The Plight of the Average Mom and Dad
Mom blogs and parenting blogs in general make parenting look so neat and clean. Look at their baby, all neatly dressed, captured by a professional photographer. Is this what the average mom or dad looks like? Do you just really, really suck?
Being a first-time parent is scary. I would know – I am one. You quickly find yourself asking a million questions:
“When do I feed them cereal?”
“Is that noise normal?”
“Should THIS be smelling like THAT?”
Being a first-time parent can also be really, really frustrating. Why? Because everyone wants to give you their advice and “wisdom” – whether you want it or not. Eventually, you’ll get tired of strangers telling you about their insane home remedies and so on, and turn to the one place we all eventually turn to: the internet.
Before you even think about Googling parenting tips or whether or not your baby should be doing this or that, let me give you one piece of advice:
Have you tabbed out of Google? Are you hands firmly placed in your lap and away from your mouse? Good.
Defining the Average Mom and Dad
Before we get into why most parenting blogs are horrible, let’s look at the average parent.
So, who is the average parent? Well, it’s you. It’s me. It’s the first-time parent that’s scared shitless as they drive home with their newborn. It’s the couple that occasionally lets their kid stay up a little late. Or maybe they give them some ice cream a little too soon.
You know, they’re human.
Nobody is perfect. This is especially true for first-time parents. But what does your typical parenting blog or mom blog show?
Babies swaddled in cashmere. Kids nicely-dressed, posing for a professional photograph in the park. A newborn that’s perfectly situated in front of a freshly-cooked bowl of organic veggie mash.
You know, a bunch of crap.
This isn’t real. Just like Facebook, 99% of parenting blogs are doctored to show only the best moments. Nobody captures the screaming toddler that pulled their diaper off and smeared runny poo all over the couch. Or the kid eating a fudgsicle before 9 months. Or the parent that lets their kid sleep in bed with them from three months on.
But it happens to so many of us. This is exactly why many parenting blogs are the worst thing for new, average, real parents. They make you feel like you’re failing, when you’re likely not.
Three Reasons Parenting Blogs Are Damaging
The worst thing you can do as a new parent is start Googling everything. Again, I would know – my wife and I Googled everything and anything when we first had our son. And 90% of the time everything we found was either unhelpful, total crap, or simply made us panic and call the nurse hotline.
These outcomes happen for several reasons.
Also, before you say, “But, John, you have parenting tips on YOUR site! You hypocrite!” I know. You’ll also notice they aren’t totally unrealistic. Uncommon parenting tips? Sure, but never some ridiculous lecture about why you should only feed your kid free-range chicken nuggets from your backyard farm. This is not your average parenting site.
Reason 1: They Speak Only to Their Child
So many parenting blogs will offer you advice on sleep training, feeding schedules, what to feed your little one, and so on. The biggest problem is that this advice generally stems from one place: their experience with their kid or kids, and nobody else.
It should come as no surprise that all babies are different. Sure, they all pee and poop and cry and laugh and destroy things. Still, even when they’re really, REALLY young – we’re talking a few months – they start to develop very distinct personalities. This is truly awesome. It also makes prescribing blanket advice really inaccurate.
For example, we struggled with sleep training for many months. We tried the “cry it out” method. We tried putting him in his crib and moving a little farther away every few minutes as many blogs suggested. We tried, well, everything. In the end we settled with letting him sleep in our bed until the right time. (Judge away, mom bloggers.)
Why? Because our little guy isn’t the same baby the author of article X, Y, or Z raised.
My advice is to figure out what works for you and your baby. If you decide to Google things, know that you’re only getting ideas, and that a lot of what you find will likely not work. And of course, before you try anything radical, please consult the pediatrician.
Reason 2: Google is a Hypochondriac (And kind of a dick)
Have you ever Googled a symptom you were experiencing? I’m no fortune teller, but if you did, I’d imagine one of the reasons you were experiencing that symptom is cancer.
