I can honestly agree to this statement. Every perfect parent does not have children! I probably dished out more parenting advice before I had kids than I have in the last year and four months of actually having them. To be fair (and justify a little), I have been actively working with children in the ministry for the last 15 years. So, as a non-mom, I was not altogether ignorant, but working with a kid once a week, is a whole heap different than caring for a child 24/7.
As a non-mom, I had a completed outline for how I’d raise my children. From the pregnancy to the birth to the rest of their lives, it was detailed. You want to hear something funny? It’s been 16 months, and I cannot tell you one thing that was on my detailed perfect mom list. Other than how to get them to eat their gummy vitamins by mixing them with fruit snacks, I’m not sure what all that plan said. By the way – that little piece of advice actually does work!
Today, I can look back at the plan I made and realize that it was ridiculous. I had put such high expectations on my non-existent kids, that when my “real” kids came, I was totally deceived. Not to mention, I had to eat a little crow, when I realized 1 day after they were born that I had no idea what I was doing! I felt like Alice crying in the Tulgey Woods, singing to myself, “I give myself, very good advice, but I very seldom follow it!” I still have a plan. There are some things that I want my children to know and do for certain. The difference is, until you are a mom (and not just a weekly friend on Sundays), you cannot understand how to create productive and decent human beings. They don’t just come out that way! Yes, that part I knew already.
Here is what it boiled down to. Until I was a mom, I had absolutely no idea what it meant to love a child. Yes, I loved (and still do) my Sunday School students and the kids in Junior Church. But the love of your own child, it is completely different. If I upset my Sunday School kids, it would bother me. I would apologize and make it right, and we’d go on about the day. By the next time, they saw me, it was completely forgotten – on both sides. Now, if I upset Weeb or Bug, it breaks my heart! The guilt of hurting my child is beyond psychotic. There is no going anywhere and waiting a week for it to go away. No, I am going to have to look into those eyes in the morning and remember her being upset!
One thing that has definitely changed, I do not hand out unsolicited parenting advice anymore! I used to get upset, really, when my Pastor would say, “Don’t ask people who don’t have kids advice on parenting, they don’t know!” In my mind, I was like . . . excuse me brother, but Yes! Yes, I do know! You can imagine my surprise on day 1 of being a mother when I figured out really quick, No! I don’t know. When I woke up to the nurse coming in to get the girls for the nursery the morning after they were born, I was a complete mess! I had just spent the night, constantly waking up to listen if they were breathing. Constantly touching them, because I could not believe it was real. Immediately afraid for the rest of their lives I would screw them up. As a non-mom, I had never experienced those feelings. I could just tell people how they were doing wrong and go home with a good conscience that I had made a mark on the parenting of America! What an idiot!
I would like to hand out a little advice here though – unsolicited, yes, but I feel it’s very needful.
MY ADVICE TO MOMS: Don’t ask someone who has never parented a child advice. Right?! I almost cannot believe I am saying it either. A non-mom has not experienced an emotional attachment to a child. They can only give you advice that comes from cold hard facts, something they believe will work for every child no matter the situation. To a non-mom, kids all work the same. Yes, even if they say they understand, I promise you, they don’t fully get it.
If a non-mom offers you unsolicited advice, be kind. I can honestly say, that they think they are helping you. I know when I would tell a mom something, I truly thought I could help her. Politely thank her, or even tell her you’ll consider trying what she said, but be kind. If the Lord does give her children, then she will understand and realize how ignorant to parenting she actually was. She will remember your kindness, and most likely come to you when she gets in too deep and has no clue what to do herself.
MY ADVICE TO NON-MOMS: Don’t be so quick to point out what you think a mom is doing wrong. Remember that every child is different and the perfect parenting plan you may have set up in your mind, is not going to work for every kid. When you do (and you will) offer advice to a mom, do it with a helpful and tender tone. Don’t assume that you know what she’s thinking or feeling. The when I have kids, this is what I am going to do – so you should do it too approach is not the best way to handle it.
This is what I wish someone would have said to me, so I am saying it to you. You are not a parent! You do not understand and you will not understand the emotional connection of a mom and her kids until you are one. You can dish out as much magazine and what worked for your sister advice as you please, but that does not make you understand what it feels like and “is” like to be a 24/7 mom. If a mom does not take, use or want your advice, it’s because she has made the statement… well when I have kids, before too! Use tact when offering something you think will help someone. Don’t be quick to burn your bridges with moms you think need your help, truth is, one day when you have your own children, you may seriously need hers. Also, don’t compare your friends children with your dogs. I did this for years, oh well when my dog does this… really?? Kids are not dogs and dogs are not kids – yes they are your babies, but save that advice for other fur-moms.