Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Homebirth advocates and unsolicited advice

Many homebirth advocates, subtly and not so subtly, denigrate other women under the guise of "giving advice". These selfless souls (at least that's how they view themselves) care about other women so much that they must share their wisdom, experiences and recommendations. Then they are shocked, shocked when other women (correctly interpreting the advice as a put down) resent their efforts to "educate".

The nature of unsolicited advice is described perfectly in this article on personal development:
Unsolicited advice is what you get when you give someone who isn't listening, counseling they didn't ask for, offering recommendations you probably aren't even following yourself. [Or, as is often in the case of homebirth advocates, "advice" that isn't even factually correct.]
Why do people give unsolicited advice? The author recognizes that some people give unsolicited advice in a genuine desire to help. However, the other reason that people give unsolicited advice is to feed their own ego:
... The ego needs external validation to survive. While some people give unsolicited advice out of a genuine desire to help, others do so to validate their own point of view.

This kind of advice is often given to people you don't know really well, or given about a subject you've just started learning and are looking to feel smarter about by giving other newbies advice. In both cases, you are motivated not so much by helping the other person as by needing to be right. This type of unsolicited advice is particularly common on internet discussion forums, where keyboard jockeys, armed with borrowed wisdom, engage in lengthy flame wars about the One True Way to do something.
People respond negatively to ego driven advice, and they often respond negatively to well meaning advice. This is not a personality flaw on their part; it is an indication that they do not want and do not appreciate unsolicited advice.
Ego-driven advice is always a bad thing. But when you're genuinely motivated to help a friend or family member, unsolicited advice can be okay in microscopic doses. If you begin to feel resentful towards the other person though, because they keep complaining, never take your advice, and only sink further into spiritual debt, that's a hint that you've gone too far.
Homebirth advocates need to be honest with themselves about giving unsolicited advice. Unsolicited advice about homebirth and "natural" childbirth, particularly advice given to strangers, is all about homebirth advocates' need to boost their own self-esteem at the expense of other women. It is, as I have said repeatedly, about the need to feel superior to other mothers. All the protestations of selflessness and caring do not obscure this fact.

When homebirth advocates find themselves giving unsolicited advice, particularly advice that is met with resentment, they need to stop blaming other for failing to "appreciate" them, and start asking themselves why they need to validate their own choices by insisting that others make the same choices.


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