Motherhood in the Information Age

It’s only 9am and I could already list about 100 things I’ve done wrong as a mother today. Ok, so maybe it’s only like 10 things wrong and by wrong, I mean, ‘wrong according to some online article I read about parenting in 2012’ but still – it doesn’t feel good. Whether it’s because I plopped my 3-year-old in front of the TV while I cleaned the kitchen table with non-organic glass cleaner or because I gave in to my 1.5 year-olds whining for her pacifier, according to the Internet: I’m a terrible mother.

From pregnancy to becoming a grandmother, in today’s day and age, there’s no shortage of information on the do’s and don’ts of parenting. Whereas our moms and dads got advice from the older generation, a random nightly news story or their own common sense, we are inundated with as many bits of parenting advice as there are Facebook posts in a day! And just when you think you’re actually doing something right, there’s an article or a discussion on “The View” telling you you’ve got it all wrong. Case in point, just the other day, I was telling my son how smart he was for remembering all of the items on our grocery shopping list, only to read an article that night reprimanding me for praising my child for being smart. Apparently, we’re supposed to praise ‘hard work’ but not intelligence. And here I was thinking I was simply boosting my child’s self-esteem! Little did I know I was actually setting him up to fail academically for the rest of his life.

I’ve heard it said that parenting is a lot harder now than it was back when our parents raised us. At first, that didn’t make any sense to me. You’d think with all the knowledge and technology we have at our disposal, parenting would be the same if not easier than when our parents did it. But the more I thought about it, the more I understood this to be frighteningly true. With this abundance of knowledge comes fear, stress and insecurity. Gone are the days when parents could throw their kids in the backseat of a car with nothing more than a seatbelt or let their kids roam freely throughout the neighborhood to catch fireflies on a warm spring night. Forget the physical exhaustion of chasing around toddlers all day, today we’re all mentally exhausted from all the seemingly minor decisions we make on a daily basis that will somehow impact our children’s entire lives.

Wouldn’t it be nice to just turn it off, even for a few days, and see what it’s like to parent in a pure environment, free of the judgment, the constantly being updated research and the anxiety that society (via the Internet) provokes? Would it really change the course of my children’s lives if they started drinking only non-organic milk? I know we’ll never really be able to live in such a bubble or know precisely how the decisions we make ultimately affect the fate of our children, but I can’t help but daydream about this alternate reality every time I’m told there’s arsenic in my kids’ apple juice.

I have to admit there’s a tiny part of me that secretly hopes the health nut’s kid ends up with a weight problem in 15 years and the kid who was forced to learn four languages by Kindergarten ends up failing out of college. Am I a terrible person for saying that? Or am I just a typical mom trying to stay grounded in this hyper-competitive, hyper-comparing society? I think it’s safe to say that for every decision we make, there is an article listing the pros of that decision and another article listing the cons. Most, if not all of the time, you can’t win and parenting becomes a series of catch 22s that could make your head explode. But let’s face it: chances are good that your kids will end up pretty close to the person they’re meant to be whether they were born in 2008 or 1978. And in the meantime, we can try to relax and remind ourselves to trust our instincts more than the Internet – unless of course they’re talking about poisonous apple juice.

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