Let me start by stating the painfully obvious: Modern moms have a lot on their plates.
This is not to say that Moms in other eras haven’t been as busy. In fact, I would go so far as to say that even in the Palaeolithic Age (also called the Old Stone Age), about 3.3 million years ago, ancient hominin (pre-human) mothers also had their stone plates full – what with feeding their kids well, ensuring animal bones didn’t get stuck in their tiny pre-human throats, protecting them from carnivorous predators, ensuring they had the best educational stone toys to play with, working on their own postpartum mom-bods, scheduling and managing prehistoric girls’ nights out/ date nights/ play-dates and many more pressing requirements of the day!
However, they enjoyed a privilege or a freedom that us modern human moms don’t - they were wealthy in ignorance. The sweet bliss of ignorance. An abundant lack of unnecessary information. Wow. Sounds delectable, doesn’t it?
Sure, Paleolithic moms must have faced many dire challenges (keeping their kids tightly within the thin space between living and dying accidentally and violently, due to the unchecked forces of nature back then), but they had nothing on what we face today - we have the darn internet to deal with!
(Please understand that I appreciate the irony here – you are indeed reading my words off of our precious shared internet, so I do understand the benefits of this all-powerful connecting medium – the web. But the internet also has presented unprecedented challenges for the Momkind, culturally unique to this day and age)
As if contending with and sorting through the many tips and opinions we inherit from our own mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, grandmothers-in-law isn’t enough, we have to now put up with this Internet-in-Law as well!
So, yes the Internet. Social Media. Opinions. Likes. Comments. Anonymous. Experts.
As if contending with and sorting through the many tips and opinions we inherit from our own mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, grandmothers-in-law isn’t enough, we have to now put up with this Internet-in-Law as well! Modern parents have access to accidental anxiety at the tip of our fingertips. There is a deluge of information and deluges often cause damage or strain on surfaces they fall on. These surfaces: Our souls. Our already-weary new parent-souls.
It ought to be a bit discombobulating that this sounds so familiar - a groggy under-slept mother Googling her nervous queries into the night and clicking through tens of information pieces or expert articles which could be frightening enough to make her wet her postpartum pants.
Something like this happened to me in a roundabout way recently and it shook me up. My trusted pediatrician sort of assured me that my baby was okay even though he was in the 12th percentile in terms of weight. But I, having seen ‘perfect’ baby pictures on social media for months on end, and being told by Mr. Google that my baby wasn’t growing ‘normally’, went into a state of perennial worry and obsession. I, an otherwise reasonably intelligent adult, was reduced to being a crazy person who painstakingly monitored each morsel that went into my baby’s precious body (and also what came out of it and when). Sure, this could be part and parcel of a parent’s life, but it also drives you crazy, maybe unnecessarily.
The minute I paused and listened to my gut, I could observe that my baby was just fine. As my partner reasonably pointed out ‘just like all adults aren’t the same weight or height, all babies won’t grow the same way either’. Duh!
Common sense. Gut. Intuition. Whatever we may call that inner voice and wisdom that has somehow gotten muted, dismissed, overridden, silenced by the noise outside – we must rediscover it and learn to listen to it, in this age of information overload!
The internet ain’t going anywhere, nor should it – we use it for connection, information, entertainment – but I do want to encourage us parents to use our own inner compasses (read: gut, intuition, because after all, we are all WIP experts on our own kids) to navigate these tricky times where e-subjectivity is often confused with e-expertise.
This is my only advice.
And, to finish this indulgent monologue, in terms of how I am managing at least as well as, if not better than, any Old Stone age Paleolithic mom with her stone tools would have, are these few gentle ways that help, nourish, encourage me on this beautiful complex journey of raising another human:
- Self-care. I try as much as I can to be my own friend. I read somewhere the other day, ‘comfort yourself like you would your own child’, and believe me I try to do that as often as I can. It helps. For unless I am well taken care of and happy, I won’t be able to nourish another body, relationship, or connection.
- Digital detox. I turn off social media apps, put my phone away from time to time. It could be for a few hours, could be a couple of days. I have been gradually building my confidence by observing and thinking about my baby and his needs, as opposed to reading schedules and information from ten different sources and inevitably feeling confused. It brings me perspective, peace and a sense of calm.
- A care-team I trust. This one is very important. Our former pediatrician wasn’t making me feel empowered to do great at my job of parenting, so I dumped him and moved on. I have been following this same criteria for my own doctor, dentist(s), lactation support, doulas. This simplifies life and cuts out the drama (I have become allergic to drama).
- Finding my tribe: Motherhood often inspires questions, fears, worries, anxieties, doubts (in addition to the gorgeous feelings of connection and bonding with one’s kid of course) There is so much pressure on us and it can be isolating, so much so that we resist asking for help/ a shoulder to rest on. In such times I started considering the most supportive people in my life - family, friends, neighbors, support groups, church going communities (wherever your people may be) - and started having honest conversations with them as to how I was feeling. Some were able to listen patiently, some were ambivalent, others were therapeutic company. I have, since then, held on to the people who contributed to my journey constructively (emotionally, spiritually or logistically).
Thank you for reading. Here’s wishing you a crazy-free internet experience and a peaceful confident parenthood. Cheers!
P.S. I don’t think we reference Paleolithic moms in modern parenting conversations as much as we should. If not really helpful, it's at least funny.
Jasmine is a partner at Freshly Moms and Director of Food Safety and Quality Assurance. She is a Food Science graduate from McGill University and has worked extensively in the food and beverage industry. She is a fresh mom herself who is passionate about perinatal care and nutrition.