Why I Don’t Always Listen to What “They” Say

posted by Andrea | 09/30/2016
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When I think back to Nora’s infancy, there are SO many things I would do differently now (yes, it was a bumpy road for me!)

However, I know that without Nora’s fussy, colicy, clingy, high-needs personality, I wouldn’t have experienced the intense “crash course” in parenting, nor would I have learned nearly as much about motherhood.

It was a steep learning curve, that’s for sure — but if I’m really honest, I have ALWAYS learned best by trial-and-error (much to the dismay of my parents!) and Nora definitely gave me plenty of trial-and-error opportunities!

Maybe I owe Nora a big “thank you” for helping me to fail so many times those first couple of years that I now feel so much more confident in my mothering abilities and the decisions I make — even if “they” say I should do it differently.

And by “they”, I mean anyone who gives unsolicited advice — family, friends, neighbors, strangers, books, magazines, online articles, and even the “experts”.

I know the advice was usually given with good intentions, but when I think back to those first couple torturous years, one of the reasons motherhood was so challenging for me is because I tried so hard to listen to everything “they” said.

Sometimes I felt like I was going crazy trying to do and try everything that “always worked” for everyone else but never worked for me. It seemed that everything “they” said just left me feeling even more frustrated, confused, and defeated.

Even trivial things like how often to give her a bath became stressful for me. One nurse told me to give her a bath every night to help calm her down, then a fellow mom friend said that was way too often as it would dry out her skin. Sigh…

But here we are now, with an almost 5 year old product of my trial-and-error parenting method… and she turned out just fine so far! 

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As with almost every facet of my life, once I find my own way (usually through trial and error), I have a renewed confidence that propels me forward without worrying or stressing about what anyone else says I should be or could be doing, eating, wearing, saying, thinking, etc.

While I’m certainly not opposed to seeking out advice from others, or even accepting some of the unsolicited advice that is thrown my way, I know my own life has been significantly improved by simply trusting my own instincts and not always listening to what “they” say.

Let me give you a few more examples…

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I can vividly remember taking a 1-credit “jogging class” in college (I had to meet a requirement and it was the only class that fit into the rest of my schedule). The professor talked about how important it was to stay hydrated… and that we should ideally drink WARM water because our bodies can use and process warm water more quickly than cold water.

Then, a couple weeks later, we had a guest speaker come in and she specifically stated that it’s more beneficial to drink cold water because our bodies burn more calories in an effort to bring that water to room temperature.

Thankfully, I really don’t care about the temperature of my water, so I just drink whatever water is most convenient at the time and don’t worry about what “they” say! 

After we bought our farmhouse, we were told over and over and over again how certain renovations we wanted to do wouldn’t be good for resale. Everyone had an opinion on color, style, price, etc… and everyone’s opinions were different!

Thankfully, I knew EXACTLY what vision I had for our farmhouse, and Dave was behind me 100%. We did what WE wanted to do and I’m so happy we didn’t take shortcuts or worry about what “they” said to do. 

As I alluded to above, there are so many baby and toddler experts who contradict other experts by saying things like:

  • “Babies should ALWAYS sleep on their backs.” and “For colicky babies, you might try putting them on their tummies.”
  • “Vaccines are the enemy.” and “Vaccines save lives.”
  • “Parents should never spank a child or give them a time out.” and “Parents are too easy on their children these days.”
  • “Kids shouldn’t snack during the day.” and “Avoid meltdowns and tantrums by making sure your kids aren’t hungry during the day.”

Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot about parenting these past (almost) 5 years and I’m now confident enough to make my own informed decisions, seek guidance when necessary, and smile and nod about everything else “they” say. 

If you have any interest in food, you know that it’s basically impossible to eat the “right” thing.