WebMD and the like love to think the worst. I get it – they have an obligation to make sure people don’t brush things off and that they actually seek medical treatment. But, this still leads to a lot of unwanted and unnecessary stress.
Now imagine the stress these situations have given you, and apply that to your baby.
Oh hey, grey hairs. When did you get here?
If you Google something about your baby and expect medical advice you will wind up reading about birth defects, autism, down syndrome, cancer, and everything else under the Sun. It’s not helpful and it will only make you worry.
By all means, feel free to look up milestones to see what you might have to look forward to in the coming months. This can be an absolute blast and gives you an idea of what to expect down the road.
If you’re concerned about the health of your baby, do yourself a favor and call their pediatrician or the hospital’s 24/7 nurse hotline. They will offer real advice that won’t make you panic. If there’s a reason you really need to be concerned, they will have you come in with your little one. It’s a win-win.
Reason 3: Parenting Blogs are Unrealistic
Other than that one person on your friend list that insists on sharing every intimate detail of their life on Facebook, most people you know probably doctor up their lives for social media.
We all do it.
Nobody wants to share with everyone that the baby was crying all night, they wouldn’t eat, you forgot to put detergent in the washer, the lawn ne – you get the idea. These things happen, but we don’t share them online.
Parenting blogs do the same thing.
I won’t speak for every parenting blog, as there are likely some honest and decent ones out there. (The Susie Johnson blog, Not Your Average Mom, comes to mind!) But, so many of them are guilty of the same doctoring or scrubbing as people on social media. This can then hurt you in more than one way:
It makes you feel like a bad parent.
Plain and simple. Seeing what appears to be this perfect family, knocking every aspect of parenting out of the park, can make you feel like the worst parent in the world. Photos and vlogs of their happy little kids, never fussing or crying. Tips on how to do this or that with an accompanying photo showcasing the perfect result. Pictures of home-cooked baby meals seven days a week. The list goes on and on.
Note: Even if you can’t make picture-perfect meals every day, you can quickly treat yourself to some great gourmet coffee at home! The weekly schedule for stay at home moms and dads is insane – caffeine up!)
The advice, like their online life, is unrealistic.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of looking for parenting tips online is how many of them dole out advice that simply isn’t realistic for most families.
For example, when looking for sleeping training tips, I saw countless sites that suggested creating a nighttime routine that included: a fresh-made snack, a long bath, story time, a song, and a baby massage.
Not only does that kind of treatment cost you a few hundred dollars at a spa, it takes far more time than many parents have. It’s also easy for a routine to get derailed by, well, life. Unless you have a little robot child on a timer, your baby will get off of this routine in no time.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t shoot for a routine. Just don’t expect to fulfill the idealistic five-hour nighttime routine outlined by some blogger. Also, just when you think you’re baby is on a routine, it will decide to change course for several months. (Yay!)
What’s a Parent to Do?
As much as I hate the saying, here goes…
You do you.
No two babies are the same. Even identical twins can have different personalities. Because of this, most parenting tips you find online will be a rough estimate at best.
If you really want to look things up, know that you’re only getting a loose blueprint or guideline. Most of the time your results will differ from the author’s. That’s great – your baby has a unique personality!
Be patient, try new things, and read your baby as well as you can. Do this, and you can arrive at a place you’re all happy with, together, and on your own time.
Don’t let a blog fool you into thinking you’re doing something wrong simply because you’re not feeding your baby pureed kale before their five-hour nighttime routine of essential oils, a steam bath, yoga, and a lullaby accompanied by live harp. Just do the best you can and enjoy every minute of it. The last thing moms and dads need to do is stress about a life nobody can attain.
As long as you’re giving it your all, you’re on the path to being a great mother or father.
P.S. If you’re about to become a parent, don’t let the hospital stay be an unorganized mess. Go into battle totally prepared and ready to cradle your newborn like a boss with this checklist for new dads!