Thursday, February 6th, 2014
My grandmother lived until she was 97 years old. She raised 7 kids on a cattle ranch in rural South Dakota. By rural, I mean the closest town was 30 miles away and had a population of 12. They had no running water or electricity for many years. My dad and his siblings grew up using an outhouse. They went to a one-room schoolhouse. It was right out of Little House on the Prairie.
How my grandmother would react knowing that a) Huggies has developed an app that tweets you when your baby pees (they say it’s just for a study so parents can know how many diapers they go through) and that b) Stephen McLaughlin is having the internet name his daughter –is beyond me. Actually I know how my grandmother is reacting. She’s rolling over in her grave.
Sure, innovations can be great. My parents (and grandparents) didn’t have a choice but to use cloth diapers and hand wash. Now we have 15 brands of diapers, including organic, to choose from. I started off using Pampers with Fia–the ones with the blue line that appears if your baby outputs 2 drops of pee. Anytime Phil and I saw even a little bit of a blue line, we’d frantically rush to change her. That is, until we realized we were going through some 25 diapers a day (cue grandma rolling over). What a waste, both monetarily and environmentally. So we switched to the brown organics, where we used less but probably spent more to make sure nothing petroleum-based was touching her bum (more rolling over). I am a marketer’s dream.
Here’s the thing that developers and marketers are missing when they throw as much sh-t on the wall to see what will stick: no matter how much you innovate, the basics of raising a baby are innate and primal. A parent cannot raise their baby via an app. Nor should they want to. Though I guess they can name their baby via the internet, like McLaughlin is doing. Right now CTHULHU tops the list. He says it will be a great story to tell his daughter when she gets married. He’s missing the fact that he’ll have to tell her by the age of 2 when she gets made fun of on the playground. And by 3 when no teacher can pronounce her name. And again at age 4 when she’s not able to spell it.
With Emmett, I got over all that first-kid paranoia and went with what is/was cheapest. Except when it came to pacifiers. Since we now have 37 to choose from, you can pop them in and see what sticks, or well, sucks. The only one he took to was the Natursutten–which is the most expensive and not easy to find. I enabled his little habit until last week when I bought the more accessible and less expensive MAM. This, after the rubber on his $12 one was so disgusting it looked like it had been mangled by a rabid puppy–which isn’t far from the truth. Why I’m not making him give it up completely by age 2 is because I want the crutch. I want the easy way out. It helps him fall asleep and soothes him when he’s fussy. So yes, I buy into a lot of this stuff too. But if he’s really sad he needs me. Or Phil. Not a BPA-free device. “Hold you,” he says. No pacifier can replace that.
And I guess that’s my point: In this day and age with app after app being developed, the assumption is we are looking for the easy way out. But the truth is, there isn’t one. Parenting puts you in the trenches no matter how much money or help you have. If you have kids, you should expect to do at least some work. Luckily most of us don’t live in a place where we have to hand-wash cloth diapers in a dirty river. Luckily most of us have electricity and running water and washing machines. Thank god we live in a developed country where our babies won’t die of diarrhea–or in my case two weeks ago–pneumonia. But at some point companies need to stop the madness and we need to stop buying into the more ridiculous gimmicks to make parenting “easier.”
I often wonder about uber-rich celebrities who have babies. Did Angelina use a timed sleep app to avoid crying in frustration when her 15 different babies woke up during the night? I doubt it. Does she tend to at least some of them when they’re sick or does a robot take their temperature? (I’m sure if there isn’t such a device there will be soon). I’m sure she had/has 10 night nurses, but even so, if she was breastfeeding, she would have had to get up at least once or twice and pump–until they develop an app to do that for you too. Did Courtney Cox choose from 30 different nipple creams for chaffing? Did Madonna have to use those huge hospital pads in her underwear after childbirth? Whether or not you have a c-section or vaginal birth, you still bleed. A lot. Will they make one that tweets when the pad needs changing?
I have to assume all these moms had to roll up their sleeves and parent. Why else would you have kids if you don’t want to do any of the work?
As my friend Cassandra kept telling me when Emmett was a baby, “It’s time to mom-up.” I was worried about letting my night nurse go. I went so bat sh-t crazy/delusional with Fia from lack of sleep. I was terrified to go down that same path. So during my pregnancy with Emmett, I had a stash of money saved so I could pay for my sleep. Granted we have no family nearby, and that is different than when my grandma had her extended one close by. And with 7 kids, the older ones helped with the younger ones. But there comes a point when things like apps that tweet your baby’s pee becomes indulgent. I know, because I was–and can be–indulgent. But I hope I’m smart enough and have enough mom instinct to know when to draw the line.
As for having the internet name your kid? Well, that’s just stupid. When the story came out two weeks ago, I flagged it as something to write about. But I didn’t. Why? Because I was parenting from the trenches, taking care of my 2 really sick kids. I was too busy being a mom–and worrying about my kids–to worry about writing a blog based on yet another indulgence of the internet.
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