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Dealing With a Know-it-All, Opinionated Mom Friend

By Amalah

Hi Amy –

I’m 25 weeks along in my first pregnancy and have run into recurring issues with an over-opinionated friend – we’ll call her Jane. Jane has a few children of her own, which seems to make her feel that she has a license to dispense unsolicited advice to me regarding my pregnancy and the future care of my infant on a continual basis. Not only that – she seems to relish the opportunity to share with me her own pregnancy/delivery horror stories, and other equally negative parenthood experiences. She’s even gone so far as to share with me all the things that could be wrong with my baby under the guise of complimenting what an excellent parent I’ll be “no matter what” – which really pisses me off as I feel these kinds of back-handed compliments are completely unnecessary and rude. It’s not the fact that she cares enough to give me advice. It’s the pushy, passive aggressive, self-righteous manner in which it is given, combined with the fact that I am NOT ASKING for her opinion in the first place about what kind of parent I’ll be if I have a child with health problems, which OBGYN to select, best hospital to deliver, whether to breast-feed or formula feed, etc.

So far when this friend has overstepped the line I bite my tongue rather than putting her in her place, for fear that my raging pregnancy hormones will take over and turn what should be a constructive conversation into a full-on brawl. How can I politely put an end to these unwanted preaching sessions? Or am I completely overreacting?

On the other end of the Internet, I’m picturing many many readers nodding their heads wildly and knowingly at their screens right now. I think we’ve ALL been friends with a Jane, or encountered a Jane. Or been deep in an internet comment section packed full of multiple Janes.

Jane is the WORST when it’s your first pregnancy. Jane will never bother you as much as she does right now, and it’s a combination of you both: She’s forgotten what it’s like to be pregnant for the first time, and is talking to you like she talks to all her non-rookie mom friends. (Who probably LOVE sharing their pregnancy/delivery horror stories and not-totally-awesome parenting experiences with each other, because…well, that’s what we moms do, once we’re on the other side of things.) Maybe she thinks she’s doing you a favor by “keeping it real” or something, and has no idea that you’re secretly screaming SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UPPPPPP at her from inside your head. On your side of things, you’re (understandably) a bit nervous or anxious about all of the unknowns, jacked up full of hormones, and constantly question your reactions to things. Am I justified in being pissed off right now or is my blood sugar just low? Is she really being rude and passive-aggressive or is she just a sort of lonely, clueless bossypants who doesn’t realize how often she’s assvicing you?

Looking back on my first pregnancy, I can say that yes, I DEFINITELY overreacted to more than a few Janes. Many of them really were well-meaning, trying to assure me that things like emergency c-sections weren’t that bad (they had one! or more than one! X. Y and Z happened and then everything was fine!) once my doctor started fretting about my baby’s size and position. Meanwhile I was scared to freaking DEATH of having an emergency c-section and didn’t want to hear anything about them, good or bad. So I would be like, I DIDN’T ASK FOR YOUR OPINION when really, they were just telling me their stories. Because they’d also forgotten about being pregnant for the first time and scared to freaking death about any number of things, and what it felt like when someone else talked about those things in a way that was anything other than, “Everything is going to be fine and what you’re scared of will never, ever happen.”

Then I had an emergency c-section and was like, “Oh. Talking to other moms about that experience is really helpful and cathartic, because everything really was fine, even though that happened.”

I try very, very hard not to be a Jane. I only offer up advice/stories when explicitly asked. (Luckily thanks to this column, I GET ASKED A LOT.) I admit it’s sometimes harder than it should be to put myself back in the other person’s shoes and bite my tongue in the middle of what TO ME seems like just a matter of fact experience or opinion. I may think I’m trying to say that it’s okay if exclusive breastfeeding doesn’t work out and you have to supplement; she thinks I’m telling her a horror story because I secretly think breastfeeding won’t work out for her, either. I mention my 10-pound baby and emergency c-section because hey, yeah, that’s just what happened to me; she’s like SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UPPPPPPP.

Since I’m not there during your conversations with Jane, and I don’t know this particular Jane, I can’t tell you for sure if you’re overreacting to well-meaning mom-chatter…or about 20 weeks overdue from ripping her passive-aggressive ass a new one. Either way, I typically err of the side of taking care of your emotional/mental health during your pregnancy. Jane is driving you crazy. You clearly do not enjoy your time and/or conversations with Jane. It’s totally okay to minimize your time and contact with Jane for the rest of your pregnancy (or beyond, if the assvice continues). You don’t mention any specific context for your friendship with her — is she an unavoidable work friend or someone you’re actively choosing to spend time with? — but I would personally opt for politely avoiding one-on-one conversations with her as much as humanly possible. And when you do have to talk to her, immediately change the topic of conversation back to like, work or TV or non-pregnancy/parenting stuff whenever you can.

