Recently I had an epiphany while babysitting my 13 month old nephew. Over my last 10 years in supporting parents, it seems that new moms and dads are having a harder time parenting and the problem seems to be getting worse! Our resources and support seems to be getting better since I was a new mom but up until now, I couldn't understand why!
Indulge me for a moment while I rewind to 17 years ago when my first daughter was born. A time where dial up internet was the newest and hottest trend...remember having to put the AOL CD into your computer and listen to the screeching sound until your internet connected? A time where cell phones were only used for making phone calls...we couldn't send pictures, surf social media and texting was a challenge. I know...the dark ages right!
At that time, as a new mom, the only distraction or connection to the outside world was really our TV and talking to people on the telephone or in person. So when I needed advice I had no choice but to call a friend, family member, my doctor or speak with them in person. When my daughter was sick, I needed to call my doctor. When I had issues with breastfeeding, I needed to contact a breastfeeding consultant. When I was having problems getting her to sleep, I called a few friends and family for help. Whenever there was something I needed help with I called someone and asked for help or advice or many times just followed my intuition. Further to that, we can all agree how exhausting and life changing those first few months with your baby are. So when I had to feed her I fed her, when i had to change her I changed her, when I was playing with her I was playing with her, when I was cuddling her I was cuddling her. I was 100% present in every interaction I had with my child...absolutely 100%. Looking back now, that was what help me have a close connection with my daughter and start to trust my intuition with how to parent her. And when she was sleeping, of course I tried to get onto the internet but truthfully it took so long to connect and was so slow that I really didn't have much time on it.
Fast forward to now...we have instant connection to the world through high speed internet and smart phones. We can connect with anyone in the world in seconds. This is fantastic...or is it!?
Now as a professional I have seen so many people resort to their social media to find advice. Asking questions that really should be addressed to your doctor, your nutritionist, your IBCLC, your sleep consultant, your best friend, your parents... people you know and trust. I have seen this going on for a few years and it seems to becoming even more common. There's absolutely nothing wrong with using social media to obtain advice BUT it certainly shouldn't be your primary source for health and parenting support. And with all the controversy around certain baby related topics, I've seen exhausted frustrated upset mothers post a question on social media and then get bombarded with horrible responses only making the situation even worse!
So now comes my epiphany, last week I cared for my 13 month old nephew for 5 days. Keep in mind, this is one of the first times in 15 years that I have cared for a young baby for this long therefore I was acting as "mom" for the week and I've never had to worry about caring for a baby in our new technological world. Each morning we woke up and started our routine. From getting dressed, to having breakfast, to playtime, nap time, lunch time and so on for the rest of the day. And of course, the entire day my phone was binging and going off every time I received a text, an email, a Facebook comment, a call...the stress and anxiety that it caused me was indescribable. I tried to ignore it several times however when I wasn't responding people kept messaging me over and over until I did. A few times I gave in and responded which then led to more binging. And more binging meant my anxiety was growing because someone was trying to reach me and I wasn't answering. After a couple of days of being home with this amazing little guy, I started to get lonely and now found myself gravitating to social media for that outside connection. So at one point I was sitting on the floor on facebook, with my nephew playing in front of me and as he climbed onto my lap with that handsome smile, I thought to myself..."OMG technology is sabotaging parenting!" I remember with my daughter playing on the floor, rolling around, singing songs the entire time she was awake. But with technology being so accessible to us now, it was so easy for technology to steal me away from my nephew. For the rest of the week, I really tried hard to only use the phone when he was asleep. This made the rest of our time again much more enjoyable and I'd like to believe that my nephew and I are closer now.
So my message here is "Technology is sabotaging parenting!"
So here's a few tips.
1. If you need any kind of advice for your baby, seek an expert or trusted family/friend. Try not to seek advise from 10,000 strangers around the world, it will only make it worse! PS...Dr Facebook and Dr Google are not a great resource. Instead, pick 2-3 people you trust and admire as parents and ask them for advice when you need it. After a while of doing this, you will start to realize that you have an internal intuition guiding you as a parent and helping you along your journey.
2. Living in today's' technological world, Steve Jobs did a great job of making our smart phones an extension of us, part of us, part of our daily lives. But it really doesn't help new parents. So as difficult it may seem. Put your phone on silent and only allow calls to come through. Check your phone and surf social media when your baby is sleeping so you can be 100% present with your child when he is awake. This is being mindfully present. Your stress and anxiety will go down and you will be able connect with your little one.
I can't believe what a difference parenting in today's world really is. Parenting is hard as it is but throw technology in the mix and you've just made it 100x harder. Throw in another child or 2 or 3, and now it's next to impossible!
Coming from a cell phone (social media and texting) addict, I know it's hard but this may be the most important life-changing parenting advice you will ever hear!
Advanced Sleep Consultant, PNSW, PD, ANCS
This is a great place to ask your questions. Anything from prenatal to preschool. From feeding to sleeping...ask away!