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Parenting + capitalism = attention, mothers: you must now panic I inhaled the entire parenting section of the library and all I got was conflicting information and this anxiety.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I immersed myself in advice, inhaling the entire parenting section of the library and local bookstore and supplementing my paperback reading with four magazine subscriptions and three different “has your baby grown eyelashes yet?” pregnancy calendars. I learned about avoiding soft cheeses and sushi during pregnancy, how to swaddle an infant and how to “keep my marriage alive.”

After a period of toddler sleep refusal at the 18-month point, I turned my weary back on all parenting literature. Mad, was I! Angry! Those books didn’t work! Those experts didn’t know what they were talking about! This denial phase lasted about a year.

Now with a daughter about to enter kindergarten, I perch on the fence of parenting advice. My strategy now is to wait for one of my friends to freak out about something, then research the source of her panic to see if I should join her in the big fear orgy. With so many friends in the blogosphere, it takes an average of three days for a new source of trepidation to emerge.

While mulling this topic, I saw a certain post. The first thing I’m going to quote reminded me of my relatives’ amusement with my stack of parenting literature:

One night, at dinner with my parents, my mother listened to me rehash facts about infant’s nervous systems and REM sleep. “I don’t know,” she said, wistfully nostalgic, “I just got pregnant, my belly got bigger, and then we had you.” I smiled at her. And then I immediately said, in my own defense, “There’s so much information out there, and I feel obligated to be abreast of it.” But it came out sounding like a weak excuse. “Women in China,” my father casually reminded me, “squatted in rice fields and gave birth.”

Seriously? Comparing our Purell-loving culture with squatting and giving birth? I personally consider it a travesty if drugs are not involved in the labor experience.

But if you can’t trust books and the Internet, who can you trust? Certainly not your mommy friends. the author goes on to write:

At some point, I thought it would be a good idea to send my list to several friends who had kids—to get some
opinions on these matters. And, boy, did I. Opinions, at this stage in the game, are the last thing I need, but I asked for it—only to find, in the end, I no longer trusted anyone save a few favorable reviews of the product in question by complete strangers on or Babies-R-Us. A friend told me which brand of crib she’d bought, and when I looked it up online and discovered that it had been recalled, I chose to stop asking her for advice.

This parenting business is tough. All of the opinions are conflicting. This whole topic is reminding me of my favorite-ever vintage post, circa 2004:

“That’s not tuna you’re eating, is it? Did you know that tuna is composed entirely of mercury? Um, so, do you care about your unborn child?”

“Did you just order a turkey sandwich? Ever heard of a bacterium called listeria? Well, you better find out all about it, missy, because from now until that poor innocent baby is born, your thoughtless snacking can kill. No more cold cuts for you. Or brie. Forget brie. Don’t even think about goat cheese. If you care about anything except yourself. And I hope that’s decaffeinated tea you’re drinking.”

“Listeria? I ate a salami sandwich every day and you turned out fine. Don’t be an idiot. Eat this prosciutto while I stand here and watch you. Eat it eat it eat it. Your child needs protein. Jerk.”

We don’t really need advice. We need facts and friends who can talk us down from the swine-flu ledge at crucial moments. We need friends and relatives who can help us sort the wheat from the chaff. We need our online tribe to laugh and cry and remind us to BACK AWAY FROM THE ADVICE.  I laughed out loud when I saw Tia’s post on Behind The Child:

When nothing else works and the child is disorientated by the hour change as well as being uncomfortable post operatively, Dream Mother sacrifices her sleep and enjoys one to one time with her child, appreciating the smiles and giggles she gets in return for her efforts to entertain the child.

I sit the child beside me, fire up the laptop and write a list like this.

In my early days, I was more Dream Mother. I sacrificed sleep, happiness and relationships for my daughter. Then, sometime around her third year, I just … snapped out of it. And I’m glad I did, because she’d so totally make fun of me now if I were still Dream Mother.

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6 thoughts on “<span class="entry-title-primary">Parenting + capitalism = attention, mothers: you must now panic</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">I inhaled the entire parenting section of the library and all I got was conflicting information and this anxiety.</span>”

  1. “Going It On Your Own” is Inevitable.

    I felt lost when the “What to Expect” books ended in the preschool days– what do I do now? I thought. I had followed their advice religiously, sometimes with good results, sometimes not (I wish I’d never listened to them when they said, “Children will grow out of the thumbsucking habit so let them be”, as my second-grader struggled to kick the habit– meanwhile I ignored the advice of my husband’s 100-year-old grandmother…). But once your kids get into school, I found, when parenting gets harder and you really need advice more than ever, you’re so busy with their schedules that you find you don’t have time to read advice books anymore. Blogs help, but 90% of most parenting/mommy blogs deal with issues of young children. Talking to other parents can help, but if you have teens, you have to be very careful what problems/concerns you share, because you never know what that parent will share with their own teen–suddenly, embarrassment at school comes into play. The Love and Logic series is about the only thing I’ve had time to squeeze in– on audiobook of course, listened to while driving the car or cleaning house! But “one size fits all” parenting advice doesn’t always work as children get older– I think all parenting advice past age 10 needs to be divided by gender.

    So if a parent hasn’t kicked the advice-book habit, I think it eventually happens naturally, and you’re (mostly) “flying solo”. What to Expect the Pre-teen and Teenage Years? You mommies of young children better brace yourselves– or get your reading in early!

  2. There’s someone that will tell you anything. Go with your gut because in general it will tell you the right thing. Well, unless you’re planning on putting beer in the sippy cup or something, but do we really need an “expert” to tell us that?

  3. this time around..but really, with the don’t need to and I am working hard at keeping my paranoia to a low rumble this time too.

    I actually got rid of my baby and toddler books.

    I find hearing about REAL experiences is more fun and reassuring to me. Knowing I am NOT a total loser ALL of the time is really all the edumacation I need.

  4. You know, I think it really depends when it comes down to what advice I’ll take (and what advice I won’t even *think* about listening to!) There are certain people that are my go-to gals, women whose advice is worth their weight in gold. Then there are those people who dribble nothing but nonsense. The latter group breaks down into two categories: those who make it obvious that they really have no clue and those who have done enough research to sound like they know what they’re talking about when in fact they are just as clueless as the first group.

    When I get a piece of advice the first thing I look at aside from who is giving it is did they experience this personally? Chances are, if it’s something they have actually gone through, even if the particular advice they are giving isn’t going to work for my family, there is almost always something that I can take away from it.

    It’s really easy to get swept up in all the panic fads, especially when you’ve got young kids or are expecting. I find it most comforting in those cases to seek the advice of my doctor/pediatrician. They’ve almost always got the right words to calm me down and make me feel prepared should the sh*t hit the fan.

  5. I’m of two minds on this myself. On the one hand, I think it’s a touch naive to just toss out all the info available. It’s true that people didn’t always have it, but that doesn’t mean they were better off. When I was 4 we weren’t wearing seat belts, but my 4-year-old is securely strapped in her car seat, you know?

    On the other hand, the constant panic isn’t really helpful. And now that I have 2 kids I look back on some of the things I did with my 1st and laugh. I was way too worried all the time about Every Little Thing.

    I’m still working to find my own personal balance. Sometimes I do better than others. But I’m getting there.

    ~ Amber

  6. So identify with this…crazy advice out there…constantly contradictory and alway a mother, mother-in-law, or auntie pshawing whatever “research” is offered. Love the post 🙂


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