My sister is pregnant (yay!) and I’m getting to see this whole journey through her eyes. I’m the older sister so my instinct is to guide, protect and shelter her from hardships that I faced. Which, when you’re talking about pregnancy and early motherhood - there’s about a million! However, she already has had a much different pregnancy than I did, her relationship with her husband is much different than mine, her work situation is much different than mine and I’m sure her baby will be much different than mine!
It goes against all my instincts to listen to what she’s saying and not dump a ton of information, opinions and directives on her in response. My whole life I’ve shown her the way. I’ve shared my challenges and how I overcame them so she wouldn’t have to suffer as I did. She and I are super close and often feel the same way about most things, and when we don’t it makes both of us feel a bit concerned, like we must be missing something. I’ve realized this journey is one where we will have many things we feel and do differently. My unconscious reaction will be to explain (justify) what I did so as to convince myself that I didn’t do something wrong, or could’ve done something better for my child. I really need to just be there for her, listen, and help when asked. To trust that she knows I’m here and will ask me when she needs something or wants to know my opinion.
I told her the other day that I was working on this and she said it’s been so hard for her as she is getting advice from everywhere (as all pregnant mamas can relate), and often she smiles and nods and lets it go. At this point it all is theoretical and she doesn’t have any context for the information. I remember when I was pregnant and I got advice from every stranger, acquaintance and friend. ‘Sleep in now, you’ll never get to again’ ‘Parenting is the hardest but best thing you’ll ever do’ ‘Just take the drugs, trust me, don’t wait, just take them.’ And I remember smiling (or grimacing) and nodding, and not really knowing where to put the information. Then once my little guy was here and I wasn’t sleeping and struggling with the humongous learning curve it started to make sense. He didn’t know it was Saturday and we could sleep in! It was definitely the hardest thing I’d ever done, but was SO amazing. I ended up making it through a natural pregnancy without drugs, but could sure see why someone would want to do otherwise! There was no way I could understand until the advice until I was there.
So now I'm waiting to be asked questions. I'm realizing that the questions she’s asking are ones she is ready to hear the answers to. For example she’s starting her registry, so we’re talking through what you need, why X stroller over Y, and she’s ready to talk gear. 3 months ago she had no interest or place to put that kind of information. I’m finding the more I let it be HER journey and follow her lead, I’m actually able to be there for her in a more supportive way.
My son was a difficult baby, difficult sleeper, very active and LOUD. So he wasn’t one of those we could just bring to a restaurant who would look around quietly and sleep, or one that we could have someone babysit and he’d just smile and sleep peacefully. He was (and is) very particular, opinionated and active. So I’m preparing myself for her to have a super calm, easygoing baby that they can bring everywhere and who sleeps like a champ. I'm preparing myself to not be resentful and accept that she won’t fully understand what I went through, and that she will have her own journey.
I guess that it true for all moms. We all are constantly bombarded with information and opinions. We can usually recognize in other types of relationships (friendships, colleagues) that sometimes people just need to vent, but they really don’t want to hear your ‘solution.’ They just need to talk and be heard. I know when things are hardest for me I just want someone to listen and say, yes, that’s hard. I don’t want a solution. I haven’t given the whole backstory or full context for a proper solution to be relevant. I’m just venting and need to be heard.
I know I can do better when other moms vent to me to just listen and not feel the need to ‘solve it’ unless I’m directly asked for suggestions. I think moms would be more vulnerable sharing if we all did that. Just listened to each other and said ‘I hear you, that’s so tough, you’re doing a great job, you’re a great mom.’ My eyes just teared up writing that. I guess it’s what I needed to hear too.
Have you experienced a lot of unsolicited feedback? Have you dished it out? How do you feel most supported? Let me know in the comments!