Monday, September 27, 2010

Parenting and social networking

There's no use beating around the bush, so I'll just come right out and say it: I spend a lot of time on Facebook. This will not be shocking to most of you, who are my Facebook friends (Hi, by the way) and are reading this via an update on my Facebook page, since you also spend a lot of time on Facebook. Let's face it, social networking is slowly taking over the world. It has changed everything from pop culture to corporate culture and it's certainly having an influence on parenting. We're now sharing the scores of soccer games via mobile updates and posting our albums of memories online for all (of our friends, and potentially friends of our friends depending on our account settings) to share But I've noticed that not everyone Facebook parents in the same way, not even on the same day. So I've taken the liberty of putting together a list of some of the types and styles of parents you might find in your friend list:

1. Super Moms. They tend to post in the very early hours of the morning ("14 mile workout done, now on to whip up a fresh veggie strata before taking the kids to Japanese class! Growing my own hydroponic produce saves soooooo much time! Konichiwa, friends!") or very late at night ("What a day!!! Had to finish sanding and varnishing the scenery for the preschool play before work and was late for my big lunch meeting! Who knew 3 former presidents could get so snippy?") The Super Moms make me laugh, mostly because I'm completely certain life on the other side of the status update is not nearly as perfect as it may seem. Unfortunately, the Super Moms seem to be coming at parenthood from a competitive (albeit passive aggressive) place, which can bring out the insecurities (and the claws) in the best of us. I try to hold back, but sometimes I admit to firing back out of spite with a Slacker Mom comment of my own ("Baby is eating 3-day old peas coated with dirt off the floor. Bonus: extra fiber!" or "Someone remind me, is letting your child run with a staple gun also a no-no, or is it just scissors?").

2. Way TMI Moms. I'm pretty sure Mark Zuckerberg never imagined the level of sharing his social network would create, but for some reason this group feels the need to let it ALL out. "Send good thoughts our way- Hubby's finally having that hemorrhoid procedure today and that sucker is the size of a concord grape!" AHHHH! STOP! And for the love of all that is private, step away from the Mobile Uploads! Boundaries, my friends. We all need them, even on Facebook.

3. New Moms. As new of a parent as you might be, and as lost as you may feel someone out there is newer and lost-er. It's all a matter of perspective. So when New Mom posts that she's packing up to take her 8-week-old baby to the park for the first time and is terrified, go ahead comment. New Mom will benefit from your experience, and you will benefit from not feeling like such a clueless moron for 3 seconds of your day. And when New Mom complains about never being able to get anything done, despite the fact she has just 1 child... who naps... you will want to yell, "Seriously???" but hold back, because we have all been there, and done that. Which brings me to...

4. BTDT Moms. They have Been There, Done That, and the phrase tends to dominate their comments. Your post that your baby puked on your favorite suit as you were rushing to work. "Yup, been there, done that." Up all night with a feverish child. "Been there, done that, still doing that 10 years later!" Your toddler painted some lovely "artwork" on the bathroom wall while making a "deposit" on the potty? "Been there, done that, buy stock in Clorox ASAP." That's the amazing thing about parenthood: no matter how stressful, how disgusting, how difficult it gets (and it certainly does), all those who went before us are proof that it is completely survivable.

5. The Sanctimommies. They have a strong opinion on every aspect of raising a child, with supporting evidence and a citation from a parenting book to back it up. They are preachy, preachy, preachy and judgy, judgy, judgy. Most of the time they make me want to hurl, but occasionally they raise a valid point. Very occasionally.

6. Non-Moms. They will LOL at your funny child stories, they will OMG at your adorable baby pics. And bless their child-free hearts, they will remind you that there is in fact a world where everyone wipes his/her own butt and that "date" is not necessarily preceded by "play." You, in turn will be their best form of birth control.

7. Dads. It's 2010 and certainly we've made great strides toward equality of the sexes, but it's still amazing how little a man needs to do on the domestic front for us to ooh and ahhh over his accomplishments. "Took the kids to school today" will instantly generate at least 7 "likes." When Dad so much as hints that he is attempting to put in a barrette in his little girl's hair, the heavens open up. Just roll your eyes and hold your tongue. They're sensitive creatures who require lots of encouragement.

8. Your own mom. Yes, she will have trouble navigating the site (When my mom received a number of birthday greetings on her wall, she angrily accused me of letting the cat out of the bag, unaware that her friends all saw it on their news feeds) and yes, she will comment on all your pics in her own special way (THE KIDS ARE GETTING SO BIG WHY DON'T YOU EVER BRING THEM TO SEE ME I GOT SOME BANANAS FROM COSTCO FOR A VERY GOOD PRICE I WILL SAVE YOU SOME LOVE MOM), but there's something very circle-of-life-ish to having your mom in your social network. Enjoy it, be entertained by it, and be thankful she's still around to drive you crazy.

So what's my parenting profile pic? Maybe a little bit of each (aside from those which are genetically impossible) on any given day, in any given status or comment thread. For me, Facebook is about as social as I want to get about parenting. On Facebook, I have 717 friends, many of whom are moms. In the "real" world I don't (largely by choice) associate much with other moms. I don't do Moms' Groups, playgroups or support groups. I don't have any desire to do lunch with the ladies and dish about our kids. I know there are many women who crave and need that kind of interaction- I just don't happen to be one of them. Perhaps it will change as my kids get older, but right now I still feel like a novice in this parenting adventure, and I've always preferred to fly solo. Facebook allows me to have it my way. When I'm online and the judgy judgers start getting too judgy, I "hide" them. This is not so easily done over grilled cheese sandwiches. When it starts feeling like every mom is more accomplished, more productive, more everything than I am, their children so much more whatever than mine, I log off. In the real world I watched two moms nearly come to blows over a sign-up list outside the preschool classroom and wanted to run screaming and never return. Social networking gives me the outlet I need to vent, to laugh, and to share, but on my terms, and I think I'm a better parent as a result. Maybe that's not reality, but this is: parenting is hard work, and right now I get by with a little help (or maybe a lot, depending on my mood) from my (Facebook) friends.

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