Would you like some unsolicited advice?
There’s advice out there for every minuscule problem and common glitch known to humanity. When I look at headlines that scroll by me on facebook, it’s all “5 ways to…” or “My top ten hacks for…” These kinds of articles are everywhere. They are full of...answers. To questions I didn’t actually ask.
There is an assumption that I want my life to be more efficient, productive, cleaner, easier, healthier, better. All of this advice reflects I want more of something I don’t have now. Because I’m not cutting it now. Because I’m dissatisfied. Because I don’t know what I’m doing. All of these articles start with the presumption that I am lacking in something and the way forward is to follow this trending, viral article.
This answers-only culture is certainly going strong in the parenting world. Everyone is full of advice and answers for how you could do a better job as a parent. You don’t have to ask a single question. You just have to take a breath as a parent to be the target of an endless stream of advice from family, friends, co-workers, total strangers, facebook, books, articles, the entire black hole of the internet, parent groups, people who had children 30 years ago, and people who have never had children.
There’s advice for when you do something viewed as “wrong” and what to do instead. There’s advice for when you do something “right” and how to do more of that. There’s advice for when you parent in a way that your intuition, personality, and needs guide you but it’s still not up to snuff according to an outsider.
One time I was complaining to a friend about all the constant advice parents receive. She listened for a minute. And then she gave me parenting advice.
When I am conversing with someone, I want to be able to talk about my day. This is what I am currently doing with my life. I am investing all of my effort and energy into raising my kid. I want to share my life, in the way we all wish to be seen and heard. If it were to just happen once, I could brush it off. But, it happens all the time. I talk about some detail of my day with my daughter and rather than being heard, I am offered well-meaning and unsolicited advice.
This constant stream of advice has an effect on my parenting and me. Sometimes, I just don’t share details of my day or life because I just don’t want to hear about how I could be doing it differently. It silences me. When I’m silenced, I’m isolated. It degrades my confidence. There are all these things I could be doing better, but I’m not doing them because I’m not cutting it as a parent.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a culture that witnessed and affirmed parents. Where parents could feel supported, trusted, and understood. Where the work of a parent was valued enough that it was understood that the expert on the relationship between a parent and child was in fact the parent and child and not someone outside that relationship.
And what if we all just got a little bit more comfortable with less answers and more questions. Some moments, I feel I know exactly what I am doing. Other moments I have no clue. And aren’t we all doing that to some extent in the relationships that matter most to us? There are no hard answers. There are no absolutes. It’s all squiggly lines and gray areas.
I have confidence as a parent. And I’m full of questions. I’m able to hold both realities at once. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m curious. I’m learning. I know my daughter. I don’t know everything about my daughter. I have experience. I have information at my fingertips. I’m winging it. I got this.