My Parenting Style Is Ruled By Irrational Fears And Unfounded Research

keepcalmAfter the reality set in that I was pregnant for the first time, I set out with a mission. I had to make sense of this whole thing and come up with my… wait for it… Parenting philosophy!

Isn’t that what all balanced, prepared, and rational parents do? I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a helicopter mom or a free ranger, an attachment parent or a cry-it-out stickler, an organics-only earth mother or a WTF-here’s-some-Cheetos rebel.

But here is what I was totally unprepared for. Even with my best intentions, I constantly fall back on my default parenting philosophy driven by illogical fears and some supporting “research” mixed in for good measure. After reading volume after volume of parenting book, I still turn to the Internet to have the final say in any parenting predicament I encounter. (Paging Dr. Google!)

I’m not proud to admit this, but I think I would rather publish my sixth grade diary (full of pining and yearning over some random boy I sat behind in science class) than release my Google search history.

Seriously, I Google the craziest baby-related shit:

  • Toddler picky eater
  • Toddler eats too little
  • Toddler eats too much
  • Baby poop
  • Baby poop color
  • Baby poop how often
  • Baby poop consistency

And the list goes on and on. I’m pretty sure that my younger 20-something self would have been appalled to see me Googling 500 variations on baby poop compared to “Monday happy hour 80920″. But I digress… Freaking Google.

I am an avid reader of mom blogs, but that also brings with it headline after headline of worst-case scenarios, scary research, and kids falling down wells. (That still happens in some parts of the country, doesn’t it?)

Even with my best intentions, I can’t read a scary headline without Googling it to see if it could somehow apply to my life. Toddler drowns in toilet? Google it. Baby smothered by blanket? Google it. Infant has life-threatening reaction to baby formula? Google that shit pronto.

Instead of rationally assessing an inflammatory headline for what it is – a well-written header designed to get attention – I take any and every opportunity to plug facts into Google to find out if the latest news story, research, or baby product recall could affect me and my family.

It would probably be more accurate to type: “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing! Help!”

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You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
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  • 4under4mom

    Get the book, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child, Birth to Five Years by the American Academy of Pediatrics. My pediatrician gave it to me and told me to stay away from the computer. It covers pretty much any question you have and at least it is a known reliable source. I have used it so much, as a mom I cannot recommend it enough. Ohh and take a deep breathe, your confidence eventually catches up with you.

  • Véronique Houde

    I have to say… I’ve tried my best and think I’ve achieved the inner yogi of parenting that you describe (most of the time). Only because I focused all of my energy on being that type of mom, ever since I found out that I was pregnant. Every day, I embrace and smile while saying “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, and that’s cool!” I enjoy discussing parenting with other parents, I enjoy looking up those “parenting philosophies” and their recommendations to raising children, but I have to say that I have promised myself to stay away from Google at all costs!!! It’s led to me being more present for my child, being more confident in my own ability to parent her, and to accept that sometimes I will fuck up and that’s okay. You know what rocks? When you make a decision on your own, and then it works!!! YAY PAT ON THE BACK!!!

    I have to say, I loved this blog post!! Being a parent means constantly doubting yourself, constantly questioning what you are doing vs. what other people are doing. It’s like going down the rabbit hole. It’s a bottomless pit of crazy!!! I love how you are able to look at this, while not taking yourself too seriously, and making it funny for both you and us. I love reading your blogs!!!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Aww thank you so much!! I admire your take on parenting, and I’m slooowly accepting my inadequacies. There have been a few times that I’ve actually gone with my gut and have been right about something, and you’re right, it was like – let’s throw a party! That then I’ll usually Google it anyway to prove that I was right. :-) Ha ha.

  • Hibbie

    I hear ya on the “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing! Help!” Parenting can be a very bewildering experience. Obsessively trying to fit into a single parenting philosophy sounds a bit exhausting, though. I personally don’t understand this current fixation on primarily identifying oneself as a parent based on particular categories.

    Do you like and trust your child’s pediatrician? I ask because I share the impulse to research health abnormalities (and it has served me well in my own life), but don’t feel the need to do that with my daughter because her pediatrician is amazing. She looks for horses but always keeps zebras in mind. She’s also interested in taking a collaborative approach to medicine, so if something isn’t in her wheelhouse she seeks outside help from another physician. In my personal experience, and now with my daughter, I’ve learned the inestimable value of having a quality doctor who listens. I trust her more than Google any day of the week!

    • Bethany Ramos

      I don’t know if I “love” my kids’ pediatricians. We’ve worked with several doctors within the same practice, but in my opinion, it seems like they will say something semi-scary and then never really explain it to me. Again, maybe I’m a total freakball, but even after I ask questions, I’ll end up going back to Google anyway because the doctor was vague about something that they mentioned.

      We haven’t had totally bad experiences, but there have been a few times where they were like, “Your son may be at risk for asthma, bye!” (Because he has eczema and a few food allergies.) I tried to ask questions about it, but in my paranoid brain, I’m like OMG, is he going to die from asthma?? So, it could be a little bit of both, but I don’t feel like specific health issues have been explained very well to me by pediatricians.

