Thanks, But I Didn't Ask For Your Advice

It was sometime during the early months after my son’s birth, during the period that we’ve already established was not my finest hour.

I was home, I was lonely, I was exhausted, and I was bored.  I used Facebook as an outlet to connect with others while I sat on my couch, watching hundreds of episodes of Law & Order on cable while my baby slept in the only place he found acceptable – on me.

That meant I had lots of hours to do absolutely nothing, trapped under a baby, feeling unproductive, alone, and pretty much useless.

I don’t know what I said on Facebook.  It probably had something to do with not getting anything done around the house or feeling bored with my baby or whatever.  The content wasn’t important, but I just felt like somebody had to know I was alive and out there in the universe.

And then the advice started rolling in – how I could rectify my boredom, be productive, multitask, wear my baby, blah, blah, blah.

I totally get that everyone was well-intentioned.  I understood that, but it hurt nonetheless.  That wasn’t what I was looking for.  I wasn’t looking for a solution.  I wanted support.  I was looking for some indication that I was not alone.  Some validation that what I was feeling was normal, that other women felt the same way, and that this journey of motherhood isn’t a collection of constant, amazing moments like we think it’s supposed to be.

In those fragile, early months of new motherhood – lacking sleep, emotional stability, and confidence in my own parenting skills – those kind-hearted suggestions actually felt like further confirmation that I didn’t have what it took to be a mom.  I wasn’t smart enough to solve the problem myself, and I shouldn’t have felt the way I was feeling.  I should have just gotten off the couch, plopped baby in the Moby, and gone about mopping the kitchen floor.

What I really needed was someone to say “Sweet mama, I feel you.  We’ve all been there, I promise you.  Even though you don’t feel like it, you’re doing a good job.

Now that’s not to say that Facebook is not a great resource for calling on the collective wisdom of mamas more seasoned than ourselves.  I’ve definitely had my fair share of posts sounding the “HELP” alarm like, “How do you wean a baby from a pacifier?,” “Any suggestions on childcare for a soon-to-be Kindergartner?” or “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY HOW DO YOU GET A THREE YEAR OLD TO EAT HIS VEGETABLES???”

And truly, I’m in a different place now.  As a more seasoned parent, unsolicited advice doesn’t pierce that part of my heart like it once did – the fragile part that felt like a failure, longing for connection, validation, and confidence.

But next time, when you hear a mama sharing a difficult time, listen to her heart.  Is she looking for a solution?  Or does she just need a shoulder?

I know you want to help, I know it’s in love, and I know it’s because you’ve been there too.

Tell her that first.