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When Unsolicited Advice is Actually Helpful

Postpartum

I recall getting frustrated by advice early on. My sister-in-law said she liked to think of outside advice as more telling of their story than that they are trying to intrude or instruct. It’s just somebody trying to be helpful and connect. Of course I replied, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Sometimes I don’t know why I push so hard against the outside advice. I willingly sit up late and type in any number of Google searches. Or I go to a Facebook forum of strangers and seek out their input, whether via active engagement or more of a fly-on-the-wall approach. So why does the person in the grocery store, the well meaning friend of my mother-in-law, or even people from my own circle of family and friends feel so unsolicited? So boundary-pushing?

Herein lies the catch about unsolicited advice and the village. You can’t want the village but also want people to leave you alone. Only interacting when I want to interact, turns out, is really selfish. I didn’t always think so, but am coming around to it upon reflecting on how I build relationships. I can’t complain how there is no village but also avoid conversation with strangers who may, from time to time, provide their side of the conversation too.

To be clear, we can all do without the judgement, the nose sticking up a little higher above us, and the side-glances. Those aren’t part of building a village. At the same time, I know sometimes when I feel judged by another it’s mostly because I am judging myself. They are a mirror into what I already have sitting on the edge of my mind.

Maybe that unsolicited advice is input from someone being judgy. I’ve started to see this as an opportunity to try and understand why I even care? If their input helps, fantastic! And if it doesn’t, then so what (unless it is harmful)?

So I listened to someone else’s point of view for a minute or two. In the last six years, unsolicited advice has easily saved me minutes and hours--giving me an idea of how to hold baby #1 on his belly when nothing else would soothe the gas; how to finally get rid of thrush with baby #3; and how to adjust my carrier to better support baby #2, helping him (and me!) to find comfort in the carrier instead of annoyance.

And sure, maybe we’re all busy and don’t have time for random and familiar people doling out information. But there is also a problem with young moms feeling isolated, especially in the early years. So maybe in listening to others and them listing to me I can find fellowship, relationship, and support. In reflecting on what I feel like is judgment I can find grace for myself and them. I have to give a little to get some too. Just like I teach my kids.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 20 months to age five. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.



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