When you’re a mom, the unsolicited advice and passing criticisms from others can come out of nowhere sometimes.
Because the holidays tend to bring about more family gatherings and social events, this can set us up for a lot of opportunity to to be on the receiving end of those comments. Not to mention, with all the added stress and hustle that the holidays often bring with them, we might be feeling just a bit more frazzled or sensitive than other times of the year. As if being a parent to babies and small children isn’t challenging enough.
And, interestingly, it does seem to be the moms that get the brunt of others’ opinions.
We could debate why that is. Maybe we’re more sympathetic towards dads or culturally just too moved by the sight of a dad being an attentive parent. Maybe dads brush off the unwanted opinions a little easier than moms do. (This topic is a bit loaded, isn’t it?)
But, to be fair, dads aren’t immune to this stuff either.
Sometimes these comments just sting.
They can make us question our inner wisdom or our confidence.
They make us feel unsupported.
And comments from a complete stranger can sometimes be just as affecting as ones from our own parents.
Finding ways to determine whether someone’s comment is worth your hurt is especially pressing this time of year, but really, this is something that is relevant all year long. No matter what kind of parent you are. Because there’s nothing harder than being a parent and we all want to do this right.
So, I’ve compiled a list to help you determine what to do with someone else’s comments about your parenting choices.
Here’s How to Not Take Things Personally:
1. Take a deep breath before you react.
This is good advice for most situations, really. Give yourself a little space first to figure out how you feel and how you want to respond.
2. Ask questions to clarify what it is they’re actually trying to say or why they’re saying it.
Why is this a problem? Why is this important to you? Or you can reflect back to them what you heard them say to make sure you’re not misinterpreting what they’re actually trying to tell you.
3. Take into account who the person is that is saying the thing to you.
Who is this person to you? Is it your partner? Your mother? An in-law? Another mom from your child’s daycare? A colleague? Then, ask yourself whether this person’s opinion matters to you. Not everyone’s opinion should carry the same weight. You could even write a list of your “most important critics” and keep it in your wallet or diaper bag. These should be people who you know for sure love you and whose opinions you trust even if they differ from yours--people who will love you anyway even if you don’t take their advice. And anyone whose name isn’t on that list? Maybe their opinions don’t matter so much.
4. You don’t have to do what people say.
You are the best person to decide what’s best for your child. You can try different things out if you want to experiment, but you don’t have to take everyone’s advice. Trust your instincts because no one knows your child like you do.
5. Be direct with them.
If you feel like the person who is being critical needs to be confronted, try approaching the subject by telling them how what they’re telling you makes you feel. For example, “When you’re always telling me how to do things, it makes me feel like I’m failing as a parent.” If you keep the focus on what their comments do to you rather than trying to convince them that they’re wrong or out of line, then you’re likely to have a more productive conversation.
6. If you feel like you’re reacting to everything lately, then it may be a sign that you need more self-care.
Take some time to self-reflect to see if you can figure out why other people’s opinions are getting to you. Do you need a break? Do you feel lonely and unsupported? Maybe just exhausted? If this is something you have a hard time doing on your own, therapy can be really helpful in learning to create more space between yourself and somebody else.
Keep these ideas in mind this holiday season, as you spend time with friends and family or even while out doing your errands and gift shopping. I’d love to hear what works for you.