When you fell pregnant, did you feel like you suddenly became public property? I know I did. Unsolicited advice flew from every direction – “don’t overexert yourself”, “You should only sleep on your left-hand side”, “Don’t drink coffee”, “Make sure you’re getting enough iron (you are a vegetarian after all) and how DO you get enough protein anyway?”, “Don’t raise your hands above your head or the umbilical cord will get tangled around the baby’s neck’ (yes, some people really do believe this and feel the need to share). Questions probed into the state of my health; did I have piles? Varicose veins? Morning sickness? Did I pee my pants a bit when I sneezed? And into my chosen method of birth; was I really going to let my baby come out of my vagina and without an epidural? Was I actually mental? Wasn’t I worried about pain, or tearing myself in two, or looking my husband in the eye in the weeks after my son was born in case I pooed while I was giving birth? The list goes on…

And did that unsolicited advice stop once my son arrived? It did not, and neither did it stop for any of the mums I recently did a straw poll with. The advice they received ranged from the irritating and unsolicited to the downright laughably ridiculous; “sleep when the baby sleeps”, “your baby must be breastfeeding all the time because he is thirsty so you should give him some water”, “you’re not eating enough food so your breastmilk is probably nutritionally deficient and your nutritionally deficient breastmilk is likely the reason your [4 month old!] child wakes up at night”, “co-sleeping will spoil your baby”, “you have to break her sleep associations or you’ll make a rod for your own back”, “you have to drink milk to make milk”, “you’ll need to stop breastfeeding now he has teeth!” You get the idea…

And don’t even get me started on the mummy forums, a place where parents turn to support and more often than not feeling inadequate, scared or confused by the humble bragging, mixed messages and scare mongering; “My baby is only saying 50 words at 12 months old, does that sound like enough?”,  “Stimulate your baby by playing new games with them each week (or they will probably end up with developmental delays)”, “Don’t overstimulate your baby or they won’t sleep well (and will probably suffer from developmental delays caused by excess cortisol and adrenaline in their overtired little brains)”, “you should definitely sleep train your baby so they don’t suffer developmental delays from the cumulative effects of overtiredness”, “Don’t sleep train your baby or they will surely suffer from the negative effects of cortisol and adrenaline caused by crying”. And on, and on.

When you become a parent, it seems that not only are you welcoming a new baby into your life, but you are also welcoming a community of intergenerational parents, who all have opinions on your child and what you are doing ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. And of course, there are the hot-button topics; breastfeeding VS formula, co-sleeping, sleep training, attachment parenting, working outside the home, circumcision, vaccination and numerous others that are sure to send people into a white, frothy, foaming at the mouth frenzy.

If you hadn’t worked it out already, nobody is going to agree on the best way to do anything, let alone raise a baby! For years through my adulthood, I would find myself looking around for a grown-up, or an ‘adultier adult’ to defer to in challenging situations, but becoming a mother helped me realise that I was the grown-up now! It was a bit scary, but also felt good to step into that power. As parents, we’re all just basically making things up as we go along, winging it and muddling along in the best way we know how. And that’s not to say that parents cannot or should not ask for advice if they want it, but let’s actually allow them to ask for that advice. I say it often to pregnant mums; YOU are the expert in your body and your baby. The same rules apply once the baby is on the outside too! If another person doesn’t ask for your advice or your opinion, how about let’s not give it. And if you absolutely think you definitely have to, (and I’m talking like the world depends on it) stop and ask yourself, is what you are about to say true, kind, and really necessary? If not, it’s probably best to rephrase what you’re going to deliver, or even keep it to yourself.

In a world dominated by social media, it’s important to recognise that what we see on Facebook is not an accurate representation of how most people live their lives. Even with the most picture-perfect, Pinterest-worthy family, you’re definitely not seeing the whole picture (I bet even they have their poonami days). As parents, it’s easy to feel the weight of judgement from others. Especially when they offer their brand of unsolicited advice since it can feel like a comment on your parenting choices. On the other hand, it’s also easy to find ourselves on the other side, be judgemental of others, especially when our ideas of ‘the right way’ to parent differ wildly. Even though we might disagree, perhaps we can agree on the fact that each person is going to make the choices that they feel are the best ones for their family and their unique, multi-faceted situations. What is it they say? Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Let’s remember that as loving parents, everyone is just trying to do right by their child, we all have a lot at stake here! Most importantly, no parent wants to screw their kid up. Believe me, I’m almost certain that by the time our children are having children, they will be rolling their eyes about some of our parenting choices and wondering how any of them got out alive! Kids are resilient, and as a child of the 1980s, raised on Findus Crispy Pancakes and Heinz tinned ravioli who remembers when smoking on public transport was still allowed, I can attest to that!

A good friend of mine said something that really struck me as she spoke about her experiences dealing with other mums. “Wouldn’t it be nice if after spending time with other people, you felt at least as good as you did when you arrived? Or hopefully, even a little better?” That’s the dream indeed! So, let’s work to raise each other up and foster a warm, welcoming and supportive community for parents everywhere. And to deal with those other mums, the challenges of motherhood and the feelings they can bring up, HypnoMothering can help!