Let's Talk Modern Mothering: You're the Expert
It's Modern Mothering Monday! Throughout the month of October, we'll be talking about what it's like to parent today here on the Made of Stories blog. Some fantastic writers have teamed up with me and I'm thrilled to be featuring their voices over the next weeks! My personal goal for this series to encourage other moms. We all faces challenges unique to us and unique to our generation, but at the end of the day, we’re all mothers doing our best. This series is all about cutting through the endless “Mommy Wars” and generational bashing to encourage other moms, validate our experiences, and remind each other that we’re all in this together.
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I had a red scanner in my hand and a handwritten list in my pocket. My eyes were wide and my abdomen announced the reason I was in the baby aisle, reading labels and comparing brands and asking my husband, "Do you think we'll need this?" over and over again. I was completely overwhelmed; how do you cut through the advertising and end-cap displays and figure out what you'll need to bring home a baby? I lost it when I reached sanitizing bags. "Wait, what do I need to sanitize? Will I need to sanitize everything? Like, everything?"
A chuckle came from the diaper aisle. "Don't worry!" The voice was attached to a guy about my age, and he gave me a knowing smile. "You can sanitize by boiling things, easy. And your baby will live if you don't sanitize." It was such a thoughtful gesture—an apparently seasoned parent offering a newbie some comfort. I smiled and nodded. "Oh, thanks. That's helpful."
But really, it wasn't. Because I still hadn't found my answer; I was still overwhelmed in the baby aisle. The thing is, all he gave me was yet another opinion, and since I'd been reading "baby registry must-have" posts on Pinterest and scouring Amazon reviews, I was already steeped in opinions. Maybe he was wrong. I didn't know him from Adam. What if I did need to sanitize everything and this stranger in Target was wrong?
I gave up and went home—and then did the smartest research I had yet. I called my sister.
Parents the globe over are familiar with the overwhelm that comes with the multitude of opinions, oh the opinions. Grandma thinks you shouldn't hold the baby too much because newborns need to learn independence; a friend of yours thinks that if you don't cloth diaper you're an irresponsible parent. It's not a new phenomenon, and the result can be a frustrated, anxious, self-doubting new parent.
But I wonder if modern parents don't get this treatment tenfold. The internet has connected us to more opinions than ever, and while we can be more equipped to connect, learn, and research than previous generations, we can also feel like bugs under a microscope. For every article claiming that modern parents are too easy on their kids, there's another claiming we're killing them with high expectations. For every op-ed declaring that Millennial parents are lazy and entitled, there's another claiming we're working too hard at this parenting gig and should lighten up a little. And the worst part? It's hard to sift through—it's hard to know who to let sway you and who to ignore.
Everyone's an expert on the internet. And that's not a bad thing. We all have expertise we can share with the world—even if that expertise is just our own perspective. We're all experts on our own lives. But we are often unprepared when it comes to deciding whose words to let seep into our hearts and whose to let float by.
I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. As part of the Modern Mothering series, I was privileged to read the words of almost 50 mothers from multiple generations and varied backgrounds. Millennial, Gen X and Gen Y moms mentioned again and again that they felt added pressure from living in the internet and social media age. Just take a look at some of their words.
"I think 'keeping up with the Jones' has been a cross-generation challenge and I think mothering comparisons are no different. But I think that our generation has the added challenge of in-your-face social media that highlights only a small snippet of your child, life, marriage, home, etc. That snippet is always filtered to be glowy, beautiful, happy, serene, and visually 'perfect.'" - Megan, a Millennial mom
"I feel there is a lot of mommy judgement that is placed on you for any parenting decision, however because there are so many opinions out there, there isn't one certain way [to parent] that I find is prevalent." - "Sue," a Gen Y mom
"Social media is killing parenthood. NOTHING I DO IS RIGHT AND EVERYTHING I DO IS GOING TO KILL MY CHILD." - Ali, a Gen X mom
We all know that the internet can be a toxic place that scares the parenting instincts right out of us on a daily basis. The "experts" of the internet leave us feeling inadequate, uninformed, and teetering on the edge of insanity. But we also know that social media and the internet are just tools that can be used to uplift or pull down—and we know where we should go when we need solid feedback.
I asked survey respondents to share who or what they used as a resource for parenting advice. Here's what these moms said:
The internet, Google, and Facebook all make a strong appearance, unsurprisingly. But beyond these resources and even friends, aunts, and sisters, one person came out as the expert on mothering: mom. We all ask our moms, and someday, your kids will ask you.
You, mama—you're the expert on modern mothering.
That's why I'm thrilled to be running the Modern Mothering series throughout October on the blog. I want to hear your voice and the voice of other incredible modern mothers. Let's turn the tide on the internet toward encouragement, honesty, transparency, and tolerance—let's use this volatile tool to make the "Mommy Wars" a thing of the past.
Want in? Use the hashtag #letstalkmodernmothering on Instagram to share what modern mothering looks like from your lens! I'll be featuring photos here and on my Instagram account.