Where does a modern parent go for help with the tough questions these days?
Parenting advice from family and friends can be pretty fraught. It’s often unsolicited. It’s generally offered without much consideration of the fact that the advisor’s children are totally different to those of the advised. Regardless of how it’s intended, it can come across as condescending or insulting, and it can rightly set our teeth on edge. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t value to be found in all that experience.
Likewise, information that we Google around for when we’re worried or curious about our kids can be pretty bloody dubious. Any twit can publish their ideas online (I mean, hi!), and sorting the relevant and sensible from the kooky and downright dangerous isn’t always as easy as we’d like to think. But it’s always available, even when your doctor’s office is closed or your friends are at work.
I think there’s a lot to be said for bringing these two ideas together, and using the internet to glean the aggregated advice of our family and friends. Social media turns them into a kind of parenting hive mind that’s actually incredibly useful. Here’s why:
- It’s always there. Even if it’s the middle of the night, someone’s up – whether they’re on the other side of the world, or they’re just up the street, and awake late with their own kid. You can have a conversation about what’s wigging you and get some perspective pretty much immediately.
- As friends and family members, they’re all (at least to some degree) invested in the wellbeing of your kid, so you know from the outset that their advice is coming from a caring place.
- You’re immediately given a range of positions on the issue in question, and can compare them to glean a well rounded perspective.
- You know the people offering the advice, and can parse their responses with reference to their background and experience (e.g. K is a nurse so I trust her medical knowledge, L was parenting his kids 20 years ago and a lot has changed since then, S has very similar values to me so I expect she’ll have arrived at her position using similar reasoning to mine).
- It’s reasonably self regulating. On the rare occasion when someone is being a jerk, there are other people to call them out, or back you up when you do. In this way, it’s really different from being monologued at by mad Aunty Muriel with no right of reply.
- It’s powerfully reassuring to hear a variety of points of view on any one parenting question, because it proves that there’s almost never one perfect answer*. When we ask around, it becomes clear that there are lots of ways to get it right, and hardly any ways to really, truly fuck it up.
* (except when it comes to vaccination and corporal punishment. It is always right to vaccinate your healthy kid. Always. It is never right to hit any child. Ever.)
I love my parenting hive mind. It’s right there in my phone, and I can access it whenever I need to. It presents me with solutions I’d not thought of. It reassures me that I’m on the right track.
It’s this modern Mama’s best friend.