  • Some say low-fat diets are the way to go, others say we need lots of healthy fats
  • Some say low-carb is a healthier diet, others say not to worry much about carbs
  • Some say gluten-free is better for our bodies, others say it’s not worth all the hype
  • Some say we must eat organic produce, others say it’s not worth the extra cost
  • Some say sugar is the problem, others say fat is the problem
  • Vegetarian, vegan, paleo, whole foods, organic, all-natural, whole grain, etc. there are so many “right ways” and “wrong ways” and they often completely contradict each other!

Thankfully, I’ve never been one to jump aboard any dieting trend or fad, and I’ve simply adopted the philosophy of “everything in moderation”.  There really is no sense even trying to eat everything “they” say to eat!

Most recently, I did a little online research about Diastasis Recti (when your stomach muscles separate after being pregnant and don’t go back together). I was specifically looking for some exercises and stretching that I could do to help it “go away” (maybe that’s being too optimistic!)

I found hundreds of blog posts, online articles, medical journals, and “expert opinions” — and you know what, most of them directly contradicted what another one of the people or articles said.

Several articles said crunches and planks were the absolute WORST thing to do, and other websites insisted that crunches and planks were the ticket to flatter abs again. I even know several people in real life who swear a certain method works for them… only to have another friend or relative tell me the exact opposite.

Thankfully, I’m really not too worried about my abs right now, so I’ll just keep taking my kids for walks and not stress about doing what “they” say will work 🙂

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Obviously some of the example above are very trivial in the scheme of life… but they do prove my point that there is very rarely one single “right way” to do anything.

Someone else will always have a different opinion, a different viewpoint, a different perspective, and a different preference — that’s not bad, that’s just life.

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Certainly, some of the responsibility falls on our own shoulders as we must do our research, be informed, and not always take everyone else’s opinions as the cold hard truth. However, I think we also need to do a better job of trusting ourselves, our guts, our instincts, and our own experiences to help us make the best choice for us right now.

I’m fairly confident we would all be so much happier if we stopped always worrying about what “they” say.

I know it has worked wonders for me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked for you too!

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23 comments

  1. Teresa

    10/03/2016

    Good for you Andrea! Everybody’s always got the best way to do everything. Keep on being yourself and taking care of your sweet family!

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  2. Shelly Cluff

    10/01/2016

    “there is very rarely one single “right way” to do anything”

    That is such a good reminder. So often I want my success as a parent to be clear, black and white, but when I do that, I often feel more like a failure than a success. I’m slowly learning that what is right is moment by moment and child by child.

    Thanks for this post!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — you are not alone Shelly! I think everything in life would be easier if there were clear-cut black and white choices 🙂

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  3. Amy B

    10/01/2016

    I love this! Especially with parenting choices, I just don’t talk about them and/or offer advice unless specifically asked, and even then I try to avoid it 🙂

    Also, your kids are beautiful!

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  4. Maria

    10/01/2016

    Andrea, you’re so right to trust your own instincts and tune out the so called “experts” who have been wrong so many times. i.e fat is bad for your heart. I think you’re doing a wonderful job with Nora. She looks absolutely beautiful in the above photo. Judging by your previous posts, Nora plays well with her little brothers and “helps” you in the kitchen and cleaning around the house. She also has you as a role model. I think she is a very lucky little girl.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Maria!
    I guess I’m not necessarily “tuning out the experts” but rather taking it all in, but still going with my gut. The expert ideas are always in the back of my brain as ideas to try “someday” if needed… but in the meantime, i won’t feel bad using my own common sense and my own gut feeling.

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  5. Linda

    10/01/2016

    I have to chime in on this with my own story. My son would not sleep unless he was held or sitting in his swing. I would sit up at night and hold him. I was exhausted! I also had a 16 mo.
    This went on for at least 4 weeks. I had mentioned it to the Dr. And he said “oh he is just a fussy baby”. With no sleep and chasing around a toddler I was literally out of my mind. One night while giving my toddler a bath I put my son down on his stomach. He slept for I don’t recall how long but he even missed his night feeding. This was an aha moment for me. He refused to sleep on his back. From then on out I put him on his stomach and life was as normal as could be. I gained back my mind. To this day my son is still very stubborn.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes yes yes! I smiled when reading your comment because ALL of my babies slept on their bellies starting around 1 week old. They slept so much better that way (even Nora who basically never slept, prefered her belly). James and Nora are still a belly sleepers, Simon sleeps on his side now 🙂

