Tertia’s post on iPads in the family got me thinking.
I became a parent in the days before the internet. The bulk of my early mom days, where I was muddling through, figuring things and making mistakes – were done in isolation. Being a teen mom, I didn’t have any friends with children, nor was I in contact with any parents at all, besides my own.
So all my decisions were made based on my newly-developing gut instinct and my mother’s advice. In the beginning, for practical baby advice, I read a lot of books, but soon realised that they hardly ever applied to my child and there was no need to panic when his teeth didn’t appear in the same order that the book said they should. Likewise, I never looked to those books for advice on discipline or “child-rearing” tips.
There WERE plenty of times when I felt judged (by people who did not know me) – and some of that was my own imagination. There were times, especially once Conor started preschool, that interfering busy bodies got into my head and made me doubt how I was doing things. Again – NOT anybody who knew me well, NOT anybody who really mattered.
Once I became active online (many, many eons later), I thought it would have been nice to have that online support when I was a new mom. Felt a bit like I’d missed out on something.
I’ve since revised this opinion. There sheer volume of conflicting advice, loud opinions and judgement from other mothers that bombards you online is scary. If I was a new mother (of ANY AGE) – all of that NOISE and confusion would probably be my undoing. It’s hard enough filtering it out even when you’re an experienced, confident and successful parent.
There is nothing wrong with doubting yourself a bit – everybody needs to question their choices and accept that we all have so much to learn. But there does come a time when you need to trust yourself. Sure, you’ll mess up sometimes. As long as you acknowledge it and learn – there’s no harm in that. I remember thinking, years ago, that everybody was watching me raise my child. It felt like all eyes were on me, all the time, waiting for me to screw up. I was wrong (mostly).
The thing about parenting online, is that many more people ARE watching. Many will share their loud opinions without being asked. And many of them (LOTS AND LOTS) of them, are NOT people you should be listening to.
There is plenty of good in sharing opinions and experiences, so much value in hearing other people’s first hand truths. The downside is the extreme amplification of the Old-Lady-In-Supermarket effect. You know, the biddy in the queue behind you who tells you that your child is too fat/thin/shouldn’t be eating that/should be eating this/you’re too soft/you’re too strict etc.
Online, *everybody* is metaphorically peering into your basket and judging you for your lack of greens.
Everybody sounds so authoritative and sure of themselves, they’ve done it before, they’ve read the books, they’ve consulted the experts – or they ARE the experts. If I was faced with all of that as a new mom, it would do me more harm than good.
I consider myself lucky. I could consult my mom – I trusted and valued her opinion, we had similar values and just naturally approached parenting in the same way. She had no agenda to push, except helping me learn and loving her grandchild. She wasn’t trying to make me feel bad for my choices in order to make herself feel better about hers (if that makes any sense).
I was lucky enough be surrounded by people who really knew me, cared about me and wanted me to succeed. That’s not necessarily the case online.
Some people matter, and some people don’t.
Listen and learn, but do be careful who you let into your head.