Reader Irritated writes:
I'm the mom of a toddler and I love your blog. My problem is that have a friend who isn't a mom, whom I met and became close with before I was a mom, and she just LOVES to give parenting advice, unsolicited. It's actually caused me to stop hanging out with her which is a huge bummer. I'm not sure how to address the issue.
This person is very type A and even when I've dropped hints that she has no idea what being a mom is like (as politely as I can) she still doesn't get the hint. She told me she is going to start having kids after she gets her depression treated (but she doesn't seem depressed to me). I love her but I can't take this anymore. Do you have any advice for this dilemma?
This sounds like an extremely annoying situation. Although I would love to give you all manner of humorous or passive aggressive ways to get your friend off your case, there is another way to deal with this. I urge you to muster up all of your empathy and look at this from your friend's perspective. She is insecure about her own potential parenting ability in light of the depression she experiences (and if she's mentioning it, it's enough to worry her, even if it isn't disabling enough for you to observe it). She is Type A and likely perfectionistic, so it must kill her that she has to delay childbearing to address her own mental health issues. Unfortunately, she doesn't have enough insight to say, "Boy, I'm worried about what kind of mom I'll be, so I vicariously parent my friend's child to prove my innate parenting ability." So she gives advice and comments about your parenting.
You are actually doing your friend a favor by allowing her to give you advice. You don't have to take her advice; you barely have to listen. But I have a feeling that she is terribly anxious about her own future parenting, and every time that you pretend to listen to her, you're being a good friend. It's like when you were in high school and your friend's boyfriend or crush started dating a new girl and you pretended that the new girl was really unattractive. It has nothing to do with reality, it's just being a good friend. So, as long as your friend keeps on giving her advice, just nod and smile and say, "Good point!" You are doing your part to help the world by allowing your friend to self-soothe via compulsive advice-giving.
If your friend strays into criticizing your parenting, however, take a deep breath and confront her directly. You can say, "Hey, I love you like a sister, but I have to be honest: when you criticize my parenting, I really don't like it." She'll say, "What? Criticize? I was just saying that sleep training kills brain cells!" And then you can say, "Well, whatever it is, please stop doing it." Then smile and resume your conversation. This probably won't have to happen more than once. Note: It sounds so easy because it is. Things get complicated when you're indirect, but can be remarkably easy when you're direct. The hardest part is gathering your courage to be this forthright.
Good luck, and thanks for writing in. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Use This Column For Your Mother-in-Law, Too.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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