Give my parents some credit! I'm a healthy, happy baby boy!
A Newlywed & New Parent Offers a Solution:
Could Your Past Be the Cause of Unwanted Advice and Criticism from Family & Friends?
It was bad enough getting chided by family and friends when you and your spouse became pregnant the first year of your marriage. Even worse was their unwanted, not to mention, incredibly non-beneficial advice once your first child was born. Then came the arguing over which set of grandparents was able to visit or babysit the most and the inconceivable discussion of why they should never feed your 2-month-old ice cream. Now, here you are, expecting your second child and the chaos ensues once again. How can you possibly survive another 9 months (and then some) of unwarranted remarks or counsel?
Before we delve deep into this topic, I’d like to share a little about myself with you. Until I had my first child, I was fiercely independent and selfish when it came to sharing myself and being open. I failed at relationships whether they were romantic, familial, or simply platonic. I liked being alone and I desired my autonomy above everyone and everything else. I made many mistakes; yet, no one could say I was irresponsible or immature. I never relied on anyone, borrowed money, or neglected to take care of myself. I paid my bills early, I loved and cared for people with utter sincerity, and I made it a priority not to be a burden to anyone. I was a hard worker and during college, I often worked two jobs in order to make ends meet. When I ended my schooling, I worked three jobs because I couldn’t stand the idea of being idle. Having a day off from work was absolute hell and confusion for me. I was strict about many things and I held myself and others severely accountable for their own actions. I was straightforward and brutally honest to people, which made for a terrible social life. Back then, I didn’t know that every word, every action, every strict adherence to my preferred set of standards was alienating me from those I loved and although they all believed I was trustworthy, mature, and intelligent, I never gave them a reason to believe I was tender, thoughtful, or had a single mothering skill.
In 2011, I gave my family and friends reason to believe I had lost the only remaining qualities they believed I had (trustworthiness, maturity, and intelligence). I eloped and married a man they had never heard of. He was an ex-boyfriend and because we had dated only briefly in 2010, I felt no need to share that information with anyone. It was, after all, a mistake in my eyes. I never wanted to see or hear from him again. He made me angry and pushed all my buttons, even those I never knew existed; yet, he was the only man who taught me that relationships are not about rules or standards. He taught me through his own actions and behavior, that to be in a relationship and to show love, I must be open about my feelings, I must be tender and emotional, and most importantly, I must accept that I am worthy of love.
It was on May 22nd, 2011 when my entire world turned upside-down. A catastrophic, EF5 multiple-vortex tornado struck my ex-boyfriend’s hometown of Joplin, Missouri. Nearly killing him, it destroyed the home he’d known since childhood and utterly wiped out half the town during its 1-mile tirade. My heart cried out in despair and regret for two days as I tried desperately to reach him by phone. I believed he had died and that I would never be able to tell him how much he meant to me. Despite my pride after our failed relationship, the thought of almost losing him on that terrible day made me realize I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
Weeks later, he landed on my doorstep, asking for my hand in marriage. Apparently, he’d come to same conclusion I had. We married in June 2011 and by September 2011, we were expecting our firstborn. Our wedding and our pregnancy were completely unplanned but not without love and the promise of something greater as a family than who we thought we were as independent entities.
At the time, I could not see why my family and friends had lost so much faith in me just because I didn’t let them in on every detail of my life. I saw no problem in eloping or having an unplanned pregnancy during my first year of marriage. Even now, I see no issue. For us, the decision to elope and even to have children right away wasn’t reckless or immature, it was necessary, it was truth, and it was the best decision we ever made.
