When others question your parenting choices

My husband’s father looked at me across the dinner table with a grave expression one night and said, “It’s time you started serious efforts to wean your son.”

My son was just over a year old. True, we’d reached the typical milestone when many moms wean their babies from the breast.  But I didn’t see this coming. Least of all from my father-in-law. I mean, I figured men of that generation left these things up to the women.

But there it was, a severe command that made just no sense at all to me.

Breastfeeding hadn’t been easy but I was committed from the start. I felt it was something I could offer my son that would benefit him for the rest of his life. And I was ready to continue until my baby and I were ready to stop. We were nowhere near that point.

So, what did I say in response? I think it was something like, “What? Do you really think that? Hmmmm.” Or maybe I tried spouting facts about the benefits of extended nursing, I can’t really remember. It was safe to say I was in shock.

I nursed my son successfully for one more year despite concern from the grandparents that it would ruin his teeth and so on. (My dentist put it in perspective when I asked her if there would be a problem: everyone gets questioned by the grandparents, she said. After all, they’re vested in your child’s well-being, too.)

But questions, comments and advice can come at you from all directions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to listen to a new way of doing things. There’s just no way to have all the answers yourself. But when a well-meaning friend or relative tells you you should do something without knowing the full background, or at least having done some research or gone through the same thing herself, it’s pretty hard to know how to respond.

On one hand, you want to just come out and say what you’re thinking: “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” But there are relationships to be preserved. And mostly people give advice because they care, right?

The most regrettable part is I haven’t become any smarter in my responses.

What do you do when a well-meaning friend or relative has opinions that just don’t gel with the choices you’ve made as a parent?

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Comments (3)

  1. Jessica Beard

    Let me start by saying, Wow I can’t believe your father in law said that to you! I think I would be in shock too. When friends or relatives say something that doesn’t hit me the right way as a parent, I try to explain to them why I have made the choice that I did. Some of my friends do not have kids, so they do not quite understand what I am feeling. One of my friends cannot understand that I do not like calls after my son has gone to bed or that he needs to have a certain bedtime routine. I hope you and your father in law have a good relationship at this point.

    • Lisa

      Hi Jessica, thanks. Yes, I think we get on ok. We’re dealing across generational and cultural distances, as well as physical ones most of the time, so a lot sort of just slides by. My in-laws are helpful and thoughtful, as is my own family, though I know it’s hard for most to identify with exactly how it is with a little one at this point in time. I also don’t like phone calls after he’s gone to bed. I always felt it woke him up, even when I thought I was out of earshot. Maybe it’s the vibrations? Anyway, I’m usually too tired after he’s gone to bed, even for just a nap, that the last thing I want to do is get on the phone… And oh bedtime routines – I hear ya! We have missed so many chances to get together with other young Indian families and gotten grief for it, because they usually let their children stay up really late. But it just doesn’t make for a pretty picture with ours. My sister has also told me that when she has kids, she’s not going to be the kind of mom I am. I think I come across as rigid. But again, we’re doing what works for us. After all, we’re the ones who have to live with the kids day in and out, right?

  2. Jessica Beard

    Exactly! We know our kids more than anyone.

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