The Online Parenting Advice Mill – Jump On or Hop Off?

by Rachel Peachey

I’m always intrigued by parenting blogs. All of those titles and quizzes that promise to tell me if I’m a “cool” mom or not grab me. I know I’ll be had – obviously my entire worth as a mother can’t be condensed into a 5 minute test. Yet, curiosity often gets the best of me.  I think part of it is a procrastination strategy and part of it is wondering what “cool” moms do.  Would the author think I’m cool?

I read a blog once, if I remembered who or where I would love to give her credit, but it really struck me.  It said something about how it used to be that moms (and dads) used to think we did a pretty good job as parents.  In years past, moms would ask their moms for advice about parenting and all that it entails. Before pulling up google to find a potty-training schedule or tantrum solution, they’d run to their offspring’s grandmother to get the down low on how to handle any number of situations.

So, I let that sit with me for a bit.  It’s an interesting point – when did we lose confidence in our family’s knowledge that’s been passed down for generations and decide to turn to any stranger online to give us advice about our families?

Living in Guatemala, I get a unique perspective.  Here, there isn’t as much access to technology and the average mom doesn’t look up every anxiety causing parent issue online.  There seems to be less anxiety about parenting at all, actually, because most people assume they’re doing alright.  On the other hand, I have gotten a greater understanding for why moms may have stopped trusting their mothers as the dispensers of parental wisdom.

I have received plenty of helpful and useful advice about parenting from my husband’s family and particularly from my mother in law.  She helped me learn to carry my baby in a reboso, walked me through my first breastfeeding session, even gave me advice about child birth, directed me on the best foods to feed my son first and much more.  All of that worked out great.  Yet, there are some other pieces of advice I thought about twice before implementing.

For example, many people here believe you should give babies who are starting solids a spoonful of olive oil every 2 or 3 days (to make sure nothing gets stuck in their intestines). Ok, probably not really harmful, but kind of strange.  Mothers must also wrap their abdomen for 30 days after giving birth.  Another common practice is to wrap the baby in 2 or more blankets, even in the midday sun.  Oh – and don’t think about holding your newborn in a vertical position. Their soft-spot will sink irreparably (unless you suck it back out with your mouth) and cause damage.  The baby must be 3 months old before this is safe.

This is the sort of advice that makes me think – well, yes, if my mother were giving me this sort of advice, I’d want to find some other sources to learn about parenting.  It’s clear that by searching out advice online, mothers are only looking out for their children’s best interest.  We look because we care.

Can we over-care?

I think we can.  Our own lack of confidence is harmful for ourselves and children.  A reasonable amount of research can provide helpful insights into our children, their behaviors, their development and their needs.  But, a critical eye is needed and some limits must be set. Reading about other mom’s experiences is valuable and provides us with a wonderful connection, a feeling that “I’m not the only one!” But, our kids are different.  What worked for other moms might not be best for my kids.  We live in different places, come from different backgrounds and have different needs.

When I get drawn into blogs and articles about parenting, I try to take the advice and suggestions with a grain of salt.  I take what I think might work and leave the rest.  Sometimes I look for research and science, sometimes I look for a way to follow instincts.  And, I’ve learned to give myself some credit and have confidence in myself as a mother.  We beat ourselves up too much.  In reality, we’re probably all doing a great job.

Oh – and every now and then I bounce ideas off my own mom.  After all, she is also an expert even if she doesn’t have a blog.

 

 

 

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