You’re probably never going to find the perfect words to tell her to shut up and keep her opinions to herself, because I can all but guarantee she’ll be taken aback, get super defensive and be like, “but we’re just talking! I just told you you’ll be a great mom no matter what! what’s wrong with saying that?”  She’ll probably tell you that you are overreacting or mention your hormones and gaaaahhhhh I wouldn’t blame you for going nuclear apoplectic at her at that point. And let’s avoid that. Let’s just avoid her, for awhile. It’s really okay, and on the bright side: You’re going to be a great non-Jane to many future first-time moms-to-be thanks to this experience, and the world really needs more of those.

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Amy is so spot on. I am always afraid of being Jane. I’m the first in my group to have had kids, and now that everyone else is having babies I feel like “wheee I have so much experience and advice to give!”. It all comes from a place of love and excitement and it’s so easy to forget how emotional and loaded a lot of topics can be when you’re first starting out. I hope that you can find a way to give her a heads up about how you’re feeling and maybe she’ll back off because she really might be just trying to help. I usually try and explicitly tell my friends to tell me to shut up at any point. But totally drop her if she doesn’t change because you don’t need that stress.

  • Lauren

    I went through this. I actively tried to avoid talking about pregnancy and parenting with most people. And I put that out there to everyone: “It can be overwhelming to think and talk about having a baby all the time. Can you help distract me by talking about other things? Did you see the newest episode of Game of Thrones?” “I know everyone loves to talk about babies, but I need a break. What’s going on at work with you these days?” I redirected constantly and it helped keep me sane. Good luck to all of you who have a Jane in your life. It gets better, I promise!

  • Jeannie

    It was the negative stories that always bothered me. “I was in labour for 48 gajillion hours! It was the WORST THING EVER!”. I make a point of not telling horror stories to expecting or new parents. If they ask, I will not that my birth experience with my son wasn’t ideal, but was easy with my daughter. Easy! Fine! Totally do-able! But … I do try to keep it to myself unless specifically asked (or with other moms of older children, when we’re all in sharing mode).

    ANyway, I second just … staying away, if at all possible. If it’s stressing you out, no matter what it is, even if she does mean well, just stay away.

  • Melanie

    If she is someone you can avoid you can always use pregnancy as an excuse to bow out too. “All I want to do is go home have dinner on the couch and go to sleep!” Works every time!
    Also, it is so hard to not be Jane! 🙂

  • Alicia

    I agree with Lauren!

    Redirect! Redirect! Redirect! (Also works with kids.) 🙂

    Tell Jane you love her wanting to share her experiences/advice but you are just over talking/thinking about pregnancy all the time.

    Then say “don’t worry, when I have a specific question about something I WILL CALL YOU.” (Inferred: don’t call me)

    It’s been 7 years since I got married and can see now that I have “Jane” tendancies when it comes to wedding planning. Thanks for the reality check!

    🙂

  • Anon

    This is the letter I’ve wanted to write for months.  I call my Jane “just you wait.” Just you wait for sleepless nights, breastfeeding woes, bad latches, Life As You Know It Is Over etc.  I get frustrated for two reasons: I was not asking for advice and I am not her (ie she assumes the choices she made are the ones I’m going to make – which generally I’m not going to for a variety of reasons.). On the other hand when I do ask for advice she is spot on.

    Unfortunately getting away or withdrawing is not an option because she works in my office and our husbands are close.  I have resorted for the past couple months to pleading my pregnancy for not hanging out – until a mutual friend told me Jane wanted to know if I was mad at her…   Massive guilt.  Redirection works for only so long until it’s back to her kids and my pregnancy. I timed it for awhile. The longest redirection was 15 minutes.  

    She is really nice so I feel bad when I’m not feeling annoyed.  I am really glad to read that I’m not the only one. And soon I’ll be on maternity leave so that’ll be good. 🙂 

  • Lilly

    My name is Lilly, and I am a Jane :(. The reason I usually do it is that I had such a hard time with my first baby, and I felt so lonely, because all the stories I had heard were happy ones. So now, when someone I love is pregnant, I gently mention that things don’t have to be perfect, and that sometimes they are hard, but that what is coming is so wonderful! I guess the best way to redirect me might be to say “I know you are trying to help me, but I am terrified. Can you talk about all the wonderful things, or something else?”

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  • S

    Huh, good points, Lilly! I think one problem moms have when they accidentally Jane is just that … There’s still terrifying uncertainty and craaaaazy (crazier than pregnancy!) hormone shifts AFTER birth. And we didn’t fully realize that during birth. Shit, see? I’m Jane-ing. it’s just that if everyone says, “Breastfeeding is easy if you just keep trying!” then it feels like so much loneliness and sadness when you have to open the first formula bottle. And it shouldn’t! And there are a thousand examples. We wish afterwards that someone had mentioned lochia, c-section, that lots of people supplement, that the NICU exists. It’s still all wonderful and good and you’ll be great! And sometimes you’ll Jane. And we’ll try to shut up. But I know Jane-ing diminishes with time, so stick to non-mom or well into it mom friends for now because it sounds exhausting to listen to!