Dealing with Advice-Givers :: Some Thoughts to the Millennial Mom


"You know babe, in a lot of ways we fell in to parenting. Unlike you, we didn't take the psychology classes and what have you, so we want to encourage young moms in the ways we needed encouragement back then."

"I just want for the people in my life to realize that we're working on figuring this out, and the words they're sharing with us make me feel like they don't trust in us or what we're doing."

One side says "I just want to help, to relate," the other "I just want to feel trusted, to be encouraged."
Sadly, too often what we hear is: "I don't think you know (nor do I  respect) what you're doing" / "I don't care (or value) what wisdom you have to share."

I've had the considerable privileged of having a lot of honest people in my life. People that put down the 'advice' bits and get to the heart bits, have shared with me the whys for their 'how to's.'  I've learned that in this giant maze of parenting, it really does take a village. I've also seen, heard and experienced how much that 'village' can hurt.

The question I as a mom face regularly is this: Who do I want in my village?

Sure, we as millennial mom's want community-but we also want to feel respected for our decisions. We are natural born researchers-google is a well known friend.We are parents who have spent time looking for the right answers; if not in the classroom then with the gazillion books written by people who are our parents age; if not through writing essays and taking tests than through scrolling pages and pages of forums. When we have questions, we get answers.  We have names for those answers. And while our parents just 'figured it out' we 'sleep train,' believe in 'baby-led feeding' and don't eat MSG-for the love of all that is good.

In the same ways those before us learned to survive in the times of past-so have we.

The rub comes when we throw all of us in the same room, or in the same checkout isle, and we 'relate' to one another. We get bruised, if not scarred and we turn back to the internet to heal us.  But is this the best way?

The social scientist in me maps out the dichotomy. On one side are parents who want to lend their successes and failures to the next set of parents. Hopefully this way their failures are made useful and their successes doubled and can bless the next person. They communicate this in "I think this is the best way." rather than "this is what worked for us."

On the other end, this generation of parents are eager to do it well, and eager to do it on their own-at least in some sense- We struggle to communicate our own values and decisions honestly if we're in an environment we don't feel respected. We already are well aware of our parents failures (we have felt them first hand,) and have decided perhaps we don't want to do it their way. So we struggle through the minefield of hurts & failure, and are unaware of  how to bring older generations on board with what we're trying to do.

We as new moms want grace to fail, but respect from those above us to believe that we, while not perfect, will do one heck of a job. They raised us, after all. And our parents perhaps want (I think) respect in acknowledging that this isn't their first rodeo, they did raise one heck of a kid after all. The wisdom they have is legitimately valuable.

I think where we fail altogether is in acknowledging our failures in full, and then giving grace to each other in it.  On a good day, it would look like this: "You weren't a perfect parent to me. Praise God, we both need Jesus. Eowyn will have dysfunction too, but look, you and I still have a good relationship. Phew! I think we'll be okay. P.S. When does this tantrum stuff end? How do I know when to start potty training?"

But, a lot of times these needs expressed come out wrong. We come off as apathetic relaters, or aggressive know-it-alls and those older than us seem to be pushy advice givers and demanding, or manipulative.

So what do we do?

Extra Grace Required. Legitimate Respect Given.

I'll lay out my cards and say I really have no idea in most cases. I don't really know what the gal that comments on Eowyn's size wants in that conversation. Nor do I know how to respond to the random guy who insists that Eowyn looks like a boy, and refuses to stop telling me that. I know how I'd like to respond-but my graceless approach leaves me breathing fire and everyone a little confused. To the checkout lady, in all honesty I just walk away. But in conflict with my real-relationships, the ones where 'I'll see you more than once' I'm having to make some hard decisions.

These are lessons I've been brought to over the past almost 2 years. Lessons not fully learned, but lessons. I'm writing them down here to remind myself when I'm riled and feeling fire in my lungs.

Here it goes.

I. Decide now: There's no walking away. We're in this for the long term.  Living in a place where I can swap out friends in a course of a few months (we're not talking quality, but I digress.) It's far too easy to take that easy-out in our relationships. You said something that hurt me? See ya.  As a mom, on the internet, I have to wave my flag and say that too often I console myself in mom-blogs and the like, but internet only gets me so far. Finding new relatives, or new friends isn't feasible.

