At first when my friend added me to a FB group for moms in Los Angeles, I was like, lulz, "OK." I research about parenting stuff plenty, but crowdsourcing seems counterintuitive to me: You know your kid best — why bother sorting through the anecdotes of complete strangers? But after a few months I have discovered that solely by reading the questions, you get a goldmine of insight and hilarity into exactly what it looks like to become a new mother, especially one trying to do this motherhood thing exactly, perfectly, crowd-approvingly right.
What am I supposed to pay this nanny?
Asking how much is acceptable to pay the person that will care for your child almost as good as you would is pretty much concern #1 as a new mother. You would think it would be a spare-no-expense situation, but in actuality, it's just like haggling for anything. Common questions/posts: Guys, my nanny wants ALL the holidays — is that reasonable? And, Am I really supposed to still pay her when she's sick? And, I wanna pay her fairly, but this gets draining. There is usually at least ONE commenter who chimes in that you are supposed to imagine all the benefits you would want from an employer and try to meet them, which is reassuring. Which is why we can't afford a nanny.
Is what this nanny is doing OK or not?
You'd think a mother/woman would have this built-in idea of What is OK when it comes to your own offspring, but you don't. How could you? You've never done this before! You have some vibes, you have some solid instincts, and those are not to be undermined in the least. But when it comes to this weird world of raising a human, you realize that it helps to ask other people exactly what level of bullshit they would put up with. My nanny has missed a lot of sick days — should I fired her? My nanny kisses my kid on the lips, is that OK? Etc.
What can I buy to fix X problem?
Babies need food and some clothes, but that's really it. I say this smugly after having bought every item on the planet to make it easier for her to come into the world, only to learn, just like everyone else, that you don't need most of that shit. The entire baby-things industry thrives on every new mother's inability to not buy shit.
Top questions: What can I buy so that my baby is more comfortable, sleeps better, takes a more fun bath, rides in the car better, doesn't have to sit in a hot car seat, doesn't get too hot outside. LOL, hats. You can buy hats for that last one. (Ah, the sweet sweet beauty of hindsight.)
I'm worried about X.
You wouldn't be a mother if you didn't worry your liver into a pile of cigarette ash thinking about what the fuck is gonna go wrong with your kid. Only natural! Lean in! I'm worried about traveling for a long flight with a baby. I'm worried about giving my kid too much milk. I’m worried I'm not giving my kid enough milk. I'm worried my kid likes the nanny too much. I'm worried that my kid does this thing where he shakes his head a lot. I'm worried that my kid isn't hitting the milestones on time.
What's the best, top-of-the-line preschool?
In spite of studies that show that preschools are critical only for kids who aren't getting any high-quality interaction at home, all the clichés about the thing where the parents go nuts trying to make sure their kids go to the right preschool is as real, and as fucking life-crushingly boring, as you would think. Until it happens to you.
In Los Angeles, it's pretty bad. Not as bad as the infamous off-the-charts insanity of getting into good preschools in Manhattan, or so we are told. But anything that requires dropping hundreds of dollars in application fees, taking time off work to listen to upwards of two hours in tour lectures, only to be told your 3-year-old just wasn't a good fit to attend the place that costs $1700 a month for PART TIME CARE where they will be learning about whales for the semester is a bit of a mindfuck no matter which coast you call home.
Can my kid eat this?
You'd think it would be pretty straightforward what to feed a kid. But no. Especially not when they are still babies. Graham crackers have honey in them, and kids aren't supposed to have honey until they are 1. Was it only raw honey they can't eat? Fuck. Now I'm paranoid. Also: Allergies.
Which of these 12 car seats is the safest?
If you have a nerdy type person in your life that loves reading about stats and safety tests and features and how things work, get that person to figure out the car seat issue. Because evaluating and determining which one is the right one for you, your car, your child, your sense of aesthetics, is probably one of the most mind-numbing activities I have ever been even mildly a part of. Second to that is reading Internet threads about it on Facebook groups.
What to pack for X trip?
We're going somewhere! With our kid! Everybody shut the fuck up and help. What the fuck are we supposed to take? Six outfits? Which snacks? Are those allowed on the plane? Which toys are the best to distract on a flight? How long will my iPad last before the battery dies and everyone wants to kill me? CAN I GIVE THE KID BENADRYL?
How do we make our baby sleep?
You'll be willing to make friends with any complete rando if they have an idea of how your kid might go to sleep better, or for longer. Many of the posts on this group involve infants who are clearly testing the outer limits of their parents' patience. For inst: One of them only slept for five minutes. THE WHOLE NIGHT. Just five minutes.
How do we get our baby to stop crying?
The dreaded word all parents hope never strikes their child — colic — haunts the message boards of all parenting groups like a terrible stalker.
When do we go to the ER?
Speaking of haunting, the question that haunts all parents with pangs of nearly inconsolable terror: When do you take your kid to the ER? At what temperature? Believe it or not, this is not a straightforward answer. It depends on the kid's age, symptoms, history, and everything else. Which leads me to the other most important related question: Who is the best pediatrician in town? Can I get in to see that top guy from UCLA who always has a three-year waiting list? WILL HE CALL ME BACK QUICKLY AFTER HOURS?!
How do I make a bunch of money without leaving my house?
This gets asked a lot, because duh. But sadly, no one so far has a very good answer that hasn't involved pyramid schemes or vague Internet sales opportunities. I'll keep you posted.
Is everyone else this tired?
And finally, the most universal of all questions asked by parents of newborns everywhere: "I'm so fucking tired. Are you this fucking tired?" And, lo, it is good when the entire Internet answers reassuringly with a resounding "Yup."