parenting, Google, raising children, having kids, education

You can read too much when you’re pregnant; you can read too much as a mum. But we like to do our homework. We like to be prepared. ‘Just in case’ is a refrain that beats in the head of every imminent parent and the words don’t switch off once our precious little one is here. If anything, they get louder.

There is so much more to worry about. So many decisions to make. Vaccinations: Do you? Don’t you? Nappies: Cloth or disposable? Breast or bottle? How’s your milk production? Not enough? Why not? Stress levels up? (No, you mutter to yourself and the breastfeeding clinic, I’m fine. No stress at all. Just FINE.) And late at night, perhaps around the time of the midnight feed when your whirling thoughts won’t let you return to sleep (or perhaps you can’t sleep, always listening out for a cry) you log on.

You research; you read. You find out. After all, you want to be prepared … Then you really can’t sleep. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing sure, but too much? Worse, much worse. Or at least, it’s as bad.

In the age of ‘Google-it’ you can find an answer to every question – but you can also find information overload. Worrying about your child’s development? The Internet offers dozens of progress charts to measure your little one against – and none of them are consistent. Google letting us down? What’s the world coming to? It’s enough to depress anyone.

The simple truth is that there is no manual for motherhood and while the Internet can offer you piles of opinions, reams of conjecture and millions of pages of general information that have everything, or little, or absolutely nothing to do with what you want and need, this kind of Googl-it is can lead to more stress and confusion for many imminent and new mums.

At a recent gynaecologists’ appointment, a friend looked pale and sick from sitting up all night reading about how ‘older mums’ (translation = over 30) are more at risk of complications for themselves and their baby. Her doctor, a wise man not much younger than herself, advised her to ‘de-Google’.

“That’s my job,” he said. “If there’s a problem, I’ll tell you. If I tell you nothing, there is nothing. Stick that in your Google.”

Here are a few tips from a group of doctors:

  1. Anything worrying you? Ask your doctor. No inquiry too minute, and doctors are paid not to laugh.
  2. Avoid self-diagnosing online: Advice given without proper, professional examinations is likely to be useless, or at worst, dangerous. There’s a reason doctors need to see symptoms to pronounce a diagnosis or offer a considered medical opinion.
  3. Find two or three websites or blogs that you find helpful and supportive, signup, subscribe, whatever – and filter all the others out (those you select may change as you move through the various phases of parenthood; from pregnancy to birth, that all-important first year, toddlerhood and right through to starting school and the teenage years). Your email inbox, at least, will thank you.
  4. The same with books – one or two for each ‘phase’ of your parenthood is more than enough. What To Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff is very thorough, and new editions also cover baby’s first year – so you’re all set.

After all, as you’ll quickly discover (if you haven’t already) no blog can prepare you for the rollercoaster ride you’re already on. All you can do is buckle up, shut your eyes tight, screeeaaam – and enjoy.

By Gillian Clive