What’s the deal with unsolicited advice? I feel like I sound like a Jerry stand-up scene in an episode of Seinfeld, but honestly what’s the deal?
People get that making a statement is not necessarily an invitation to give advice right? I feel like I have always been somewhat aware of this advice giving trend, and very much, guilty of doing this myself. You get married, and then the next 25 people you meet who are engaged you feel the need to tell them all your tips and tricks, or whatever the case may be. Or someone posts on Facebook about taking a trip somewhere and asks about recommendations for that place, you always see 8 posts from randos telling them they should go somewhere else… B*tch, did I ask you that? I’m already going to the other place, step off.
I’ve noticed this more than ever throughout this fertility journey. Everyyyyyyyybody is an expert. Everyone has the one piece of advice that will solve your problem. And that’s the thing, we’re in the business of solving problems. People want to provide what they think is a solution. We’re also not in the business of sitting in discomfort. So if I am sad, and telling you my sob story, instead of just hearing and listening and potentially helping process, the automatic response is “You know what I did was…” or “My aunt/cousin/friend had this and they did XYZ and now they have like 12 kids”.
I talked about this a little bit before, especially in the beginning when I had already had one chemical pregnancy and then had been trying for a few more months with no luck. I had endless people who inserted themselves into my bedroom talking about where to put pillows, legs, etc., what to do after, what not to do after. Definitely keep your legs up, definitely don’t go pee, and everything in between. But what they didn’t know was that getting pregnant wasn’t necessarily the problem. And little did they (or I) know, I would do that part successfully many times without anything to show for it.
Now that my struggle is all up on the internet for everyone and their mama to see, the advice giving is plentiful. Granted, this is coming from a good place. Especially from the people who haven’t had these experiences. They’ll hear something or see something and pass it my way. The thing is, I read it, I listen, I take it in. And some advice I am likely to consider. But I can’t even keep track of it all. It is coming at me from all freaking angles and here is the kicker…it ends up in my brain as “if you don’t do XXXXX thing, then YOU messed this up”. If I don’t drink the raspberry tea, if I do eat something someone told me to avoid, if I work out harder than I was supposed to, if I can’t afford acupuncture anymore, if I forget to do my meditation then it just gets translated into something you didn’t do. Your mistake. You didn’t do everything you could’ve done. Your fault.
It is just a lot to always be considering. Instead of just trying to live your life. Which is hard enough to do in general. I have enough things going through my head without adding the endless advice I have received.
My mind is an exhausting place to be, always has been. True story, my kindergarten teacher called my parents in to tell them they need to stop putting so much pressure on me because I was very stressed about drawing outside the lines…and my mom was like “HA! I don’t give a shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit about coloring. She does this to herself.” So, this brain of mine came naturally, always racing, tons of pressure, high-achieving, effort-based success. In my latest teaching endeavor I learned you might call this “Growth mindset”. You don’t believe you were born being good or not good at something, but that you are capable of learning and practicing and growing. This is, in general a good thing. But, for me, it has also led to this effort=result mentality. So, in this shitshow of a journey to motherhood, the fact that my effort has had no impact on the results. And the beatings I have given myself over not working enough, not trying enough, not (insert any word here) enough, not being…ENOUGH. Ugh. The counselor at our fertility office has talked with me a lot about this and that how that outlook is my biggest challenge in dealing with this mess and the self-blame assigned to something that is fairly out of my control. Every piece of advice just feels like another thing I should be doing, and therefore something to beat myself up about later.
In many circumstances I have reached out and asked specific people for advice on certain issues-especially those who I knew had gone through IVF. Just getting the rundown from someone who has been down that road is certainly helpful. I’ve picked up plenty of gems. But I’ve also noticed this culture of advice-giving without being asked that I think is so interesting. And the (sometimes) judgement that is implied when that is given. Not just about this topic, but just in general.
Just look on your FB feed sometime, check out the random statements that are not questions people post, and then the flood of comments below that are not just reactions or generic reactions but things like “Have you tried…”, “have you considered…”, ‘My so and so had good luck with…” I wonder if they realize no one asked them. LOL
I can only speak for myself, but the most support I have felt is from the people who don’t try and tell me what to do for my problem, but who just listen, ask questions to learn more or just validate the extreme shittiness.
I recently saw a FB post of a colleague who was frustrated with people who would (unprovoked) comment on her having one child, and ask why, or when she would have another one. And then the folks who had similar experiences including people telling a woman who has one adopted child that “she would want a child of her own someday”. Excuse me, WHAT. The ish that comes out of people’s mouths sometimes is so nuts to me. First of all, that is her child. Girl, bye, but thanks. Ew.
I went to sign up for a new gym a couple of weeks ago, trying to get my life together but that’s a whole different story. I fill out their registration form for a free trial, and there is a question on the form that says “kids yes no”. I circle no which is already painful-and I’m just trying to take a Body Pump class, please leave me alone. The girl processing it goes through all the amenities and then says “Oh, do you have kids?” Flips the form over, sees no, and I repeat no. And she says “not YET *wink*”.
I Can’t. Can. Not. She’s beyond clueless, but I’m supposed to just smile and nod. If I say something back to her, then I am the problem, then I am making her uncomfortable instead of just allowing her to say something that makes me very uncomfortable. I have to let people say all kinds of (unknowing) nonsense to me and just let it slide and not react. Partially because it’s just is what is expected in general, just ask people who have to deal with microaggressions constantly. And partially to avoid getting arrested, because if I respond I will probably GO OFF. #Honesty
I don’t even know what the point of this blog post is, lol. But I guess maybe just take a moment to do some compassionate listening instead of dolling out advice and trying to problem solve. Could be good for all of us, especially me and my weird brain.