Monday, February 18, 2008

The Threshold of Unsolicited Advice

There is something about entering an important milestone in one's life that brings a lot of unsolicited advice. I'm not saying that the advice is unwanted or terrible, it just wasn't requested. Everyone who has ever reached certain milestones in their lives has lots of advice for those about to follow in their footsteps.

Of course, the threshold I'm about to cross is the entering parenthood one. And believe me; every parent we know is giving out advice like Americans giving bottled water after a natural disaster. We've heard that sleeping will cease to happen (at least at night), nights on the town will be few and far between, and my comfort and happiness will no longer matter. On the other hand, we've also been offered plenty of tips about what to expect from this pregnancy, many ideas on how to put a kid to sleep, and which car seats are best. Who needs books on pregnancy and parenting when you know a bunch of practicing parents?

The advice we receive comes in three categories: useful, (un)common knowledge, and justification.

The first is the kind you'd ask for if you knew what to ask. These are the things that they don't tell you in the books. Most of the information is not the garden variety birthing horror stories. Rather, this information is truly enlightening and so helpful in allowing us to make well-thought-out decisions. For example, it was suggested that we use the book Baby Bargains when stocking up for the baby, and it's already paying off. Let's just say that this sort of birthing knowledge may be unsolicited, but it is more than welcome.

I call the second category of unsolicited parent speak "(un)common knowledge". This is the sort of advice that we already know quite a bit about, but the more experienced parents feel it is their duty to make sure we know it. This category of advice can be annoying, but it has its place in the pantheon of parental tips. The parents are just trying to share everything they wished they had known about when they were in our shoes. It's really well-intentioned.

The third category of parental advice is called "justification" because it helps the parents justify all of their decisions if we take the advice to heart. Although this is not the most altruistic of motivations for advice, it is not mean-spirited in any way. Parents all want to know that they've made the best choices for their child(ren). As far as I'm concerned, none of the friends or colleagues I know needs to worry about this. The only justification they need is to know that their children are happy and healthy. They don't need me to follow their advice to prove that they made all the right choices. And trust me; I've seen enough bad parents in ten years of teaching to know the difference.

What's sort of hypocritical about this whole post is that I'm just as guilty of giving unsolicited advice as any of the parents looking out for us. I haven't given advice on birthing and caring for babies, but I have given more than my share of tips to all kinds of people crossing their thresholds. Examples are the times when I have given advice to young teachers, high school/college graduates, or couples buying their first home. I realize I've just thrown a huge stone in my glass house, but I'm owning up to it.

My (rambling) point is that I get the motivations for all the unsolicited advice and I'm OK with it. You'll just have to be ready when I throw some of it back at you when you enter my turf.

*Disclaimer: I did not mean in any way to offend any of our good friends and colleagues who have shared a wealth of knowledge about pregnancy, birthing, and babies. I welcome it and will continue to welcome your many experiences...just no more suggestions on names like the two "friends" who suggested their names as suitable choices. The kid will not be named Chad nor Todd.


Stephechkala said...


Thanks for the comment but you HAVE TO check back now, as the friend who I spoke of in my entry has spoken in pages with corrections, additions, etc. etc. I thought you'd find it interesting.


pooja said...

nice article:)
thanks for sharing.looking forward to read more from you:)

Pizza Cottontail said...

I have some unsolicited advice for you, and it's to have a girl. Apparently, having a male greatly reduces quality of life and severely increases post-partum depression.

So there you go. If you need any more unsolicited advice, let me know. (Of course, then I guess it's technically solicited advice, but whatever.)

jenny said...

We have LOADS more unsolicited, unwanted, and annoying advice to offer you.

You two probably will be irritated by the end of the nine months, but I was actually grateful. We had no clue what to expect. We didn't even know how to put on a diaper. So, you two are way ahead of the game, which might make advice seem irritating. People like me and Jeff really needed all the stories, advice, lore that we could get.

So, just try to be patient with us new parents who hand out advice like water bottles.