    • TngldBlue

      Find a new doctor! I used to go down the rabbit hole of Goggle parenting but I now implicitly trust our ped which really reduced my frantic internet searches. I never leave her office unless I feel like everything has been explained to me-and I felt comfortable doing that because she never rushes us. This can be a hard habit to develop when your brain says “eh, you can just goggle it later”. I do think it also has a lot to do with age-I was much more panicked by everything when my kid was younger, now that she’s 4 I’ve seen so much poop, so many rashes, wiped so many gross runny noses that it takes a lot to freak me out anymore (but the well thing? Still totally freaks me out).

    • Ptownsteveschick

      Nope, they would be trapped in the exam room with me until I felt like I understood. I have asked and asked and asked. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand something! I once asked the advice nurse to specifically explain lethargic because I had never seen someone being literally lethargic from illness. I would not be afraid to say “what exactly would you call wheezing? Can you make a similar noise for me so I can know more what to listen for?” So called stupid questions lead to lots of peace of mind for me.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Very good advice!

    • Simone

      Looks for horses but keeps zebras in mind . . . Thank you, I love this.

  • TwentiSomething Mom

    Its also tough getting your info from the internet because you don’t really know whats legit or sound or not which can lead to more confusion and hysteria. I’ve been there and I am slowly coming out of it.

    • Simone

      Mmm, when I was new to this my friend told me that Alpha Parent was a really useful website. Still haven’t really forgiven her for that one.

    • JLH1986

      I’m not sure you should still consider her a friend after that! yeesh! That woman is diagnosable: batshit crazy.

  • Zach Rosenberg

    When your kid’s of talking, walking and thinking age, the Googling gets worse. “How to get child to stop calling me ‘bullshit’,” “why does my child hump when he lays on my back,” and “my child just asked how God invented black people how do I not fuck this one up” are only a small cross-section of the stuff you get to look forward to.

    • Frances Locke

      One of my kids went around saying “I LOVE BOOBIES” for three weeks. It was a weird time.

    • Maria Guido

      Oh my god. Can’t wait.

  • jmuns79

    This is ME! I have a 3.5 month old, and I’ve read so much useful and terrifying information in the last year, that I feel like I’m simultaneously well-informed and irrational. My husband actually cut off the internet at our house for a week or so when I was pregnant. On the night before my anatomy scan, he came home to me bawling my eyes out. I’d found a whole page dedicated to people who had to terminate pregnancies due to horrible things they’d found in the scan. Why would I do this to myself?

    So I just wanted to say that I’m a freaking lunatic, and you’re not alone!

  • Rebekah

    This author always cracks me up! It is so true that you can find research out there to support almost anything, which can be confusing. This is where trusting your instincts/gut comes in handy, but that is SUPER hard the first year….and it doesn’t help that there are a lot of bum/confusing doctors out there, like Bethany mentioned.

  • Helen Hyde

    Yep! This!

  • Blueathena623

    I am generally a low-key, anything goes type of parent so far. But there have been a few things I have not been chill about (kid’s sleep patterns for the first 8months, language development being the two I googled most.). For both my husband thought I was going overboard and needed to chill out. I just want to shake him. I’ve stumbled across very heated and long debates online on the best type of baby spoon. Compared to some othe parents, I’m so relaxed I’m dead, so let me have my couple neurotic things, ok?

    • Simone

      Lol so relaxed I’m dead, I’m with you there. Kid eating mascara? Oh, brush his teeth, he can’t have eaten too much of it. Only eats raisin toast and formula for three days? Meh, he’s got lots of energy and he’s still shitting – we’re good.

  • Andrea

    This makes me glad I had my babies pre-internet.

  • Maria Guido

    You are not alone. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing either.
    Also, Google is the devil.

  • Bee

    I kinda thought I would be more relaxed about baby #2 but as it turns out kids are actually unique individual human beings (darn those rascals!) & somehow the 2nd one manages to have 9 billion symptoms/issues different than the 1st ones. In fact I think having 1 gives you a “been there done that” cockiness- until its 3am & you’re literally screaming at your husband “OMG! The other one NEVER puked that color before!!!WTH is THAT!” lol But yes Im right there with you. In fact my recent google history would read like this: baby constipation, baby constipation prune juice not working, baby constipation dark or light Karo syrup (after a call to the dr). Unfortunately that last one brought up some articles which led to these searches: baby karo syrup dangerous, baby karo syrup infant botulism, infant botulism symptoms. Sigh. Its like “hmm. let me just google this real quick to ease my mind” & BOOM your 7 pages deep into a published medical journal agonizing over symptoms you A. cant even pronounce & B. never even knew existed (but are now certain your child displays at least 3 of them).

    • Bethany Ramos

      Oh no!! It’s like we’re the same person… :)

  • CrushLily

    The first time my kid got sick I remember thinking, ‘well, when the cats are sick they go off their food, so if he hasn’t gone of his food he’ll be fine.’ Has held me in good stead ever since. At 18 months, when I started to freak out my kid still didn’t talk I was Googling everything there ever was to know about language development and autism. It seemed all the other mothers were complaining their kid was just average (i.e. had 10 words) and all I wanted was for my kid to just BE average. He’s 2.4 now and still doesn’t really talk, but he eats brussel sprouts so he is obviously weirder than I ever thought.

  • Justme

    Stay away from Google.

  • Justme

    Stay away from Google.

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