Plus, I want to teach Eowyn that in the relationships that matter, we work at them. When people hurt us? We talk about it, then we give grace to change. We give more grace when we haven't seemed to communicate clearly and talk about it some more.

Is this hard? Yes. Does it kind of suck? Yes. But the reality is we got a bunch of sinners  working on relationships. Is it worth it? Most of the time, Yes.

II. Be clear about expectations: It isn't fair for me to get frustrated with my mom (hi, mom) about some random thing if I haven't shared with her that we're choosing to parent in x or y way. My mom loves her grand babies and she loves her daughters, and she (I'm using her as example because she's awesome and knows how I feel about everything, ever.) does everything she can to bless those babies ('cuz really, we're all her babies.) So when expectations aren't met the first question that has to come is: Do they know? Do they know that you're trying to sleep train and so going and picking up baby when shes fussing doesn't help? If not, let them know, in grace. Will they respond weird? Probably. Give grace. Try again.

III. Expect Conflict, Fight for Resolution: Sometimes it's not so easy. Sometimes its not just "oh, oops. I didn't know." We're talking about little lives we love deeply here, so of course we all have strong opinions.  Sometimes those opinions are opposite. Ultimately, we all want the best for that little life. So, we work out our opinions till we hear each others hearts. That may be more painful than pulling teeth, but we'll work to that aim. In the end, the parent of the child gets to parent the child, but perhaps through the conversation we'll see that our two better ways make for one best way.

I'm aware that sometimes, the only option is in fact to walk away. Sometimes there isn't reconciliation to be had and a constant refusal to agree. Some relationships are so broken to begin with (abuse, belittling, constant manipulation etc.), and especially if we're not on the same page with where we stand as sinners in need of a savior, there's going to be some major issues-some that can't be fixed on this side of heaven. In that case we're still looking to do whats best for that little life and I gotta say: Momma, you get to decide what's best for your little. Period.

IV: Smother it all in grace and take time to give credit: My dad  always jokes near the end  when hard conversations come up about past parenting "Well, we raised one great kid." I use that often when I come to these areas. Our relationships have cracks in them, just like everyone elses, but I love the man Ben is (and he says I'm pretty okay too.)  And that leaves me giving major props to the parents who raised us  My grandparents raised great children. I learned about love and conflict, and what being a family means. Those sorts of things don't just get ingrained into a kid. We both learned about Jesus and his grace in our families, and while it's a total God thing-we're still thankful our parents were truth seekers. There's a lot of credit to give.

When I allow for grace when processing the way my twenty year old dad parented me, a magical thing happens. I get to allow grace to the twenty two year old raising my daughter. He did a pretty good job as far as dad's go. One of the best jobs I've seen and even if it didn't turn out that I presently have a good relationship with him, I still can say there are some majorly incredible things he taught me. Have we had hurts? Yes. Have we worked through them? We do and we try. Grace has to apply, because we both are Jesus needers.  I hope to teach Eowyn that beautiful adult relationships can blossom out of grace/expectations/respect and that the advice I will inevitably give will (I sincerely hope and if she can hear it) bless her. Especially if she tells me what she needs.

There's a joke that goes along the lines of : "If God wanted to give children to people who knew what they were doing, he would give them to grandparents."

I'm learning when I put my ultimatums aside and choose to see good, good is found. I'm grateful that in my realms good is overflowing and that Eowyn is blessed with two sets of grandparents and a whole lot of other relatives and friends that want whats best for her and for us as a family. Sometimes that has looked like hard conversations. Sometimes that looks like giving us a 'good job' pat on the proverbial hinney. One seasoned mom told me this past winter: "I know there's a lot of good babies, but I mean-Eowyn's like...really good." My heart soared. Then I asked her how to survive these stages.  

I know I just worded a bunch of stuff, but have you found any treasures that help you navigate relationships now that you have kids? Has it gotten trickier? Anything you wish you could say to those in your village? How do you deal with advice givers, especially target aisle-advice-givers? Let me know your thoughts.

As always, thanks for reading.

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