Another tip we read on lots of parenting sites was to provide an "attachment object," typically a blanket or toy that your baby or child will cling to for comfort and sleep. And many parents emphasized the importance of having a backup in case the favored object goes missing. When our daughter got attached to a green elephant, we purchased a second identical elephant the next week. Little did we know that we'd also need one to keep at daycare and one to pack in her daycare earthquake kit. By that time, the elephant was long gone from our local baby store—but with some effort, we located a supply online. No matter how obscure your parenting quest, you're likely to find your object of desire somewhere online.
The Web is a great place to find sitters and other help, if you know where to look. I've generally had great success hiring off of online classifieds for both home and business, partly because we make a point of conveying our character:
Do you love to bring order to chaos? We can supply the chaos. We have small kids (both in daycare) and a thriving business, so we really need another person who can help us at home. We may leave our kitchen looking like a disaster area, but we really appreciate the person who restores it to order, and the people who have worked with us at home or in our office have loved working for us.
I get lots of responses, and I'm conscientious about checking references. But no system is foolproof: One lovely young woman who came highly recommended looked after our kids several times before we came home early and found our vodka bottle on the kitchen counter...and then hidden away as soon as we turned our back. After that experience, we resorted to a subscription-based website that matches sitters with parents, and found a great sitter among the many responses. And unlike referrals from friends, you're not competing for sitter time with people you know, so you're less likely to come up empty on the night of the big party.
We're expertise junkies. I might as well confess that in the past five years, we've had a business coach, a money coach, a sales coach, a doula, a lactation consultant, a sleep coach, a professional organizer and a parenting coach. We've worked with some people by phone and with others in person, but it was our parenting coach—Barb Desmarais—who suggested video conferencing via Skype™. In just a few conversations, we were transformed from daunted parents of a newly argumentative toddler into a confident, relaxed Dad and a gently authoritative Mom. For five whole minutes.
Okay, so the Internet can't turn us into superparents. But what can? As parenting coach Barb once said to us, "We are all perfect parents—until we have kids." What the Internet can do is remind you that you are not the only parent to come up short. And in that recognition comes the self-acceptance and peer camaraderie to get the advice, support and inspiration to be the best imperfect parent you can be.
Alexandra Samuel, PhD, is the director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and the principal of Social Signal, a social media agency that has launched more than 30 online communities. The mother of two young kids, Alex blogs about how to make technology a meaningful part of your life, work and world. Follow her on Twitter.