I Didn’t Listen to Anyone’s Advice When….


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Parenting and perfectionism don’t mix. Parenting and the desire to have control over – well – anything – don’t mix. However, when I was newly pregnant, I didn’t yet realize all this. I was a blank slate. I was ready to have any and all thoughts and opinions on parenting etched onto me. I was going to learn from the masters, the researchers, the Bump boards. Whatever it took to make my child an Adonis, a pinnacle of love and learning, a baby for the baby books. I would gladly bear this weight on my back in exact counterpressure to my burgeoning belly. Load it on. I could take it.

When I found out I was pregnant, one of my first purchases was What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Actually, backtrack. When I first decided I would like to get pregnant, one of my first purchases was Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Then What to Expect, which I read in monthly increments. (Except for skipping ahead, like, all the time, because you can never be too prepared.) I knew the exact size fruit my baby was at all times. I knew when to expect morning sickness to stop. I learned when it was about time to get the furniture set up. I also knew exactly what to buy thanks to Baby Bargains. I learned what to pack in my overnight bag. I was on it.

Anything that a book couldn’t answer, the thousands of women on The Bump could. Tiny twinge in my abdomen? Better post and see what’s going on. (“It’s nothing.” “Call the OB NOW. Like stop typing and CALL.”)

Advice, advice, advice. It was great! Anything I could ever think about, there was advice for it. It was comforting to know that people had blazed the path for me.

When my son was born, I didn’t stop seeking out advice. If anything it increased. We’d better make sure he’s a good sleeper. Enter: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. What do I do if he’s fussy? Hello, The Happiest Baby on the Block. Wait, what am I supposed to be doing with a boy? There’s a book (or twenty) for that: The Wonder of Boys. Shouldn’t he be walking by now? Ask Your Baby’s First Year.

Advice, advice, advice. It was great, but…. It wasn’t. There was so much. How do I process all this? What do I do when the books are saying opposite things? Dr. Sears says don’t cry it out; but Healthy Sleep Habits says do, and Healthy Sleep Habits says if my kid’s not sleeping he is going to grow up to be an alcoholic sociopath. And worse, what to do when I’m following the advice but it just doesn’t seem to be working? Agh, what to do?

Then I got pregnant with my daughter. I had some spotting once and got onto The Bump and got a load of alarmist responses and – ENOUGH! Enough, enough, enough. Just… enough.

I realized I had been using all this advice as a crutch. And to some extent, it was really, really helpful. We learned a lot of techniques that helped us out over those first few years. I got some comfort from knowing others had been where I had been. But the benefits were increasingly outweighed. I was feeling like a failure for not being able to follow all the advice I was being given. I was getting overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it. And I was realizing – I don’t have a textbook baby. And I am not a textbook mother. My son is his own unique self, and I am his flawed but well-intentioned mother.

I cut myself off then and there. I did make a few exceptions – one of which I’ve mentioned before, Siblings Without Rivalry, which is really excellent. And I’ve been on the fence for months now about breaking down to buy How to Unspoil Your Child Fast. (Advice sought on whether that’s one to buy.) But for the most part, I’ve left the parenting advice behind.

And I’m happier for it. For one thing, I have time to read books that don’t make me feel bad about myself – or if they do, it’s by virtue of them being totally trashy beach reads. (Bad Heir Day anybody?) But it’s also allowed me to become more confident in my parenting style. I know that there are thousands of people who disagree with me. I know that there are thousands who agree. And when it comes down to it, I don’t really care. If it works for my kids and me, then it’s working fine. Even if experts agree that it will turn my kids into zombies with a nicotine problem in a few years.

Where do you stand on parenting books? Have your thoughts changed as your kids have grown?

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, written a few days early, inspired by the theme “I didn’t listen to anyone’s advice when….” If you’re interested in joining, check out the Facebook page. I’m not sure who’s hosting yet but I will update once that information comes out. 

10 responses to “I Didn’t Listen to Anyone’s Advice When….

  1. Could not agree more. My best friend and I talk about this all the time it seems like for every advice you read there is another book with the opposite advice. You need to do what works for your family and sometimes that is just trial and error.


  2. I was the same when pregnant with my first and this one I’ve not even really googled much. It was just too much and too overwhelming with the first. And, you couldn’t do right anyway you did things. There was someone shouting from the rooftops that there was a better way for EVERYTHING. I am going to try the siblings without rivalry book though, see what it has to say and then decide if it’ll work for our family! Great post- thanks for sharing!


  3. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read all of the main books out there… and then he was born and I tossed them all out because none of them jived with him, me, or our life. Then with my second, I didn’t even think about looking at another pregnancy or parenting book and I stopped reading parenting websites (the kind that dole out advice left and right). We’re all the happier for it! 😉


  4. When I was first pregnant my mom gave me a book–she is a retired family therapist books and this was one of her professional books, aimed towards therapists rather than parents. Anyway, the one thing it said is that new parents should NEVER read parenting books and should not take any advice (unless asked for) by anyone. That’s the rule I followed about 90% of the time and I think I was far less stressed than my friends who read every.single.parenting.book. out there.


  5. I deplore parenting books, most are not evidence based, they are circumstantial and of course predicated by an industry that preys on motherhood and our pocketbooks. After my first child was born I realized how ridiculous a layette is 🙂 and it has been a nice roll downhill from there 11 years later when my daughter was born I was pretty firm in my own beliefs, knew how to read research papers and based my parenting on logic, what felt right and what worked.


  6. I remember struggling so so much with the conflicting advice given in baby sleep books. I was terrified to let my son cry it out – worried that it would mean that he’d feel unloved, and yet, he wouldn’t take a nap by himself and I wanted so badly for him to. Wow, looking back on it, I was a mess trying to figure it out. Now, it seems like it was only a few months and that it somehow worked itself out. Great post and so glad you joined Finish the Sentence with it!


  7. i am anti parenting advice. So much of the little I read was so black and white as to be unrealistic so I stopped going down that rabbit hole. When I want advice I ask trusted friends whose parenting styles mirror my own. That’s much more helpful for me!


  8. I’m hot and cold on parenting advice books. Like you, I found them quite helpful at first. Being a first-time Mom is scary and I wanted to be really well-prepared for my kids Then, as my children started growing, I found that they were teaching me how to parent them more effectively than the parenting books. So I drifted away from the constant reading. But then, when my oldest received his ASD diagnosis, it was back to the books. I supposed it all depends on what information we need to effectively parent at any given time in our children’s lives….


  9. Great post! I have to say that I definitely had What to Expect and What to Expect in the First Year, but that was about it. I did do some internet searches with the last two, but that was about it. And I do have to say that I have been mostly winging it for almost 22 years! LOL! Loved every minute of it, too. Have a great week!


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