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  6. Jane

    09/30/2016

    I love reading THIS blog to get ideas, and I like how you always say “this is what works for me and my family”. I have taken a lot of your ideas and the way you do things and use them as a starting point, a general plan, and then craft it to fit my family or situation. It is so easy to get wrapped up in what others say and do and try to copy it and then be disappointed when it doesn’t work out. Thanks again for another great read 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Jane!!

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  7. Debbie

    09/30/2016

    Thank you for the reminder and sharing your experience. It does get a bit frustrating to me when it comes to how best to eat. Friends of mine eat in so many different ways and swear that what they do works in their weight maintenance and healthy bodies. When what I’m doing isn’t working as far as losing weight, I often think maybe they have the answer. But which do I follow? I like your idea of eating in moderation which is one way of saying they’re all right.

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    Andrea Reply:

    exactly! I think food is a BIG issue for so many people, and what works for one person will not work for another.

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  8. Barbara Hand

    09/30/2016

    Andrea,

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I too frequently allow myself to get caught up in what others say I should do, think, be, etc. I’m learning to trust my gut instinct more often now, and my life is so much less stressful because of it. Great post!

    Barb

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    Andrea Reply:

    I don’t necessarily think it’s bad to hear others out and hear their ideas — but I DO think we need to realize that their ideas are just “one way” not necessarily the best way for us.

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  9. Janice

    09/30/2016

    This summer I had an experience that proved that the experts have been wrong and it has effected my health because I paid attention to them. Medical experts have told us for years that Americans eat way too much salt, so cut back, cut back cut back! Well, I cut back and ended up with such low sodium that I found my speech, handwriting, and walking with balance greatly effected. It seemed the symptoms would come and go but it was getting worse. I also drank a lot of water, partially because I love water and have always been a water-drinker, but I was trying to lose some weight and the experts encouraged I up the amount of water I consume to aid the weight loss. However, this 120 ounces of water was decreasing my sodium level. Anyway, after a trip to the emergency room resulted in blood tests which determined I was dangerously low on sodium, I am learning to add sodium back to my diet appropriately and my health is rebounding! Boy do I feel good Now! As I said, I had been cutting down on salt so much over the years that if a recipe called for a teaspoon of salt, I would put less than half a teaspoon and always bought low sodium everything. Well, now I am using my common sense and forgetting about the food experts.

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — that’s scary! Glad that you got your salt intake more balanced — and yes, that’s one more reason to simply have “eat all things in moderation”!

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  10. Amy

    09/30/2016

    The best thing to do is what you feel is right. We can drive ourselves NUTS with so much research. (believe me, I’ve been there!) and all it does is make us second guess our feelings and decisions. A little research is ok. I do like to look at reviews for products before I buy them, but I will not be absolutely discouraged if I see a not so good one amongst all the great ones. Bottom line: trust your gut. The final decision/outcome may not come as quickly, but at least you know that you took time to listen to you!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, too much research will drive anyone crazy! I’m usually not a huge research person, but I do like to scope out my options.

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  11. Jennifer

    09/30/2016

    How do you typically respond to folks who give unsolicited advice as to not start an unnecessary conversation, conflict, etc.? I find some people get a bit offended when I don’t care to hear their opinion ( I stay respectful but choose not to get into it).

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    Andrea Reply:

    I used to get defensive — but now I just smile and nod and pretend like I’m interested. 🙂

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    Bonnie'sMama Reply:

    I agree, Andrea. Just let ’em talk about their pet idea. They’ll think you’re really smart, and you won’t get into an argument. They never need to know you’re not about to follow their advice.

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — ok, if you say so!

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  12. Heidi Urnise

    09/30/2016

    I loved this. I found this to be very inspiring and reassuring.

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