Why I stopped reading parenting blogs

Why I Stopped Reading Parenting Blogs

Before the Bug was born in January 2015, I did a lot of reading.

Chico and I both got the Baby Center weekly emails, telling us just how pregnant I was and comparing the foetus to different fruit and vegetables (for size, I mean). It was exciting to follow his development week by week, and know how he was growing.

It wasn’t until after the Bug was born, though, that I really delved into the online world of parenting blogs and forums.

And it wasn’t long before I realized I simply had to stop.

Parenting bloggers are not always experts.

I’m someone who likes to seek advice from perceived experts. Most bloggers describe themselves as normal parents and share tips that have helped them (I’ve done it myself!). But when it comes to a specific concern, they are rarely qualified experts.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course. But when you’re in the totally normal state of near-panic when you first get home with your child, you’re often looking desperately for immediate answers. Answers which most bloggers and forum posters are not qualified to give.

Parenting blogs don’t describe your situation.

You’ll never find a forum post or blog article that perfectly describes your situation, or your child’s.

You’ll be thinking, “That *sounds* like what’s happening, except for this, that and the other thing.” So the solutions or suggestions they make never seem quite right, because you’re not sure their situation is the same as yours in the first place.

Then there are the blogs and books (I’m thinking of the “What to Expect” series in particular here) that make things sound so categorical. Reading these can make you feel even MORE insecure, especially when what they’re saying goes against what’s happening at home.

You can’t get immediate, accurate answers.

Online advice never comes fast enough. When you’re a panicked new parent, wondering if what your child is doing is normal, you want answers NOW.

Most people can’t call up their paediatrician and ask every single question whenever they want. If you go searching for info online, you have to wade through your search results first, then see if they apply to your situation. If you post on a forum, you never know how quickly someone with any experience is going to answer you.

You’re craving advice, information, or perhaps just comfort immediately, but you cannot get it.

When advice comes in, there can be too much.

Sometimes, when a question I had was responded to, it brought on even more confusion.

There are so many rights and wrongs, so many ways of doing things that are dictated by our family practices, our cultures and our backgrounds. Sometimes it can just be overwhelming thinking of all the possible solutions to a problem.

Often, by the time I got around to trying any of the suggestions I had received, whatever it was was no longer a problem.

Getting into a vicious cycle.

For a couple months after the Bug was born, I had some books I looked to frequently (“What to Expect the First Year,” and others), and I was frequently on Baby Center forums. I started listening to a parenting podcast called “The Longest Shortest Time.” I became a member of a couple of Facebook parenting groups. I downloaded an app for timing nursing sessions, measuring the baby’s weight, and knowing how long he slept.

While each of these resources was helpful in its way, and none of them was negative or toxic, I became overwhelmed.

Seeking answers or advice, I would turn to one or any of these resources, and would inevitably come back with more questions than answers. That brought on anxiety, as I then tried to find answers to the new questions that had sprung up.

I even wrote a couple of articles myself, hoping that by putting things down in words, I would clear up my own confusion, and thus make things easier.

Finally, I decided that spending my time with all these things was breaking down my confidence, rather than building it up.

So I threw it all out the window.

Not literally. I didn’t throw a book out the window.

I cut myself off. I deleted the app, shelved the books, stopped listening to the podcasts and removed myself from the forums and Facebook groups. I also cut off contact with a couple of people in my life who had proven to be toxic.

I decided to trust my instincts–to trust my husband’s instincts. I decided that the only “experts'” opinions I wanted or needed were our family and our doctor’s. I did hold on to the Quebec “From Tiny Tots to Toddlers” book, which healthcare providers in Quebec often refer to as “the Bible.” But that was the one resource I retained.

And do you know what?

I found myself so much more relaxed, more confident, more delighted with our baby, and happier.

Suddenly, motherhood became joyful rather than fearful.

Rather than over-thinking things, and worrying about how I was going to be a parent, I found the confidence to enjoy every single day.

I realized that it’s not about how *I* am going to parent, but how *our son* needs to be raised. Taking the focus off of me and putting it back onto our son actually helped me make more time for myself.

It may sound contradictory, but there you go. Deciding to be confident and to trust my instincts, allowed me to use the time I had spent worrying to do other things. I made new friends. I got back into my crafting.

Life got good again.

No, life got better. Because now it includes a wonderful little person I am lucky enough to call our son.

 

help-my-kid-starting-daycare

Help! My kid has started daycare!

Today is the Bug’s first day of daycare. I’m celebrating (and distracting myself) by writing a long-overdue blog post!

So he’s out of the house… What now??

I have been extremely lucky. First, I benefitted from Canada’s generous parental leave policy with one whole year of maternity leave. Second, my family’s timely move from Canada to Germany allowed me to extend my maternity leave while we settled into our new life here.

But it’s time for this charmed period of my life to end. It’s time to get back to work. This, of course, is easier said than done.

Since it looks like Chico and I may move around quite a bit in future, I have decided to become certified as a teacher of English as a second language–a career that will hopefully allow me to work wherever we end up.

I’ll be taking a 4-week intensive CELTA course (a Cambridge English certification) in Munich starting in September. I’m lucky enough to have daycare lined up, as well as family who are available to come and take over running the house while I am in class full-time. Not everyone is so lucky.

