Sunday, November 05, 2006

Paging Dr. Google ... paging Dr. Google ...

What did our moms do without the Internet?

I've been wondering about this a lot lately as I have taken to parenting via Google.

Ideally and historically, women have turned to their own mothers for sage advice about the trickiest troubles of childrearing. Sociologists would tell us that we learn how to be parents by a lifetime of being parented. If we’re lucky enough to still have our parents when it's our turn for midnight feedings and early-years wrangling, we count on them to be a fount of wisdom.

Of course that hope goes right out the window the second you take that first drive with your mom (or mother-in-law) and the baby cries herself blue in the face.

"I'll just take her out and sit her on my lap," she'll offer.

"Oh, don't do that. Car seat laws, you know," you'll reply in horror.

"When my kids were little we didn't have those," she'll retort with a long sigh.

It would also seem that the laws of man don't hold the same weight with some mothers hailing from the 60s era, who would rather have a cooing child in their laps than the distraction of non-stop screaming for a half-hour ride. After all, they burned their bras, got male-only jobs, shut down government and helped end a war, damn it.

"How can this be safer than my strong and loving arms," she'll ask in earnest.

"It just is. Believe me," you'll say with the full conviction of possessing overriding vote.

Between the time when I was a child and now everything about childrearing has changed.

Car seats have gone from tubes of metal slung from a backseat, with little more than a tiny lap belt for restraint and a steering wheel for distraction, to space-age capsules with astronaut-quality harnesses. Walkers have lost their wheels; crib slats have become more tightly spaced and hard-soled shoes have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Modern moms have hundred's more experts willing to sell us their books than merely Dr. Spock.

It almost seems as if mothering has moved as far away from instinct as one can imagine.

In addition to a shifting understanding of safety, parenting styles have shifted right along with changes in social mores, and the fallout can even set modern mothers on a head-on collision course. Studies upon conflicting studies are pitting us against each other.

Circumcision, breast feeding, room-in or nursery, kangaroo-carry or cry-it-out, stay-at-home or working mothers; every potential decision is a landmine waiting to explode. It really shouldn't be surprising since we've all come to accept our children as the most important aspects of our lives. How could we NOT do what's best for them every second of every minute of every day?

While my own mother has eagerly soaked up all the changes of 21st-century mothering; often telling me about the trends before they happen, I know I'm in the minority.

I've got friends who's moms are mortified that their two-year-old grandchildren are still nursing or aren't potty trained. As soon as the bygone mom opens her mouth, eyes roll and fingers open and close in puppet mimicry.

All this study, it seems, is also causing us at times to mistrust our instincts, even though that's really we make most of our decisions on parenting: We go with our gut and when what we try fails, we try something else.

But even though my own mother is a font of medical wisdom, whenever I have a question about what to do about the behavior or some other situation, I still find myself asking Dr. Google's advice.

Within nanoseconds Dr. Google comes through with 18,000 or so answers, and I do what comes natural. After I've trolled all my on-line mom's groups and decided a course of action, I pick up the phone.

"Hello, Mom?"


stefanierj said...

My mom's still my #1 advice source. Anyone who managed to keep me alive (or, let's be honest, quelled the urge to kill me outright) gets my vote.

And a nice thing about Dr. Google that occured to me after reading your post is that it can be a shrink, too--letting one know that she's not alone. :)

Andrea said...

I've found my sister-in-law to be very helpful as well. Her oldest is about 4 years older than mine, and her youngest is about 6 months older. What she's done/gone through in the last few years is in my immediate future. She and I have very different parenting styles but I still find myself asking her opinion on most things simply because she's already been there. My mom is the one asking me how to do things because as she says, she's been out of the game for so long, and like you said, a lot of the laws have changed as has our perceptions of safety for little ones. It's hard. Thank God for Google.

Be Still said...

Today, with the growing attachment parenting movement, I feel many of today's mothers ARE returning to their instincts.

To be candid, I rarely take my examples of good mothering from my own mom. I was born in 1966, an era where my mother was shamed away from breast-feeding by her doctor. Co-sleeping was considered the crazy talk of hippie moms.

Sadly, I don't find many ideas that are still appropriate from that timeframe. In retrospect, it seems like such an anti-mom/anti-baby era that I question almost everything she was taught.

MommasWorld said...

Your blog along with an email I received today made me feel like screaming out loud "Child Safety Must be CHANGED!! The laws such as safety seats and many others are in place due to numerous deaths or injuries to children. I know it is easy for our parents to say "In my day..." but actually in their day things happened, it just took longer to hear about them or they were buried because the Leave it to Beaver consumer group did not want to hear of such things happening in their time.

The email I mentioned was related the death of a 3 yr old boy while on holiday with his family this past January. Part of the story is on and I wrote about my feelings the day it happened on my blog. The family has created an organization called Sammy's Spirit .

You make me remember so many things! I have posts on my blog about the rest so I wont take up so much space here. Come visit me at MommasWorld

Mrs. Harridan said...

Like Andrea, I think I'll be relying on my sisters once I have babies. My mother is the leading authority on smoking and drinking while pregnant, twilight sleep, and formula feeding. When I tell her about the prenatal testing I've gone through thus far, she laments the "good old days." You're lucky that your mom keeps up on the trends, although in her defense, I know my mom means well.

mad muthas said...

hahahahaha! FANTASTIC post! i've just done something a bit similar (but not so funny). come and have tea over at my place, and we'll discuss. (virtual tea, that is)

Tater and Tot said...

"When my kids were little we didn't have those," she'll retort with a long sigh.

"Yeah, and your kids graduating class would probably have been alot larger. But seeing as though many of them were thrown from moving cars, they weren't around to do that fun walk across the stage. But, you know, whatever."