Ask the Expert: How to deal with unwanted family advice
Q I’m a mother for the first time, to a beautiful daughter who is now six months old. My problem is that I’m being constantly bombarded by advice from my family. My mother and father, my husband’s mother, and my sisters all pitch in with advice about how to raise my daughter.
It’s driving me crazy, as much of what they say is contradictory. I feel that I don’t know my own mind about how to look after her. Also I worry that everything I do is monitored by them and commented on behind my back.
My husband says I should just tell them all to back off and keep their noses out of our business. But I don’t want to offend anyone and really do value their support sometimes. What can I do?
A When you have your first baby, you can easily be overwhelmed by family advice and suggestions about how to manage.
Though people are well meaning, more advice is often the last thing you need when trying to cope with the many challenges of caring for a new baby (when you might prefer more practical help or simply emotional support).
The situation is made all the more confusing by the fact that much of the advice is contradictory and varies from person to person. Frequently, experienced parents have strong, though diametrically opposed, views about how to parent.
The situation is made no clearer by the many parenting experts in the field who seem to propose different parenting theories about the best way to bring up a small baby.
On the one hand, you have attachment- based parenting models, which propose that you respond on demand to your baby’s needs, and which endorse taking your baby into your bed at night; on the other hand, you have routine-based models, which propose responding to a baby’s demands only within a preordained routine and encouraging early independent sleeping. Indeed there are many other models between these two poles.
Discovering the way you want to parent
The truth is that there is no “one right way” to bring up a baby. What matters most is each new parent discovering what way works best for them and their baby.
When working with new parents, I try to provide them with time and space to discover the specific needs of their unique baby and to understand their own needs as parents and what type of parents they want to be.
My goal is to help parents strike an appropriate balance between attachment- and routine-based parenting that works for them and their new baby.
In being successful as a parent, the first step is to decide what type of parent you want to be and what is most important to you in parenting.
Take a few minutes with your husband to think about what you enjoy most about having the baby; then consider what you need as parents to survive and to manage the stress of looking after a small baby.