So a few friends are soon to be popping out fresh bundles of joy, and recently asked me for a bit of advice on parenting, or last minute tips.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that the pre-mum me was formed from online ideals: perfect social-mums, forums, blogs, articles; but if I could’ve told myself one thing 2 years ago, that would be to ignore it all, and be the mum who Lily needs me to be.
The internet is so much more accessible now than it has ever been, meaning when you’re feeding your newborn all through the night, you can easily scroll through hundreds of thousands of sites on your mobile, without even having to wait for your laptop to finish it’s updates. Yes, the mum police may be out at me for saying that (see point 4) rather than spending every precious minute with my newborn, but mumlife is 24 hours a day, and there are times when you will be scrolling through Insta photos, Facebook news feeds, BoredPanda or accessing forums/Dr Google for advice.
I was a member of a popular online forum during pregnancy. We were comparing baby vs fruit sizes, parenting worries, nursery ideas, etc, etc. But when the babies started popping out, everything seemed to change into an instant competitive market.
You’d post for advice, but instead be bombarded with competitive mums telling you how their 2 week olds are already fully weaned with a silver spoon, or sharing how their newborns are already walking. They’d be displaying their mum-preferences like gold stars “baby-wearing, bf, blw, co-sleeping…” etc, as though they were already better than you for their mum choices. So just remember, it doesn’t matter how you feed/ carry your baby, as long as they are loved, that is all that matters.
2. Dr Google
If you’re ever in doubt, ask a professional- your GP/pharmacy/health visitor/call111 or in an emergency, go to a local hospital. Dr Google at 3am will have you in the total worst-case-scenario, telling you your baby has a rare Outer Mongolian tribal disease, when in fact he only sneezed.
We’ve all been there, Lily was pooping white chalk, and Dr Google convinced me she had liver failure. It was just her getting used to her new formula. So get checked by a professional, and never believe anything you read online!
3. Social media
I vowed never to be the mama that posted loads of photos of my kid online. Clearly that failed. But I’ve met an amazing community of mamas that I speak to every day. I really struggled with baby groups/sensory classes etc, and found it really difficult to connect to most mums there (I’m very socially awkward in forced, unfamiliar situations!) but on Insta I found some truly genuine mamas who are all there for each other day or night, and have been for 2 years now!
I also learnt about hardworking Insta mums who run Etsy stores selling their amazing clothing/crafts, a whole new world I had no idea about!
Yes there are people who post perfect pictures of their picture “perfect” kids, but if that makes them happy, then let them do it. People post photos of their dogs/bike rides/house/travels/bicep curls/quinoa because that makes them happy, and I post photos of Lily, because that makes me happy.
4. Mum Police
Wherever you go online, you will also find the mum police – from forums through to social media! I once had a message warning me against the size of a Lego tower Lily had built and that it could possibly fall. There was that woman on Facebook who had a hurl of abuse for “letting” her kid poo on the windowsill. Whatever way you choose to parent, you’re always going to find someone who can “do it better”, but they’ve never met your child before, so just smile back at them and keep doing what you’re doing. Haters are gonna hate.
I know I don’t write often but I found the blog has really helped me mentally. I’ve had over 3000 visitors to the site which I know isn’t huge in the big wide world but it meant alot that people read my ramblings, when I find it’s just a way to keep me sane. The 3am loneliness hit when I was in a puddle of emotions, pulling all-nighters with a newborn (hence the3amdiary), and this was my coping strategy. I expected maybe about 2 hits, so it means alot you are here, so thank you. It’s why I don’t write regularly, just when I feel I need to.
I once saw a post complaining about the number of mum-blogs out there but if you come across them then give them a read, as they aren’t often run by people looking for money/fame, but parents who just want a way to express themselves in the big wide world.
“Get your pre-baby body back in 3 weeks!”
“Sally rocks her 6-pack 2 weeks post-partum.”
Don’t listen to them. It’s all lies. And if it isn’t, good on them, but your new baby comes first, so don’t put pressure on yourself to get out the maternity jeans, as you DON’T EVER HAVE TO! It’s the celebs making us feel like we need to, but we don’t.
7. Listen to your little one
Whatever ideals you had pre-parent, throw them out the window. Whether it was no-tv or feeding your toddler quinoa 3 times a day, you may find your ideals aren’t what your kid wants (and I don’t just mean chocolate for breakfast!). He hasn’t read the manuals/watched the YouTube videos to say he likes a certain way of life, or a certain parenting theory, so just play with all of them. I read every book under the sun but I never found one that suited Lily, however by dabbling in different theories, (and alot of tears from both sides!) I have found different methods of keeping her happy.
So what if they’re not weaned at 5 months, crawling, walking by 1, talking or dancing around when they “should be”? It’s often the internet putting pressure on us to think this way – yours will when he/she is ready.
She loved being carried in the sling but also is happy on long walks in the pram. (Yes, I’ve been shunned for owning a pram before…. But how else do you carry their stuff 😂?!) She loved chewing on foods herself when weaning, but also was still on purees past 1 year. I never produced breastmilk and was reduced to tears that I couldn’t breastfeed her, but after 2 years on formula, she is still as healthy as her peers who were fed in all different ways (I also know amazing breastfeeding mamas who have received abuse too for not using a bottle…you can’t win!) . She loves watching rubbish on CBeebies, but still loves exploring the outdoors and going on adventures, as well as reading stories and colouring. She’s only just started regularly sleeping through the night…at age 2!
8. So my advice is just to be careful.
The online world is an incredible thing- it can help us relax as new mums, learn different ways of parenting, connect with people going through the same thing, and help us know what to expect. It can help give us guidance, alternative coping strategies, remind us about the real world, and give us some amazing resources to support us through parenting – from access to support groups, through to free craft activities.
9. But don’t believe everything you read…
Every child is different. What works for one family isn’t going to work for yours too. Yes, what you read may scare you, upset you, or even make you laugh, but as a parent you know your child best.
10. And finally, ignore anyone who judges you.
Parenting can bring you to tears, through frustration, loneliness, exhaustion and desperation at times, so going online can sometimes be your only hope when you most need it. But there are haters out there who are always going to hate. As long as you love your child, that is all that matters, no matter what.