Yes, I am aware I’m a parent on the internet but hear me out.
The internet is an amazing thing. We have all the information we could ever want at our fingertips, literally. This comes in handy when you’re having an argument about the definition of irony with your husband and want to prove him wrong. But, in my humble opinion, having this much knowledge sitting at the bottom of your Target purse is not always sunshines and roses. I have a tendency to second-guess myself since I can simply look everything up. I live 20 minutes from the airport but I still put it in my GPS every time I travel.
In our digitally-charged, information-rich world, some things should remain real-life-only. And by “some things” I mean most parenting advice. On the one hand, we have something our parents didn’t – the ability to create communities of people across the globe. You can find support and a virtual shoulder for just about any issue you might have as a mom. But, on the other hand, any idiot can start a blog. Take this one, for example. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, yet you will find at least one in just about every Facebook moms’ group. Because of that, a quick Google search about baby acne could send you down a rabbit hole making you question every parenting move you’ve ever made. And the more you Google, the harder it is to stop.
It doesn’t make sense. Why are we so quick to assume that what we are doing is wrong? Why would a complete stranger’s “expert” advice sway us so far away from trusting our friends, family or personal instincts? For all we know, that “expert’s” kids are a bunch of hoodlums stealing Mello Yellow from 7-11 as we speak!
My personal theory: our shopping habits have affected how we parent. When our grandmas and moms needed a new toaster oven, there was no Google or Amazon reviews to read. They had to rely on friends or family to recommend one. The same went for parenting. Sure, there were parenting books (just like there were consumer reports). But quick, on-the-fly questions were answered personally or instinctively. Now, if I’m in the market for a new toaster oven I don’t need to ask anyone I know about which is the best. A quick search will lead me to the best oven in my price range. Same with parenting advice. Got a rash you can’t identify? Google it. Sitting in your nursery rocking chair at 3am for the bazillionth night in a row because your 6 month old won’t sleep anymore? Google it.
One problem with Googling everything is you get thousands of articles plus the comments to read through. For every article you read on how to parent your child, you can find 4 others that contradict it. The other problem is words.
Communication, in general, has limitations. To truly have a shot at conveying your message, a listener needs to be able to see your facial expressions, body language and hear your tone. And even then, what they infer may not completely match what you were trying to say. Perceptions about you are formed as much by what you don’t have/say/do as what you do have/say/do. Being absent of an attitude, feeling or emotion automatically makes people assume you are the opposite of that attitude, feeling or emotion¹. Which means that if you’re not showing warmth, then you are being cold.
I think it’s fair to assume that we perceive written messages similarly. If I read an article that tells me a no-cry sleep method is best, I might conclude that a cry-it-out method is worst. And then, because I like to torture myself, I would recall that I have let my baby cry it out before. If I used the worst sleep method then I am quite obviously the worst mother. Duh. And now I’m mad because this complete stranger wrote an entire article to shame ME.
By all means, if you need ideas on ways to get your 8 month old to sleep longer, Google it! But take what you read with a grain of salt. Mom-guilt and mom-shaming is a real thing and has been for generations. And with 3 billion internet users, we have a lot of people to contend with. Just remember that next time you go to The Google and are told you’re doing it wrong.