What I want to know is what moms, particularly new moms, did before Facebook and Twitter? Seriously. These social media outlets have saved my ass -- and kept me from losing sleep -- more times than I can count in the 15 or so months that I've been a mom.
Back in the day, where did moms turn at 2 a.m. when their babies began puking buckets? Or when their kid spiked what appeared, at least to the inexperienced parent, to be a dangerously high fever? Or when the toddler who hadn't pooped in a week began screaming with belly pain?
What did our moms do in the pre-Internet dark age?
Now, I'm not one to frequently update my status or to tell all of my "friends" what I had for dinner or how good my coffee smells or how much traffic annoys me. But I have no shame in admitting that one of the first places to which I'll turn with a "mom" question is social media. What better way to take a instant poll of trusted fellow parents and get immediate feedback, even at 2 in the morning?
The first time our baby got sick, I turned to Facebook to ask other parents what they did when their child was congested as all get-out and too young for meds or nose-blowing. I got amazing tips from other night-owl parents and was able to sleep with the peace of mind in knowing that the symptoms my baby was exhibiting were normal. I learned about vapo-rub on the bottoms of the feet and vaporizers and bulb syringes and saline and steam showers.
And when our little girl spiked a fever of close to 105, I was assured that she likely wasn't dying and heard from numerous parents about how children's Tylenol alternated with children's Motrin was way more effective than Tylenol alone in breaking a fever. I've learned about what holistic remedies are safe for babies and which ones are not.
I learned when others started giving their babies cereal and what foods worked with picky eaters. I was assured to learn that my child wasn't unique in her penchant for hurling food on the floor when she lost interest and encouraged to try other foods when that happened.
I found out about Pedialyte popsicles on Facebook and how to cover the nursery floor in sheets when there was a projectile vomiting baby in the house.
In the past year, I've learned about acclimating babies and new puppies and where to find the best consignment children's clothes. I've gotten ideas for what to pack in school lunches and the best place to buy non-plastic food containers. I've found connections for raw goat's milk and organic baby food. I've learned about which strollers and high chairs are the best and which items are wastes of money.
I was able to confirm that my baby's scary looking rash looked exactly like the a penicillin allergy rash (it was). I've heard about the pros and the cons of vaccinations. I've gotten travel tips and heard tales of how moms handled playground bullying or questions about sex.
Of course, Internet search engines and social media are no substitute for bona-fide medical advice. And I'm now on a first name basis with most of the nurses-on-call at the office of my daughter's pediatrician. But sometimes you just need a sanity check, you know? You need to hear that even though this fever or rash look scary, they're really quite common. That the children of other moms have experienced the same things and survived no worse for wear.
I call it the Social Media Hotline, a one-stop shop for parenting advice (among other things). And I can tell you that it's way more comforting and interactive than looking in the index of an old Dr. Spock book or, worse, Googling a symptom and being inundated with the hysteria commonly found on medical message boards.
And I now find myself weighing in when other scared new moms post about their child's first fever or fall off the couch. Because I've been there.
There is nothing better than community. And say what you will about the social graph, it definitely extends one's community. It lets us know we're not alone.
If this weren't true, I don't think there'd be a need for a forum (like say, CafeMom) for moms to connect with one another. The fact that the site on which you're reading this article has grown to over 10 million viewers in three short years tells us all we need to know about the need for the Mommy Hotline. Hillary Clinton was right. It does take a village. And there's likely not one thing happening with you and your child that some other parent hasn't experienced before you.
So, thanks CafeMom and Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and KellyMom and all you other mom sites out there. You've definitely helped this mom make it through her pregnancy and first year of parenthood relatively unscathed. And I think I'm a better mom for it.
How has social media helped you as a parent?
Images via Mark Montgomery; Brooke Kelly