Unsolicited parenting advice: Guilty!

One mom realizes that not giving unsolicited opinions about pregnancy and parenthood is easier said than done.

1Anna
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk didn’t enjoy receiving parenting advice when Anna was a baby. Now she catches herself doing the same thing.

“We have the crib all set up in the nursery, we’re so excited,” my friend tells me. I can’t help it; I immediately respond with, “I bet your piles of laundry are really going to appreciate having that crib to hang out in.”

Anyone who has been visibly pregnant in public or had a baby has heard unsolicited advice and opinions—sometimes from complete strangers. From “enjoy your sleep while you can, because you may never sleep again” to “you’re going to want to buy more comfortable shoes,” to “you wasted your money, babies don’t need [insert whatever product or gadget here],” it’s become a rite of parenthood. And an annoying one at that.

Read more: How to handle unwanted baby advice >

Here’s my confession: As much as I dislike receiving this sort of panic-inducing two-cents, I’m just as guilty of giving it. I tell people that the homeopathic teething remedy works, but the one for colds doesn’t. Because I piled receiving blankets into a bassinet while my newborn slept with me, I assume other people will find themselves in this situation too. I tell friends not to bother with wooden toys because, as nice as they sound, you’ll just wind up whacked in the forehead with them and glad you have bangs to cover the giant purple bruise your tiny baby somehow gave you. Or, maybe I’m just projecting?

I wanted desperately to be pregnant, but once I had hot flashes and morning sickness (which re-appeared in my third trimester!)—and the fact that my mouth tasted like pennies all the time—I would’ve rather been sleeping that whole time. Once Anna was born, I got what I thought was the best baby carrier, and wound up dislocating a rib when it didn’t work for my frame. I decided on an affordable brand of organic but disposable diapers, but they didn’t fit my baby’s skinny legs and leaked. I made decisions not to co-sleep and to pump breast milk so my daughter could bottle-feed part-time, but for one reason or another neither of these decisions came to fruition. I thought I would check out daycares and pick the space, staff, meals and programming I liked best—instead I wound up struggling with waiting lists for subsidy and space, and was grateful for any spot I could get.

Read about Tara-Michelle’s journey to parenthood: Single mom, donor dad: An unconventional pregnancy story >

While all of these things are true, I never think back and feel thankful that strangers told me horror stories on public transit. I even sometimes think, “I should have listened to that woman in the park when she said…” but I still don’t think “that woman in the park was so appropriate and well-intentioned when she told me out of nowhere to get an epidural.” (Side note: someone in a park did tell me to get an epidural, and I didn’t—which had nothing to do with the park advice. But I wish I had.)

I’m writing this post in part as an apology for not practicing what I preach, and for heightening my friends’ fears around new parenthood. I’m also writing it as a note to myself to pause for a moment and ask if people actually want to hear about my experience before giving it. And to my friend who is excited about her new baby’s crib—I hope he enjoys many peaceful sleeps in it.

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a Toronto-based queer mom to a preschooler. She started off as a single-mom-by-choice, and now co-parents. You can read more of her posts here and follow her on Twitter @therealrealTMZ.

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