The holidays are just around the corner. No matter which holidays you celebrate, or your unique family traditions, it seems like there is always unwanted comments and advice from well meaning friends and family. Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding being some of the most personal and emotional experiences of our lives, but that’s not enough to keep people from interjecting their opinions.
There are ways to deal with these unwanted comments and advice at holiday get togethers other than skipping them entirely. We’ve spoken to an expert and are bringing their advice straight to you ahead of the holidays.
The Elephants in The Room
These comments and advice run the full gamut, but there are some big ones that generally seem to work their way in. You know them well, the questions about when you plan to get pregnant and start having children, when are you going to have your next child, and how long will you breastfeed?
Stay at any gathering for any length of time as a lactating human or a human needing to feed their baby and you’re bound to get some good questions and advice. We’re not quite sure when or how the method you choose to feed your baby got so controversial. But it really brings out the opinions in people. You might get, “Isn’t pumping too much work? Why don’t you just use formula?” or the opposite, “What do you mean you’re using formula? Why don’t you just breastfeed?”.
Then there’s the well-meaning ones that try to offer you privacy for feeding your baby. You’ll get the “Don’t you want some privacy to feed your baby?” And sometimes they’ll even throw a family member into the mix like, Uncle So-And-So might be uncomfortable with you breastfeeding…
What we place before our babies and when is literally and metaphorically on the table. If you plan to use purees around four months of age, people are bound to question you. They might bring up baby led weaning, or talk about the article that showed the presence of heavy metals in baby food not too long ago. If you don’t start them you’re bound to get advice about putting rice cereal in their bottles to make them sleep longer.
Related Article: How to Protect Your Milk Supply Over the Holidays
If your belly enters the room before you do, there’s a good chance that by the time you arrive the questions about your plans will be flying. Everything is up for scrutiny. Whether you plan to deliver in a hospital, birthing center, or at home is always a great debate. “What do you mean you’re doing that?” Or “I would never…”
Then there’s the topic of pain medication. People your own age will have their own beliefs on epidurals and pain management medications or practices…even if they have not yet had children of their own. It seems epidurals are as equally divisive as natural pain management methods. Then there’s old aunt Betty who has to tell us how it was in her day…because that’s always helpful.
Related Article: How to Survive the Holidays While Pregnant
The Parenting Advice You Never Wanted
You’ll get comments about how often you hold your baby or how you respond to their crying. “You’re spoiling your baby. You shouldn’t hold them/nurse them/pick them up when they cry”. Then people will ask about how the kids are sleeping through the night and tell you how they let their kid cry one time one night, decades ago, and they slept ever since.
How to Deal with These Comments and Questions
Whether we’re prepared to hear them or not, we need to buckle up because this season of life is like Open Season for other people’s questions, thoughts, and advice. For the most part (not all the time), a lot of people are truly coming from a well-meaning place with positive, healthy intentions when they’re providing their thoughts and advice.
While many are learning, a lot of folks don’t realize how these questions, comments, and advice make hopeful, soon to be, or new parents feel. It’s somehow almost become a holiday tradition for the older generation to pepper the younger with a barrage of well intentioned questions and advice. Whether it’s a chance for them to catch up and get up to speed with our lives, or just being a bit nosey, we still have to respond. But how?
It’s important to remember a few things here:
First, start by taking a deep breath. Not only does this help you stay calm but it gives you a moment to really think about what you’d like to say before saying it. Once you say it, or begin to engage, it can’t be taken back. Taking a breath or a sip of your drink can help keep your emotions from rising and keep your voice from cracking.
We’re not making a bad pun on a holiday name here. It often sets a nice tone to say “thank you for asking,” or “thanks for your thoughts on that.” These types of statements bring down any forming tension and pave the way for a *hopefully* pleasant interaction.
Pick and Choose What You Answer
Giving a measured and specific answer to every question can be exhausting. Remember, you don’t have to respond to every question with an explicit answer. Saying something to the effect of “We’ve decided to keep this between us for now,” or “we appreciate your thoughts; I’ll definitely reach out if I need support.”
Brief, kind, and succinct statements can shut down any unwanted conversation real quick.
Flip the Script
If someone is sharing thoughts or advice that isn’t helpful to you or wanted but you’re also trying to engage in some dialogue with that person, you have two options for how you meet them with your response.
Ask “can you tell me more about that / why that worked for you?” This question is twofold; it gives you insight into why someone may feel the way they do and why something worked for them that you may have been questioning and it takes the burden off of you to be answering questions / sharing about your choices when you don’t want to be.
Change the conversation completely “oh yeah - so I heard you went on a vacation a few months ago. I have been looking forward to hearing about it!”.
At the end of the day we know a few things about all of these interactions:
We don’t actually have to heed any of the thoughts or advice shared and we don’t owe anyone an answer to their questions out of honesty. The phrase “in one ear and out the other,” can be a truly useful tool to remember in all of these situations whether you know you’re entering into it or it’s some random person at the grocery store. Perhaps whatever they’re saying worked for them however long ago, with that particular child, with them as the parent, on that day in time, when society was however it was, which is not true in any sense for you currently. Remembering that is important to keeping those thoughts moving on out of your brain.
It’s not on you, the receiving person, to justify a boundary or limit. Boundaries are for the most part easy to set *ahem*, yet dealing with the potential fallout from setting them is the actual most difficult part for folks. Remember, you do not OWE anyone anything from their inability to respect a boundary you’ve set. And that’s a much deeper conversation than responding to unwanted / unsolicited questions, comments, and advice. If folks cannot receive what you’re saying, perhaps it could be a thought to do some boundary setting and enforcement exploration and practice with a professional or perhaps that means your graceful exit of the gathering to help hold the boundaries that you’ve set with others.
Related Article: How to Set Boundaries to Protect the Health of Your Family