It starts from the moment you announce you’re having a baby. Or, for many of us, it starts from the day you said your marriage vows, and everyone raised their glasses and voices to wish you and your hubby “早生贵子 zhao shen gui zhi” (literal translation: to have a baby ASAP!). Well-meaning advice and suggestions – mostly with good intentions – flood us from all angles, whether you’re a newly-wed, a young married, or a mother.
“You should have kids while you are still young. Don’t wait until it’s too late, you will definitely regret it.”
“If you want to have a baby, you must relax and not worry so much about whether you will get pregnant or not. Getting stressed will make it harder for you to conceive.”
“Now that you are pregnant, you shouldn’t watch those Korean dramas anymore. You always cry so much when you watch such shows – all these negative emotions are not good for the baby.”
“You shouldn’t carry your newborn in a sling! His neck is so weak, it might break without enough support!”
Sounds all too familiar?
More often than not, such advice is unsolicited and unwanted, and leaves us in a flurry of mixed emotions.
Hurt. Irritated. Confused. Afraid. Stressed. Anxious. Upset.
What can you do in such situations? Honestly, there’s no straight answer, because so much depends on the context and tone of what and how things are said. But here are a few things I have found helpful to keep in mind.
1. Ultimately, it’s your choice
The only person who can control you is… YOU. True, what people say, think and feel will affect you to some degree, but only as much and as long as you let it. In the end, there’s always a choice to make, and the choice is yours. You don’t owe anyone the right to make your choices for you. Know your options, get informed, be sure to discuss things with your hubby, and then go on and act on your decision(s) with your head held high.
2. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Yes, you do have the final say on what goes on for you and your family, but that doesn’t mean what everyone else is saying is rubbish. Many precious nuggets of truth and wisdom can be found if you would take some time to listen to what people have to say. You might not agree with all of it, but some parts of it might be useful or helpful to you.
3. See the person behind the statement
Oftentimes, advice is not sugar-coated. Or, conversely, it’s so sugar-coated it sounds patronizing. Either way, before you take what is said personally and get your defenses up, remember that every person has a valid reason for why they say things and how they say it. Personality definitely comes into play, and past experience. Try to listen for where people are coming from, rather than just the literal words coming out of their mouths.
4. Silence is not always golden
When you don’t agree with people, some would say to just keep your mouth shut, nod and let the info go in one ear and out the other. While this tactic may work with, 1) those you hardly see and 2) those who are open to different ways of thinking, it might not work with everyone you meet. From personal experience, I’ve found that being able to answer for the decisions I make, in a calm, rational manner, allows the other party to understand my own reasons behind my choice, and clarifies for me the choice I have made too.
Of course there’s not guarantee how the other person will respond. But at least he or she will know where you stand and why, and will try to respect that.
By Dorothea Chow
This article was first published in The New Age Parents.
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