When I first became a parent I “liked” a whole heap of parenting pages on Facebook, along with signing up to a number of forums and becoming obsessed with TV programs about childbirth.
Ten years, one kid later and I’ve unliked or hidden many of those Facebook pages. The ones I have kept are about working mums, or the more humorous, irreverent ones. It’s not because my daughter is not a baby anymore: it’s because the constant onslaught of advice, other women’s problems, and “ideas” was exhausting to me.
In moderation, it was great: if I had a question, these pages covered it. But – here’s a revelation – people online can be much harsher critics than they would face to face. Whether out and out trolling, light mocking, or passive aggressive pity, parenting is a minefield online. Even people who claim never to judge, DO JUDGE. Trust me. They can strike when you least expect.
It also made me worry about things I had no idea I should have been worrying about. Things that utterly baffled my mum when I mentioned them to her.
That’s not to mention the self-loathing that comes with some mums and some parenting sites which have recipes, housekeeping tips and so on and invite page fans to share theirs. I’ve never ironed a bedsheet nor scrubbed a skirting board in my life: never before did I realise everyone else was earnestly ironing sheets and scrubbing away weekly. Hoovering daily Daily!! Baking, exercising every day, doing amazing crafts, flashcards from 12 months old.. the list goes on. I’d probably think I was a pretty awesome mum had Facebook not pinpointed my shortcomings so brutally to me.
I know for many women, Facebook and forums offer a lifeline at what can be a lonely, bewildering time – or simply a grind, for those with older kids at school, in sports, and demanding to be 17 different places at once. And this is a great thing Women can sympathise, celebrate, commiserate, and offer more support to strangers than ever before. The world is a village, and there are plenty of neighbours willing to offer tips and a virtual listening ear.
But for me? It’s all a bit much. I took my mums advice and threw away the books because my baby hadn’t read them. But I still couldn’t escape all this advice that kept on making me feel like I was doing something terribly wrong – despite the fact that my kids seem pretty happy, really.
After that rant, I dare not contradict myself and offer any advice when it comes to taking parenting tips from social media. But. If I was going to? It would be: just tread carefully. Don’t take it to heart. It’s a jungle out there.