Mum-To-Be Questions Whether Friend Who Is 'Just' a Stepmum Can Offer Valid Parenting Advice
"She keeps trying to give me advice and platitudes about parenthood. Nicole has a lot of experience, but I don’t think our situations are the same."
A mum-to-be has the internet divided after confessing that her friend’s unsolicited parenting advice is starting to get on her nerves. As the mum explained in a letter to Slate’s Care and Feeding advice column, her friend has been trying to teach her the “dos and don’ts” of parenting before her new baby arrives, but it’s been slightly awkward, considering the friend has never actually given birth herself. As the stepmum to a teenager, the friend has certainly done some mothering — but is she really in a position to be doling out parenting advice? The letter writer is not so sure, and it seems from the comments, people are split.
In her letter, the anonymous letter writer explains that her friend Nicole has been a stepmum for the last seven years.
Hmm … the thing is, some people thought the letter writer was the one in the wrong.
There are lots of ways to be a mother, they argued, and it sounded to them like the writer was being mighty judgmental. As one woman commented:
“[The letter writer] ought to be careful if she’s going to make distinctions like this about who is or who isn’t a ‘real’ mum. I’m sure she would be very upset if someone were to tell her that her c-section (planned or otherwise) means she didn’t really deliver her child, or that the use of an epidural, Pitocyn, etc. means she didn’t give birth the right way. Or she’s not really a mum if she doesn’t breastfeed exclusively for a year. There’s quite enough judginess to go around for her too.”
“Some people just like to give advice,” another commenter wrote. “This has nothing to do with her being a stepmum. I just listened and ignored it. If you want to keep this woman as a friend, you can do likewise.”
The commented added that she knew from experience that “bringing a baby into the world with my own body did not give me any more parenting qualities than those who adopted their children or had stepchildren” and that “all parenting experience is valuable.”
A third person put it a bit more bluntly: “You are acting like a terrible friend. I’d personally explore why this bothers you so much.”
“There is a huge difference in the motherhood experience of starting from gestation and starting LONG after the baby/infant/toddler stage,” one person argued. “This isn’t about thinking she is unique its more about the fact that those two distinct experiences are unique to each other.”
“The fact is motherhood via adoption, fostering, or being a step-parent is different from ‘natural birth’ and motherhood (natural is in quotations bc of assisted reproduction nowadays) in many aspects,” another person wrote.
But columnist Rumaan Alam, who responded to the woman’s plea for help, was pretty certain: The letter writer was dead w-r-o-n-g.