I have heard lots of older adults marvel at baby carriers, fancy double strollers, and other baby gear that they would have appreciated in their day. Parenting now is a lot different than in generations past. The biggest difference in parenting (in my opinion) is the Internet and technology. I have a love/hate relationship with both and here’s why.
Connection to Loved Ones
With the invention of social media and email, it is easy to share photos and updates with loved ones (and that obscure high school acquaintance) in a matter of seconds. Gone are the days of getting photos developed and mailing them out. Heck, I can live stream special events if I want to.
Did you know that once the combined weight of your child plus the car seat exceeds either 65 or 69 pounds (depending on rear or forward facing,) the LATCH anchors are no longer safe to use? You should be using the seatbelt to install the car seat. Guess where I learned that? The Internet. I never would have known otherwise. Yes, I actually read my car seat manuals when I get new ones, but it’s hard to remember all of the limits, numbers and rules, especially when you wind up using one seat for years. I learned a TON about car seat safety from the Internet. One doctor told me one time that my child should stay rear facing until age two. The Internet is really where I learned more about recommendations and safety.
Not only that, but I can Google what temperature is concerning for a child and warrants a doctor’s visit. I can ask in a Facebook Mom group whether I should take my child in for a persistent cough when she doesn’t have a fever. (I did. It was an ear infection.) I can research various baby or kid products rather than going to five different stores to compare what’s out there.
I have found a number of support groups on Facebook. There are a few “Mom Groups.” While one is great for the type of questions I referenced above, another has helped me determine whether I am safe to eat a food past an expiration date or which dress I should wear to a military ball. (That group is more like a group of friends than anything else. Never mind the fact that I have never met most of them in real life. However, I have actually met two of them and no one murdered me, so #winning!)
I also am in a number of groups for parents of children with various special needs. These, again, provide not only support, but knowledge as well. I learned about what genetic tests to ask for when none of the doctors were suggesting them, or what cup might work for my daughter who was not interested in any cup or bottle. Likewise, those parents understand celebrating “inchstones,” not just milestones, when your child is developmentally delayed. While my friends have all been amazing and supportive, it’s always nice to connect with someone who really “gets it.” (Just like when your civilian friend complains about her husband being gone for a few days for a business trip, and you have difficulty understanding why four nights alone is such a challenge.)
If you haven’t gotten a month’s worth of diapers auto-delivered or a necessary child travel item ordered two days before vacation, you are clearly more organized than I am. Bravo.
While I am not a hardcore Birthday Mom, I do always make my daughter’s birthday cakes. The last two have been based on ideas I found on Pinterest. (I don’t expect anyone to be pinning my amateur cakes. But they were delicious!)
Now onto the Cons:
These are the moms who will either openly criticize your parenting decisions or try to passive-aggressively shame you.
“Oh that’s great that you feel comfortable with your store-bought baby food. I always enjoyed making organic homemade food, so I knew Cherub wasn’t getting any nasty ingredients.”
“Breast is best, Mama, I don’t care that you are a single mom working two jobs/don’t have a great supply/don’t want to/whatever, if you really want the best for your baby you will find a way to make it work.”
“I gave birth without drugs, I don’t see why anyone else would need them.”
(Disclosure: not everyone who makes these choices are jerks like this. These were just examples. By the way, I should have bought stock in Gerber baby food.) These things tend to happen in more anonymous settings, but I’m sure some people have crappy friends who do this, too. (My friends are all awesome.) The fine line here is safety. When someone shares a video of their eight month old on the back of a motorcycle, send them a private message about why this may be a safety concern. Public shaming isn’t a good look.
We all know one (or ten.) The thing is, we usually aren’t attributing the fact that your child is doing long division and parallel parking at age four to your stellar parenting. We are just rolling our collective eyes at your need to brag and possibly make us feel inadequate. And we may be unfollowing you. Your kid still might end up arrested at 17, so don’t get ahead of yourself bragging about how perfect he is.
Safety/Best Practice Concerns for Parents
“No screen time before two!” (HAH! My five month old likes cartoons. Judge away. I get to take a shower and do some laundry sometimes. You know, glamorous things.)
But as kids get older, there are additional questions about when to allow kids to have cell phones, social media accounts, and how to limit them. Then there is concern about safety when using them. Children can be victimized by online predators, cyber bullying, or make poor decisions that will live on in infamy thanks to technology.
Pinterest is Ruining Parenting
Yes, I know I used it for my birthday cakes. It’s not all bad. But Pinterest, and the Internet as a whole, has taken holidays to a whole new level of Extra. Elf on the Shelf, Leprechaun traps, Valentine Boxes, gender reveal parties, professional photo shoots to smash a cake. Easter has become Christmas 2.0 (we got candy and maybe one toy; now kids get Power Wheels). Then there are the birthday parties that cost as much as a wedding.
It become such a a competition.
Our birthday “parties” consist of myself and my husband singing Happy Birthday. Until kids are in school and have friends, I don’t see the point in spending a ton of money on parties for them. My birthday parties prior to school age consisted of my family, including maybe some local grandparents and aunts and uncles (LOL military families!) My mom made a cake. They sang Happy Birthday. The end. It was (and still is) enough. I’m not saying it’s terrible that people spoil their kids. (My parents could teach a class.)
I understand that we all want our children to feel loved and experience all the joy that the world has to offer. I have no doubt that Elf on the Shelf will create many lasting memories for those kids. But I think the flagrant sharing on social media can serve to make other parents feel badly, or that they “need” to do a certain amount in order to be doing enough.
The number of photos of children on toilets and updates of defecating on said toilet is surprising to me. Nothing is sacred anymore. And most of us really don’t care.
Spread of Misinformation (in this case, regarding safety, health, or parenting practices)
“I read it on the Internet so it must be true.” -Abraham Lincoln
I’m not going to give specific examples of the nonsense that has been perpetuated with the Internet because I don’t want to rile up the Santimommies referenced above, but there is a lot of it floating around. It can serve to make people question their gut (and their doctors).
At the end of the day, I think the pros far outweigh the cons. The support, friendships, and knowledge I have gained online, along with the validation that my kids “are so freaking cute!” is worth the eye rolling I have to do once in awhile. I am more connected to friends than I ever would have been without technology, including previous “acquaintances” who are now fully invested in watching my children grow and develop, and vice versa. My support network extends further than I ever could have imagined and that would never be the case without the ability to share and text with friends who are living all over the world.