Like many mothers, Michelle Umbehauer has dealt with her fair share of unsolicited advice from strangers on raising children. But unlike many mothers, the Shamong Township resident chose to write a book about it.
In the recently published “Got Your Hands Full,” Umbehauer details her experiences with unsolicited parenting advice and commentary, and how she turns to religion to help address them.
“People like to give their two cents, and it started to become the same exact sayings we’d hear,” the author said. “Someone told me to detail the things I’d always say (in reply). Many moms have received such things, and I put faith and scripture into it to say to not believe those kinds of things.”
Those “same exact sayings” include “It looks like you’ve got your hands full!” or — more uncomfortably – “I would kill myself if I had that many kids,” a reference to Umbehauer’s five children. Some strangers will even share thoughts on a mother’s sex life.
Umbehauer said hearing those things seems unfathomable, but true, and the comments come from people across all demographics. She tries to reach a level of understanding with people and knows they mean well, even when “it might come out wrong.”
“It comes from their own experience and it could be out of ignorance or they’re trying to relate to you,” Umbehauer stated. “Sometimes I do think people are kind about it, and it might come out the wrong way. If I’m hearing it, other people are (too) and I’m just thinking about how we can approach it.”
She admitted being on the receiving end of the advice can be defeating for mothers, as it casts doubt on how they raise their kids. That is what motivated Umbehauer to detail her experiences in a book.
With a degree in journalism, Umbehauer knew she always wanted to write and kept at it until her family grew and she became a stay-at-home mom.
The book, which the author said would fit in the Christian lifestyle or parenthood sections of bookstores, puts a religious emphasis on how to deal with parenting advice, but she approaches it in a general sense, such as “your God.”
“I give that funny experience about how to deal with things, and on the flip side, I offer what religion says about it,” Umbehauer explained. “It’ll be that much more attractive and hopeful in seeing that it shows an understanding how it can help.”
Along with her religion, Umbehauer writes about her experiences with having an unexpected child when she was young and dealing with postpartum depression.
Through it all, she adds comic relief to her writing to let mothers know it is OK to laugh when raising children. Laughter helps parents decompress.
“Some of it is just funny and you have to laugh at it because you can’t take everything seriously and laughter helps us to move past all of these things,” the author said with a chuckle.
As the book is riddled with positivity and personal experiences, Umbehauer noted it could serve as both a hopeful outlook on the chaos of motherhood and a way to find peace in the mess of unsolicited opinions.
“It’s the best way to be prepared and move forward,” she expressed. “It can beat us up, but we have to understand our values as mothers, people and our children. Have the understanding to believe that your children are a blessing and prevent yourself from ‘falling for it.'”
To purchase “Got Your Hands Full,” visit Amazon.com. It is available in paperback, hardcover and Kindle.