I remember when I first got pregnant. I leaned heavily on my two older cousins who are more like sisters to me, and who both already had little ones. I would overwhelm them with questions about pregnancy and babies and they would overwhelm me with information about car seats and weight limits, and swaddling and soothers, and oh, no ibuprofen, and watch the deli meats and fresh fish please.
I would be left sputtering, “But, but. HOW do you KNOW all that??”
And they would say, “You just pick it up as you go along. You have a designated ‘go to person.’ Someone who’s gone through it already who can tell you everything you need to know.”
Remember that one time, when Hillary Clinton wrote that book, It Takes a Village, about raising children? Well it damned well does.
Because here’s the thing. I don’t really recall my OB/GYN going through this endless list of pregnancy do’s and don’ts. It was really more me saying, “Oh, and I’m not supposed to sleep on my back after X month and I’m not supposed to take ibuprofen and I’m not supposed to wear horizontal stripes, right?” And my doctor mmhming. If I didn’t have my cousins telling me these things, presumably, I wouldn’t have known. I mean, all my doctor really proactively advised me was to take prenatal vitamins. Duh.
Which leads me to the fact that the single thing I love most about social media (Facebook, Twitter and this blog), is that it’s a virtual community that makes my life as a mom easier, because there ain’t no handbook, hon. (I mean, aside from my bitching about how my cell phone and laptop aren’t working, and uploading nasty pictures of my burnt pork roast, asking kid questions is by far the thing I love most).
Being able to quickly and easily connect with a lot of people who are in a similar life position as me — married, with children — is not something that would be possible without Facebook, Twitter and this blog. If only for the simple fact that I just wouldn’t have been able to keep in touch with all of them through email or the phone. But via Facebook, I AM able to stay connected with old high school friends, college friends, former co-workers, and the occasional weird relative (KIDDING! :)).
Social media is something that defines this generation of parents, and will be a social norm for every generation after.
This May, Facebook friends even helped a mom diagnose her son with Kawasaki disease, a rare and sometimes fatal auto-immune disorder, after the initial doctor misdiagnosed him. Her Facebook community effectively saved her son’s life.
For some people, Facebook and social media might not be their norm, or a useful forum for parenting questions, now, or maybe ever. But for someone who is “wired” almost all of the work day, it’s natural for me.
I also realize that because I’m so active on Facebook, and ask a lot of questions, it might come across that I’m clueless or lack parenting instincts because I ask other people their opinion. But that’s not the case at all, and anyone who knows me well, knows that it’s a cold day in hell when I don’t have an opinion about something. 😉
The truth is, I like information. I am an information seeker. I like knowing things. I’ve wanted to know “why” since the day I was old enough to talk (just ask my mom). I even exasperated my high school history teacher one day, because I asked “why” about something so many times (I don’t even remember what), and she noted, “Your parents must be exhausted.” They were. If you want a reaction from my mom just ask her about the lengthy explanations she had to give me, as a teenager, when she told me I couldn’t do something.
On top of that, when it comes to, well, just about anything, I’m a firm believer in the “I’m sure someone has a better way of doing this” philosophy. Why not benefit from someone else’s trials and errors? Why make all the same mistakes?
Now again, that’s not to say that I don’t have opinions or ideas of my own. I do (the majority of the time, although there definitely have been times where I’ve been like, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING. HEEELP ME, PLEEEEASE.”).
Being an information seeker, I like reading articles and parenting books (honestly just a couple) and I like asking our pediatrician for her advice because she happens to have a similar parenting style and attitude as Husband and me, and because I have not yet exhausted her wealth of information (and since I ask a lot of questions, you can imagine her knowledge is extensive), and because she has three kids of her own. Including twins! And two with ADHD! (If you ever want to hear me go on and on and profess my undying love for someone other than my husband, just ask me about the girls’ pediatrician. One of the reasons I love her so much is because she NEVER makes me feel stupid for asking questions and she NEVER makes me feel rushed. And as someone who asks a lot of questions, I’ve had people both make me feel stupid and like I’m wasting their time; a certain realtor comes to mind.)
Even though I’m the information seeker, I’m never making decisions without the full support of Husband. We’re both totally on the same page.
But getting back to the reason I ask a lot of questions — it’s because I’m seeking advice and input from people I trust — friends, relatives, doctors — and then using their constructive feedback to either affirm what I’m doing is best for my family, or consider a new, better approach. I’m open to new ideas, so I ask. Living in a vacuum benefits no one (in my opinion). And honestly, this applies to my parenting style as much as it applies to when I ask my Facebook friends who are horse owners the best way to get rid of horse flies (because Google yielded limited help).
You remember the old adage, “two heads are better than one,” right? How about “there’s more than one way to skin a cat?” (who ARE these people anyway, and WHY are they skinning cats??) I guess the reason I’m open to other ideas is because I also tend to have a collaborative leadership style. Let’s all throw our ideas together and come up with the best way.
Social media makes this exceptionally easy (for me) because everyone can throw in the things that worked best for them, I can evaluate them based on what I think is best for my family, use some and leave the rest. How awesome is that? It’s probably the closest thing we’re ever going to get in terms of a parenting handbook.
So far my experience has been that mothers especially, when asked (and sometimes even when it’s unsolicited), are MORE than happy to offer their tips and tricks to navigating parenthood. Whenever I get together with moms in person, inevitably we end up sharing ideas on potty training, the transition to the big kid bed, nuk weaning, and, well, that’s as far as I’ve gotten because my kids aren’t older than three. I’m sure that when all of our kids are older we’ll be swapping notes on bullying, homework habits and how to have “the talk.” (shudders)
I think the same holds true for asking moms questions on the phone or online. Other moms have even told me, “I’m so glad you asked that questions because I really wanted to see what everyone’s answers were.”
Perhaps I rely on social media more than the average person because I work by myself and don’t have the benefit of asking real live human beings … anything.
Don’t get me wrong, social media will never replace my relationships with the 3-4 women whom I’m closest with. Ironically, it’s this handful of women that I almost never interact with on Facebook. We still call each other. (Side note, last night Monkey was pretending to talk on the phone and Husband said, “Monkey, you need to hang up the phone now and come eat dinner,” and she said, “What do you mean, hang up the phone?” OMG. Husband and I looked at each other with somewhat stunned expressions. We realized that Monkey, having never really seen a phone that goes on a “hook,” didn’t know that “hang up the phone,” meant “disconnect the call.” Husband said, “What are we going to say to our kids when they’re teenagers? Flip the phone closed? End the call?” I said, “Maybe we’ll just say, ‘GET OFF THE GODDAMNED PHONE.’”)
So what do you think? Is asking questions a sign of weakness or “cluelessness,” or do you think there’s value in shared knowledge. What’s your mothering style? Have you embraced social media as a tool in your mothering arsenal? Do you frequently poll your friends to get advice on parenting issues? Or do you prefer to talk with your mom friends “offline.” Or maybe you don’t feel the need to ask anything?
As a side note, this week marks the second anniversary of this blog, and I just wanted to thank you again for being a part of my “village.” I truly appreciate all of the comments, advice, suggestions and feedback. Not only is this blog one of the tools in my arsenal, but it’s also been a way for me to mark the milestones in my motherhood journey. Looking back on where I was last year it’s remarkable how things change (much less guilt). Thank you for reading.