Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Raised by the Internet...and my heart.

This month's theme in the Carnival of Natural Parenting is "Parenting Essentials: I cannot imagine parenting without __________." For me, the answer was at my fingertips.

Everything I know about being a mom I learned from the Internet.  Almost.

When I felt my very first pregnancy symptoms, I raced to Dr. Google. When it came time to prepare for baby's arrival, I consulted baby message boards. As I readied myself for Jack's birth, I packed my hospital bag while consulting a list I found on the web. After my son arrived, I consulted the Internet for every little sniffle and cry. I routinely checked out baby milestone guidelines to make sure that he was progressing on track. I will admit to typing the phrase "is green newborn poop normal?" into Google. More than once. (Although I won't own up to making any comparisons by using a Google image search).  When 2010's rash of baby recalls hit - everything from strollers to cribs to teething tablets - I checked the 'net for the latest data on what products were safe and what was recalled. And if I needed a fast answer to something, a simple "Hey, parents, I have a question" post on Facebook brought all kinds of answers right to my inbox. And how else would I fall in with the crunchy, whole foods, cloth diapering, amber necklace wearing crowd that I love so dearly?  God knows my real-life crew find that nuts, but my Internet tribe is right with me.

How on Earth did people manage to have children before the Internet? I can't imagine parenting without it, yet it wasn't long ago that everything I've described here would have been classified as fanciful science fiction.

The old phrase that "it takes a village to raise a child" is certainly true. Our ancestors - heck, our parents - often had close families, friends and neighbors they could turn to when they had problems, questions, concerns or insecurities. The answers may not have been as fast as Google, but they were given with love and concern, and backed by experience. While I couldn't tell you the first name of a single person on my block, my mom grew up knowing the names and families of every child in her whole neighborhood. We've lost a lot of that community closeness, that knowledge base that people before our generation relied upon so heavily. In some ways, this big new world is okay: Google doesn't mind if you ask it about how to soothe a baby at 2:30 a.m.; Aunt Edna, on the other hand, probably wouldn't appreciate the late night call.  But the Internet can't say, "hey mama, you are doing great but I think you need a little rest. Let me rock the boy for an hour while you get a nap." We miss out on some very special things without that kind of a village.

The Internet also brings with it lots of bad advice, and lots of viewpoints that conflict with my own. My Google searches on sleep advice showed me that an awful lot of parents believe in letting a baby cry it out.  Some give the method fancy names, and some even back it with scientific studies, but to me it just sounds like letting my baby cry and ignoring his needs.That just doesn't sit well with me.  The Internet is my guide, but my heart is my filter.

It's a whole new world, and I'm so grateful for my Internet village.


1 comment:

Mama Whimsy said...

Ooh, I love this! I too have found my "tribe" via the world wide web. I can't imagine being limited to the advice of those I know in real life (Eek, sounds kind of snarky). But really, I feel supported in cosleeping, natural duration breastfeeding, holistic health choices, and our many unconventional ideas. I'm glad you stopped by and look forward to poking around on your blog a bit more!