One year, six months, one 8-month-old son, and a brand-new pregnancy later, I am still in love and absolutely elated to be with my husband. I have no regrets about eloping and I most-definitely have no regrets when it comes to our son and our unborn baby. I love my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way but there are family and friends who, to this day – regardless of our progress, achievements, and love within our little family unit - doubt our maturity and our wisdom as husband and wife and as parents. We’ve had many struggles throughout the last year. Every grandparent and every in-law will always wish we were wealthier or that we better resembled their ideal when it comes to marriage and parenting. To them, we are naïve (despite our age) and incapable of planning for the future or seeing the difficulties ahead as new parents to not only one, but two children now. Their unwanted advice and obvious confusion over our choices as parents (such as having children only 15 months apart) has been a grievous burden for my husband and I. At every corner, we feel not only judged but patronized even though we are healthy, happy, and well-taken care of, just as our son is, just as the new baby will be, and just as our children will continue to be under our nurturing care.
In the past, I would have lashed out at their unfairness and their criticism. I would have embarrassed and humiliated them for speaking their minds or giving unasked-for advice. In fact, I did this many times in the past year but I soon realized it only brought my little family more drama and strangely enough, more unnecessary advice. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that the problem wasn’t other people, it was me.
Why am I sharing all this with you? Well, I think you need to do as I have. I think you need to step back and take a look at your past decisions, behaviors, and actions. You may know in your heart that you made the wisest and healthiest decision but it may not always seem that way to those who are concerned for you and love you.
Family and friends give advice for two very specific reasons:
1. They care about you and want you to succeed but their concern outweighs the fact that they know in their heart that you are fully capable of succeeding as a spouse and as a parent.
2. They care about you and want you to succeed but you have proven in the past to them that you are capable of hurting others, seemingly being thoughtless, and making one mistake after another.
I guarantee that your family and friends are not out to hurt, irritate, or control your life. Well, there are a few exceptions, I must admit (especially when it comes to the controlling aspect), but what other purpose is there to “control” you other than they love you, want you to succeed, and despair when you make mistakes that end up hurting yourself or others? Many of us believe that if we could only make the decisions for our children, that they would be happier and avoid pain. When I see my 8-month-old son nearly losing his balance as he stands and takes a few steps toward whatever has caught his eye, I am tempted to grab him and deny his chance to walk in order to keep him from falling and hurting himself. I cannot promise that a loved one is not trying to control you for your own sake; my only promise is that you are loved and their advice and criticism stems from that love. Is it fair? No, it isn’t fair. But if you’re anything like me, if you have made mistakes in the past, if you have kept secrets from people, if you have been independent and aloof, and if you are new to something (marriage or children), you are the reason that their love is represented in the form of questioning, unsolicited counsel, and jumped-to conclusions and concern. Once you realize that fact, you will be one step closer to overcoming this issue and hopefully, helping your family and friends overcome theirs as well.
When I recognized that my past decisions were playing a big part in my loved ones’ doubts and concerns, I was finally able to see the situation through their points-of-view. I gained a new perspective and a greater understanding that led me to soothing their fears and consequently satiating my need to vocalize and establish my rights.
Instead of pretending their verbal utterances didn’t bother me and instead of confronting them in anger, I made the decision to approach the issue in private with each member. In quiet, gentle tones, I told them that I was well aware of my past, I apologized for any wrong I had committed against them, and I proceeded to share myself – my hopes, my dreams, my disappointments, and the love and goals I have for my little family unit. I described the drive and the devotion of my husband – his loyalty to me and the children, his desperation to make us successful not only financially but in all aspects of life. I told them how I felt about their advice, but most importantly, how much I cared for them. By the end of the discussion, I knew that things would be much better for all of us and that they would think twice before giving advice or casting judgment.
I know there will always be unavoidable obstacles and needless drama at times, but if you approach these things with love and an understanding of where the other person is coming from, you will undoubtedly overcome. If you try this technique and you still encounter difficulty, know that as long as you, your spouse, and your children are healthy, happy, growing in a loving environment, and striving toward something greater, you are triumphing and no outside source should ever make you feel less than you are. Make a strong effort at peace, cling to your rights, and never doubt your ability to succeed as a spouse or as a parent.