Ten years ago, I was pregnant with my first child. Instagram will still in its early days. Most people did not have accounts, and the few that did, posted pictures of their dinner plates with a blurry sepia filter. Parenting accounts did not exist at all. I did very little prep for my new baby beyond reading one book someone gave me and creating a registry based entirely off what one coworker of mine told me to buy.
Was I unprepared for some things? Yes. Hilariously so.
Two years later, I had another baby and was a little more aware of my own limitations. That baby also had some additional challenges that my first had not. I did turn to the internet, but at the time, parenting websites and blogs were on the rise. I found them incredibly helpful when I needed information on a specific issue I was having. I could search for exactly what my problem was and usually find some sort of advice.
Fast-forward to 2019. I was pregnant with my third and final baby right as parenting accounts began to appear. Mainly on Instagram, these accounts are organized around topics such as feeding, sleeping, health, discipline, etc. How great! I thought, I’m following everything! Since it had been a few years since my last baby, I dove deep into learning all the new advice, tips, tricks, and gadgets available to parents. I learned a vast amount of information very quickly and found myself often saying, “I wish I had known this with my first baby!”
With an arsenal of information at my fingertips, I was more prepared than ever. Right?
That’s hard to answer. I sure did have a lot of information, but in hindsight I can say it was too much. I was overwhelmed with information. “Gentle reminders” in the form of aesthetically pleasing Instagram posts that turned out to be not so gentle.
A quick scroll through my home page looked like:
Post 1: Babies need 4 naps a day and 12 hours of nighttime sleep.
Post 2: Here’s what all the different types of crying sound like.
Post 3: 5 reasons tummy time will help your baby.
Post 4: Wait this long to introduce a bottle.
Post 5: Ditch time out for time in.
Post 6: Your toddler’s plate needs these 4 things.
All good advice? Sure. True advice? Yes. Did I need all of that in one scroll of the home page? No.
It was overwhelming and anxiety-inducing to have that much information fed to me at such a quick pace. I wanted to be a good mom. I felt like I needed all that information in order to make the best choices, but honestly, it gave me decision paralysis and constant worry that I was doing something wrong. If I didn’t get every single aspect of parenting perfect according to the “experts,” then I was failing.
That has led me to another discovery.
As the years have gone by and I’ve continued following these parenting accounts, I’ve noticed some trends. First of all, they are all selling something. They’ve got courses and brand deals. I’ve been in these spaces long enough to see some of their advice change based on affiliate deals. Interesting, right?
Secondly, I’m not sure all of these accounts have the expertise they claim. There are some very good ones out there with qualified professionals giving advice. But I’ve also found many popular accounts that appear to be run by moms who feel passionate about a topic and are good at graphic design. They don’t actually hold degrees or work in the field. There is value in moms sharing info with other moms, but I personally prefer to get my information from professionals who have been immersed in their field of study for a long time.
Now that my kids are older and I admittedly don’t need much of the baby/toddler advice that most parenting accounts focus on, I can reflect a bit on the value these accounts added to my life. My conclusion: I learned a lot, but I wish I had only sought out the information I needed. If I could go back, I would unfollow all those accounts. Some of them have some great information if you are struggling with a specific issue. It’s great to know they are there if you need them. If you are at all prone to anxiety, especially in the early postpartum days, these accounts might be too much. Also, some of the advice can be bad. The internet is a wild place.
Here in the south we like to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I feel like this is especially useful when it comes to online parenting advice. You don’t need to change something that is working for you just because an Instagram post said there was a better way. The internet has given us great opportunities to expand our motherhood circle, but it can also overwhelm you if you grow that circle too big and too wide.