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Information Overload: When Advice Turns from Help to Hindrance

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When you are a soon-to-be or new mum, information is considered your best friend. It helps to understand why, gives tips on how, and generally reassures you that you and your new baby are well. There is no shortage of advice from books and internet sites, magazines and journals, doctors, parenting classes and of course every second person in the supermarket line. Advice is everywhere and here the problem arises.

A short errand invariably involves the following conversation:

“Oh, how cute. How old is she/he?” asks the polite checkout attendant.

“She’s two months,” replies the tired and, depending on her day, impatient mother.

“That’s wonderful, does she [insert an unrealistic action, eg. roll over, sleep through the night]?”

“Not quite yet, she’s only two months.”

“Oh really, my [daughter/son/niece/nephew/granddaughter/grandson] rolled over at this age.”

It is at this point that, as a mum, you rush home to check through your book, the internet, and any other source of information you previously found useful and hurriedly search the pages to check that you and your baby have not somehow fallen behind the developmental eight ball.

While most people are simply inquisitive and attempting to be supportive, their advice or comments tend to throw a certain mother into a tailspin. The fear that you have failed your child, that they are behind in development, not properly engaged and stimulated, that they are small/big/short/tall for their age takes hold of a new mum in seconds, but takes days to shake off. In fact this overload of other people’s opinions, comments, and experience can have such a strong effect that it can overwrite your natural instinct as a parent to the point where it is difficult to make a decision without consulting the books, the internet, or someone else.

Advice comes in many forms, and 90% of the time it is helpful, encouraging, and a boost to a new parent. As a general rule, if anyone puts forward their opinion as to your child and this supposedly knowledgable person is not close to you and your baby, a medical professional, or generally a person you trust, smile politely, ignore their comments, and walk away. These people who suddenly know exactly what you should or shouldn’t do, without actually knowing you, fall into the other 10% of advice givers and these will be of no use to you and your confidence as a new parent.

Blogs by other new parents who share the trials and the trimuphs of parenting are more helpful to a new mum’s confidence. Someone else out there shares my fears, shares my worries, shares the experience of three hours of sleep.  EdiTORIal is a site created by Tori Spelling focussed on allowing mums to share their tips, experiences, and even business ideas; Rosie Pope, from Pregnant in Heels, is a blog that follows the working mum and maternity concierge; Shabby-chicmum and Becoming Mom are two of many new mum blogs out there. Sites which allow you to submit questions such as MomPrep or forums such as Huggies can also be more of an assistance than your traditional book. Really as a new mum, anything is useful if it reaffirms that everyone, whether they admit it or not, was just as confused, worried, and sleep-deprived as you are.

When the world of a new parent is already overflowing with new products, experiences, responsibilities, fun, fears, and tears, what is not needed is added pressure from strangers in the supermarket checkout line.

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