Open Letter to All of the Well-Meaning Suggestion-Givers:
I know you mean well. I know you are only giving me suggestions because you care about my kid, and me. I know that your words are coming from a place of love and caring.
But I need you to put yourself in my shoes. I need you to hear your words from my seat here, trying to rock my child to sleep.
What you are saying is, “Why don’t you just ___?” What you mean is, “I hate seeing your baby cry, and I don’t know how to help.”
What I hear is “Even though I am not your child’s parent, I know more about how to comfort her than you do.” And that is so incredibly hurtful.
This is not the first time you’ve asked questions like that. Last time was because of my choice of diapers (“Why don’t you just use ___?”). And it hurt just as much then. It hurts just as much every time you question any of my parenting decisions.
I try to brush past your question, telling myself that you didn’t mean to be insensitive, that you don’t know the wounds your words leave on my heart.
But then you repeat yourself, this time directing your words at my partner, the one who has gone through this entire parenting journey with me, the one who has given their own tears and sleep and made all of their own sacrifices for this tiny human we love so much. “Why don’t you guys try ___?” I can see him flinch as he looks at me, see my pain reflected in his eyes. He won’t let you know how much you’ve hurt him. Society has told him he needs to be a man, and these things are a woman’s domain. So I interject.
“This is how we do it.”
A few minutes pass in silence, apart from our poor baby’s unhappy fussing, as my partner tries in vain to rock her to sleep. And then you feel the need to speak up again.
“Seriously, I don’t understand why you guys don’t just ___.” I’ve had it. I have had enough.
There are a hundred reasons why we don’t do whatever it is you are suggesting we do. But all of it boils down to this: I AM doing the best I can for my child, whether or not you see that. THIS is the best way for us. For me, for my partner, and most importantly, for my child.
What you don’t know is the countless hours I have spent, while I was pregnant, and since having our baby researching and stressing and reading and researching more on every possible baby-related thing under the sun. The pros and cons of natural birth, C-sections, epidurals, and Pitocin; breastfeeding, milk supply, formula feeding, introducing the bottle, when and how to start real food (purees, baby led weaning, making your own baby food, organic vs GMO); sleep patterns and what is normal for children, how to get babies to sleep through the night, how to get babies that have days and nights switched around into a more adult-tolerant orientation; how to properly install a car seat, how long a baby should be rear-facing, and what are the safest brands to buy; cloth diapers vs disposable, the effects of chemical and other environmental factors on my child’s growth and development, what brands of diaper rash cream to use, how to treat yeast infections; how to handle time outs, tantrums, and throw up; what to do when your kid asks about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and sex; how to kindly explain to your kid that no, they can’t marry Daddy, because he’s already married to Mommy; how to handle a pacifier, taking it away, and when to potty train; how to introduce TV and video games (or not), and how to navigate the tricky waters of too much screen time versus “I WANNA WATCH MORE SESAME STREET!”
Trust me when I say that I have done so much more research, and stressed about so very many things you do not even understand than I could ever tell you. Trust me when I say that my child’s crying tears at my heartstrings more than you will ever know, and I want my child to stop crying more than you ever will. Trust me when I say I have tried other methods – I’ve tried ALL the methods. And this is what works best for US. Trust me when I say “This is how we do it.” Don’t push. Don’t justify. Just accept that this is the way it is in our family.
If you don’t like that, go have your own children, and raise them however you want. I PROMISE you I will stay the hell out of it.
Doing the Best I Can