Unsolicited Advice

November 6, 2010

When I first considered adopting, I had a “pro” list and a “con” list about becoming a mom.  One of the biggest “cons” was that I dreaded having to be in the “Mommy club”.  You know, those moms who know it all and are always trying to out-do one another with the best kid; and who always made the uninitiated (non-mothers) feel less-than.  I never had to deal with these women in any other way than to perhaps wait on them in a restaurant or cut their hair.  Becoming a mom meant I would have to deal with them daily.


Well, the pros won out against the cons, and now that I’m a mom I see its really not that bad.  I live in a neighborhood where there are only a handful of these types of moms and most of them don’t send their kids to my son’s school.  And in my business now, most (95%?) of my clients are moms and I can’t think of a single one of them that are in the Mommy Club.  I think I was blowing it all out of proportion.




But every once in a while I get knocked out by some unsolicited advice from one of these types and its all I can do to hold my tongue.  Actually, its funny, but one of the biggest congregations of the Church of Perfect Parents is this listserv I belong to that is all parents of older adopted children.  I only look at it now when I need a laugh.  Its so insane.  Here’s what its like.  When I first adopted Rahul I joined the group and they were in the middle of this bizarre discussion about bathing children from Asian countries and what type of soap worked best on their children’s skin.  My first problem with their discussion was that it seemed that none of them had ever MET and Asian person before they adopted one, they were so completely shocked and disturbed by the fact that people who aren’t white or Japanese don’t bath every day because their skin can get dry.  Deal with it white people! People who have a different color skin than you may need to care for it in a different way than you do! Ai yai yai.  (I didn’t even want to think about what was happening with their Black children’s hair!)  My other problem with this discussion was the immense length of it! I mean parents were writing pages and pages of blah, blah, blah and I was like, This is at best a 2 sentence conversation. (Q: My child’s skin is dry, what do I do? A:Bathe less and moisturize.)  I didn’t get (a) how they had so much time to write all this stuff and (b) how they had so much to say about it. I mean, really, people!  Start a blog!


There were a couple of times, though, that I posed a question to the group, when I was really desperate for information.  One time I was looking for a children’s book that addressed money (spending, saving), but would be sensitive to children who had grown up in poverty.  Well, I never did get a book recommendation, but I sure did get lots and lots of stories from people about anything having to do with money, poverty, or children.  Another time I asked whether anyone had expereinced thier sons being violent.  I gave no details (nor will I now), but asked that anyone who had that experience contact me offline.  Well I did get a bunch of emails with assumptions (but no actual questions) about what was going on with my son and I got a whole lot of stories about their own heroic journeys with violent children, but no actual helpful connection was made.


And that’s my problem with unsolicited advice.  It never does address an actual problem you are having and because its always out of context, it only serves to cut you down, not build you up.  And I guess that’s the motivation behind it anyways.  Like my neighbor who didn’t like seeing my son walk the dog by himself and told me about how her teenage son wasn’t allowed to leave the house alone until he was 13 and then he had to call home when he got to school (literally ONE block from our building).  I smiled and nodded and told her how responsible Rahul is, but what could I say that wouldn’t just be more unsolicited advice right back at her?


One thing I know for sure is that we as parents need all the help we can get.  But I think the best help comes in the form of listening and telling each other that we’re doing a good job.  We tell ourselves all day how terrible we are as parents and lots of times our kids tell us too.  The last thing we need is another parent telling us the same thing.  I do make it a point to tell my clients who are moms what a great job they’re doing.  And I find at least one strength in their parenting that I can encourage them about and take with me to use with Rahul.  And they are so generous to me, always giving me presents or offering encouragement.  And, you know what? It really makes my day.


This is what unsolicited advice looks like–oh, no! It just my son in his Halloween costume.

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