How I found the bright side of all the parental boundary-crossing—but please don’t tell my wife’s grandma.
By Ryan Marshall
Within minutes of finding out that my wife was pregnant—and after experiencing the pure joy of that moment with her—we were faced with the decision of when to share this great news with others. Little did I know that soon after we mentioned the pregnancy to people, we would be subjected to an avalanche of unsolicited advice.
Once the congratulatory hugs, hardy back pats, and high fives were over, we would start receiving big healthy heaps of “you should” and “don’t forget to.” We had no idea how the announcement of a simple pregnancy would target us as a couple of know-nothing ding-dongs in need of help. Consider this your warning.
The deluge of advice really started once my wife was showing later in the pregnancy. At that point, we were hearing it from everyone—strangers in line at the grocery store, the delivery guy at our door, my wife’s grandmother, who we call GG Mama. Everyone had an opinion about the days to come. As my wife’s belly grew and we came closer to the due date, people simply couldn’t help themselves. (Although this was nothing compared to what came once we actually had the baby.)
Over time the realization set in that nobody was trying to be insensitive or the exact opposite. It was clear that people deep down have a communal spirit. The old idea of it taking a village to raise a baby still exists, so passing off tidbits of how-to’s was instinct, an obligation to them. Thinking about it in the terms of community spirit was extremely helpful during some of the more intrusive and completely inappropriate moments. I mean, I couldn’t figure out why all of the sudden it was OK for so many strangers to be concerned about my wife’s vagina. Yes, someone actually told us to consider having my wife get an extra stitch put in after the delivery to make things “nice and neat” down there. Nothing was off limits.
One day my wife and I started imagining how our life would look if we started following the collection of advice we had been receiving. All of the sudden, we’d have a baby drunk on whiskey, slathered in baby oil for 40 days, her head wrapped tightly with a towel soaked in olive oil, being sure not to bounce her or she would never fall asleep on her own again, and of course eating solid foods as quickly as possible because breast milk will “actually stunt her growth.” The list went on and on: From shaving her head, to putting her in shoes right away. I mean, really people!
Looking back now, I could’ve been better prepared for the onslaught of opinions that were to come my way once the baby was born. I should have seen it coming. I was holding my daughter days after her birth, swelling with pride, and then suddenly I was bashed over the head with do’s and don’ts and dumped in a sea of first-hand experiences to bob along, waiting to be rescued from making any of my own mistakes. Massive amounts of advice to navigate, some just so completely outrageous that you wonder how your advisors’ own children ever survived.
Even though the things people will tell you will certainly blow your mind, try not blow your top. After all, a new baby gives everyone something else to talk about other than the weather. And I think it’s one of the greatest commonalities that we all share as humans. You’re actually doing everyone a service for giving them something to expound upon.
My advice about advice? Take all of it gratefully—the little bits you pick up that actually work are well worth all of the silliness that doesn’t. So sift through it, keep what works, and enjoy laughing off the rest in private.
But seriously, the whiskey works.
Ryan Marshall is a husband and father of two who blogs about his life as a dad at www.Pacingthepanicroom.com.