with it. That allowed us to find our rhythm and figure it out as best we could together.
As our son grows and as we plan for some big life changes this year, we’ve tried to continue to apply this approach. Of course, sometimes we ask for advice and are grateful for the counsel we receive. But we know the difference now between what to listen to and what to ignore.
The biggest lesson we continue to learn is that our parenting experience (and let's face it, life experience) is a direct result of how we approach it and the thoughts and energy behind our actions. Do we experience the same struggles as other parents? Duh. And we are way-far-away from perfect. But we navigate the messy road the best we can and choose to devote our energy to the areas we feel need the attention - the rest, as they say, is gravy.
So, where in your life are you maybe heeding advice too tightly? What can you take back for yourself to own your own experience? I’d love to know.