Just thinking about it exhausts me: I’m talking about information overload—too many opinions, too many experts, too many research articles, too many contradictions.
My shelves are full of books about parenting philosophies, spirited children, raising daughters, and sleep solutions. I follow positive parenting pages on Instagram. I have dozens of parenting articles saved on Facebook. With the click of a button, I can go to Google or an online moms’ group to ask a question about screen time, feeding, sleep, discipline, education, childcare, development, safety, or products, and end up with enough reading material to keep me busy until my girls go to college, at which point all of the information will be irrelevant and outdated.
No wonder I constantly worry and fear I’m failing as a mom.
For every good parenting decision I think I’m making, there’s an article stating the contrary. I find myself trying to justify my bad choices, like feeding my kids sugary cereal or letting them watch two hours of TV on Saturday morning, by telling myself I’ll feed them salmon for dinner and play with them outside in the afternoon. Even when I’m taking a well-deserved break, I’m burdened by guilt and brainstorming how I can do better, be better.
Then I think of my mom. She worked full-time and sent us to an in-home daycare. The daycare lady watched soap operas and made us play outside all day. We only came inside for a lunch of boxed macaroni and cheese and canned veggies. When we were at home, my siblings and I rode our bikes outside without helmets, jumped the fence in our backyard to snowboard on the golf course, wandered around in the woods, and played video games. On Saturday mornings we helped ourselves to whatever we could find in the cupboards and fridge and watched cartoons while our parents slept.
After we went to bed at night, my mom didn’t mindlessly stare at a phone screen, unknowingly comparing how her night of parenting ranked against a hundred other moms. She relaxed knowing we were safe and happy and loved (really, I asked her to be sure!).
Yeah, yeah, I know—when we know better, we do better, and we know a lot more than we knew 30 years ago. While true, more is not always better. Of course, it does us well to know about safety and AAP recommendations.
But it’s equally important to trust our intuition and check in with ourselves about how the weight of all this information is impacting our mental health.
Not doing so comes at a cost—our sanity, our joy, our confidence, our experience, our memories. I don’t know about you, but I’m better able to show up in all of the roles I fill when I accept that my best on any given day is good enough. Being intentional about this affects my family more than any food choice, sleep schedule, or amount of screen time ever could.
So read what you like and ask for advice if you wish, but will you also consider creating some empty space where your own thoughts, ideas, values, and inner wisdom can find their home? Maybe you stop reading fear-based articles or maybe you establish boundaries with the person who is always giving unsolicited advice. Whatever you do, I encourage you to be mindful about what information you’re taking in, how it makes you feel, and what purpose it is serving.
Knowledge is power, but so, too, is acceptance of yourself, just as you are at this moment, regardless of what the “experts” say.