Organizing your overwhelming amount of free time

Suddenly you’re home alone, and you have all this amazing free time. You’re going to be able to get all that stuff done you’ve been meaning to do! Right? Wrong.

The few precious hours you have will slip by like water over Niagara Falls. There’s just so much to cram into a short space of time that (if you’re like me) you can sometimes end up ignoring it all and wasting time online.

So how do you make the most of the time without feeling overwhelmed? I have a simple answer.

LISTS.

i-love-listsI love lists. Lists help keep things clear, manageable, and tidy. I make lists for everything: To Do lists, Honey Do lists (technically for my Chico, poor man), packing lists, grocery lists, and many more.

I use a notebook to make a general list for each week. Then, I’ll make a break-down list to more specifically detail each day’s plan.

A list of what makes a good list notebook:

  • Spiral-bound
  • Able to sit open on a desk or tabletop
  • Lined or squared
  • Portable (A5) size
  • Tear-away option for the pages

A list of what makes a good list:

  • Short. Limit yourself to a maximum of 3 to 5 main tasks.
  • Specific. Don’t just say “clean.” Clean what? The kitchen? The bathroom?
  • Sweet. Don’t just put chores or unpleasant tasks (like cleaning) on there. Make room for a cup of tea, or for writing a blog post!

Making lists helps me to remember what I so desperately wanted to do before the chasm of free time stretched out before me. That chasm has a tendency to swallow all memory of what I had planned, hence the lists.

Take time to do something for yourself

Whether it’s an activity you love (exercise, reading, crafting), or a personal development project like my CELTA training, take some time to do something for yourself.

The few parenting resources I’ve read (I swore them off after I started feeling overwhelmed last year) recommend that parents set an example for their children of taking care of themselves.

Pursuing our own development shows our kids that parents have enough self-respect to maintain our interests outside of our families. Most everyone who’s an expert on the subject agrees that this sets a good example of self-respect to our children.

Far from resenting our absence from their lives, as long as we strike a good balance between our activities (whether it be work or hobbies) and family time, our kids will appreciate the example we set.

Enjoy your kids all the more when they get home

If they’ve been gone all day, chances are you’ll be pretty excited to see your kids when everyone gets home. As time spent together gets more limited, enjoy the moments you spend together to the max.

As far as I can, I’ll try to have everything prepared to keep cooking and chores to a minimum when the Bug gets home, and put away the iPhone and iPad, and try to nab some quality time with the little man.

Here’s hoping all goes well.

stop_talking_about_your_kids

Mamas: Stop Talking About Your Babies

It’s only natural; you’ve just had a baby. What else is there to talk about? Poopy diapers, how he sleeps, nursing, and just how ADORABLE he is when he smiles!

But mamas, you really need to stop talking about your babies. Here’s why:

Your babies are people whose privacy should be respected.

What? Not what you were expecting, right?? You thought I was going to tell you that you’re boring everyone, and no one wants to hear you talk about your baby, right? Well, perhaps. But there’s more to it.

Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE talking about my baby. I will talk about my baby with anyone who shows even a remote interest. My Bug (who really is no longer much of a bug) is, to me, the most amazing little person in the world, and given half the chance, I will talk your ear off about how awesome he is.

But the thing is, aside from that being kind of obnoxious for my listeners, it’s also kind of obnoxious for my child.

Here’s an example. A few months back, I kept commenting to acquaintances that my little guy wouldn’t nap during the day. It became my main kvetch: I couldn’t get anything done because he wouldn’t nap.

A few weeks later, when all that had changed completely (because, let’s face it, everything in babyland is a phase and is over quickly), I was out with a group of ladies (sans babies) and someone made a comment that struck me.

She said, following on a conversation about someone else’s baby, “Well, at least your kid sleeps during the day, unlike Jane’s baby, who is always awake and crying.”

My first instinct was to protest the falsehood of this statement, and defend my child. But then I realized that the only person who had given this woman that impression of my child, was me.

It was an unfair representation of my Bug (who is perfect in every way, obviously), and I had no one but myself to blame.

A Reformed Big Mouth

So what is the point? The point is that our babies are our family, and our family deserve our complete loyalty. And I would argue that loyalty includes discretion; not talking about our family members willy-nilly, or spilling all their secrets.

Remember, that even though your baby is currently a little blob of a person, unable to express him or herself articulately, he or she is still a person. Just like we know we shouldn’t bad-mouth our spouses to others, we shouldn’t discuss our babies’ every concern with all and sundry.

Your Discretion Will Earn Their Trust

Now I’m not saying you can’t share anecdotes or concerns, or perhaps swap advice or strategies with other parents. I’m just saying that after that experience, and a couple others like it, I’m going to try to be more discrete about what I say about my kiddo. I now ask myself, “Would I want someone sharing this information about me?” If the answer is no, then I zip up.

So mamas, remember: there is such a thing as over-sharing, but the concern isn’t so much boring your audience, but mortifying the person you’re sharing about. Some things should be kept private, and if we get into the habit now of guarding our family’s secrets and being discrete, our kids will grow up knowing that they can trust us to listen and not spill our beans to everyone.

And isn’t our kids’ trust worth everything?