‘I’m nailing parenting. I’ve got the whole thing licked. I am such an awesome mum, I might write a how to book!’
…Said no modern parent ever.
Every day I stare at my phone at Facebook, What’s App, even actual text messages (remember those?) and I see hundreds of women (and the odd bloke), at varying stages of desperation and despair, wondering if they are actually just monumentally fucking this whole parenting thing up.
‘Am I doing this right?’
‘Does your child do this?’
‘Is this normal?’
‘Am I shit mother?’
‘Am I just shit?’
The beautiful thing about the time we live in is that every one of these mini cries for reassurance is met with a barrage of back-patting and virtual cuddles.
‘That’s exactly how I get poo out of the carpet!’
‘My baby licks the buggy wheels too”
‘Green sick is totally normal!’
‘Don’t worry! You’re an amazing mum!’
And yet it goes on. No matter how often we’re told by friends, followers and acquaintances (and a host of people we’ll never come across in real life) to keep on doing what we’re doing, we’re never sure. We second guess. We seek ever more reassurance online and, less often, off it.
Parenting the old way
In days gone by each new mum took what their parents did and built on it. They listened to their elders (and probably rolled their eyes at antiquated views and rose-tinted memories as much as we do: ‘Really mum, potty trained at 10-months? I highly doubt that!’)
The system seemed to be working OK. After all, offspring have been getting progressively more successful at life as each generation goes by; even the person who invented the wheel probably had a couple of proud Neolithic parents behind her, cheering her on (Yes, it was a woman who invented the wheel… probably).
Even without the help of a bunch of internet buddies, year on year parents have been raising children that become better educated, more brilliant, more tolerant, fitter, taller, better looking, healthier adults. You didn’t see many Brad Pitts or Serena Williams’ in 9500 BC.
We’re even living longer and that’s got to be at least partly to do with good parenting, don’t you think? Maybe it is worth putting down the smart phone and finding out how the mothers who raised this generation did it? [Barack Obama’s mum, if you’re reading this, please get in touch, I have some questions.]
In fairness, we are probably still basing the majority of our parenting decisions on how we were raised and just backing it up with online research.
I’m curious to see if, after all this collaborative parenting and virtual research and development, we’ve raised a bunch of brilliantly well-adjusted, happy, healthy, little geniuses who’ll rid the world of war, prejudice and poverty…
It’s going to be quite a long wait to find out, but I’m quietly confident.
The collaborative approach
There’s such a wealth of knowledge and experience at our finger tips! We know more now than ever before. It should be easy to get it right, and maybe we are?
Let me just head back to the forums and online social groups for reassurance!
All this online questioning is not attention-seeking or fishing for compliments, it’s genuine concern. We are so afraid that something we’re doing or not doing is somehow damaging our kids or putting them at disadvantage that we look for validation wherever we can get it. Safety in numbers, right?
Actually I think we’ll have more chance of “getting it right” if we trust our own instincts and rely on our intuition. After all we’re looking for answers from large groups of strangers we’ll never meet. Taking advice and parenting props from women only mere months ahead of us in this parenting lark with no way to know if these are the sort of people we’d trust or admire enough to emulate in the real world.
I’m not saying don’t bother with internet forums and social media groups – they can be wonderfully informative and supportive. But exercise caution…
It’s worth remembering that online you can find support for even the most hideous of ideas so just because Kendra from North Country Baby Buddies social network group puts Coke in her baby’s bottle doesn’t mean you should. (Seriously, you shouldn’t. Don’t put Coke in your baby’s bottle. Ever.)
It’s a shame, we’re so insecure because, genuinely, if you care enough to ask for advice then you are, in all likelihood, #nailingit.
Personally, when I look at my own children, these beautiful, terrible, incorrigible, awesome, laughing little creatures that I created, I feel proud, so so proud. I don’t need someone else on the Internet to tell me I’m a good mum!
Who am I kidding? I’m still not convinced!
Load up The Motherload, surely there must be someone out there who’s 9-month old has eaten used toilet paper!
Is it gonna be ok?
Am I still doing ok?
Am I still a “good” mum?
Aggghhhh someone reassure me!!!
Anna-Belle, 35, is a writer, editor and entrepreneur, loves to drink nice wine, eat (and occasionally cook) really interesting, delicious food and the odd dirty burger, leave half-drunk cups of tea around the place and go surfing or snowboarding about once a year to make herself feel cool again
Oh! And she’s a mum to two gorgeous children: Jacques (2015) an Alethea (2012), and wife to Chuck (1983). The family live in Northern California, USA after stints in the UK, Singapore, and France.