Duane Hoffmann / msnbc.com
After an adult life characterized by spontaneous movie nights and uninterrupted sleep, I've got a lot to learn about parenting. Luckily, my Facebook friends have got me covered.
By Games editor
msnbc.com
updated 4/6/2009 8:46:52 AM ET 2009-04-06T12:46:52

Five weeks ago, I got the call from my adoption agency. After nearly two years of waiting, they had a child for us. Uh-oh.

Don’t misunderstand: My husband and I are over-the-moon excited. But after an adult life characterized by spontaneous movie nights and uninterrupted sleep, we know everything’s about to change. Juggle three projects at work? No sweat. Juggle a screaming toddler with a hard-to-fold stroller? Uncharted territory.

I’m sure I’ll eventually end up consulting the armada of books, Web sites and online forums that exist for greenhorn parents like us. But right now, I’m using Facebook.

The first thing I did was post a “status update” letting friends know that the long-awaited adoption referral had come. We were flooded with congratulations, good wishes and predictions that Steve and I would be great parents.

Maybe, but once the glow started to ebb, we realized that this child, who would be just over a year when we brought him home, needed stuff. Lots of stuff.

So one Friday night, while poring through Consumer Reports and the Babies-R-Us Web site (margarita in hand), I typed “researching car seats, cribs and high chairs” as my Facebook status. Almost immediately, my friend Mike, a father of two, zinged back a stroller recommendation.

What's the deal with bumpers?
Then, I cast another line into the Facebook waters: Bumpers in cribs? This query netted no fewer than 18 responses. It didn’t quite clear up the confusion for me, but the advice was thoughtful — and helpful.

“We have them, but barely ended up using them,” wrote my friend Kelly, mother of two. “If (your son) turns out to be a climber, they will just make it easier for him to scale the wall.”

Meredith, mom to 2-year-old Frankie, concurred. “We had them for awhile and he just messed around with them when he was supposed to be sleeping, so I had to remove them. They also make changing the sheets tricky.”

My friend Jennifer had a different take. “Definitely bumpers! Soft on their little heads when they bump into them, make the crib look cuter, and rattles and pacifiers don’t fall down the slats.”

Still, my nanny buddy didn’t agree. “I honestly don’t like them because it blocks their view and makes them more anxious to get out of the crib, especially at your child’s age,” wrote Maria. “I hope this helps.”

It did. So much so, that I started posting more questions. Next up: Audio or video baby monitor?

Again, a flood of responses from my oh-so-helpful pals. “Do the video. Worth it,” advised Mike. Shelby, also an adoptive mom, loved her video monitor, proclaiming that “we plan to use it until he’s 18.”

My friend Karen, mother to baby Julian, wrote that she has both a video and an audio monitor, but hasn’t used either yet. And Laurie said “Go (audio) unless someone else is buying!”

Diaper-pail conundrum
After going back and forth on the all-important diaper-pail question, I decided to post it to the Facebook gallery. “Why the apparent holy war between Diaper Champ advocates and Diaper Genie fans?” I wrote.

“Genie requires special bags. Champ doesn’t,” explained Joanna. 

Facebook survival guide for awkward adultsRobyn, a nanny, was an emphatic champion of the Champ. “Diaper Genie and I have had many knock-down, drag-out fights,” she wrote.

“I wanted to be a Champ but it would always jam when I tried to turn the top. MOM FAIL,” said Gael.

Karen, the one with the unused baby monitors, confessed that she didn’t use either. “We just use a big dog food container with lid. We line it with a garbage bag. No smell!”

Since my online comrades were clearly willing to dispense information, I decided to move beyond product recommendations. I went straight for the third rail of working parents: Day care or nanny?

“We did in-home day care. There were five kids and it was great,” wrote Leslie.

My niece Beth, mom to 7-year-old Matthew, agreed that day care could be a great experience for kids. “I had my private babysitter which was awesome for me, but not so good because he got treated like the single child he is,” she said. “Socialization is so important — I didn’t realize it until now.”

Still, a colleague advised that we should “go for a nanny as long as you can afford it.”

Biggest challenge?
Next, I asked my pals to weigh in on the toughest part of being a parent. Robert Hood, supervising producer at msnbc.com (and father of two) wrote semi-jokingly: “If you succeed then they leave just as they become really interesting people that you want to spend time with. If you fail then they live on your couch until their 30s.”

My friend Annie wrote that for her, it was letting her 8-year-old son, Kieran, do things for himself. “I wanna help a bit too much!” she admitted.

My sister-in-law, Megan, a mom for just one month, wrote that her biggest struggle was worrying too much. “Of course, that was my problem before Malcolm was born … ”

Since we were getting personal, I decided to ask the big question: “What do you miss most about being childless?”

My buddies didn’t disappoint. “Free time,” wrote my boss succinctly. “Sleep!” said my friend Jennifer. “My body,” wrote co-worker Katie.

And from Meredith, my college roommate: “This new little person has needs and those needs come first. … So my hair color comes from a box and reading at night now means ‘The Bear Snores On.’ Most of the time I don’t mind that he always gets to be first. But on the days that I do mind, we grab a babysitter and head out for a bit and come back recharged.”

Every day, Steve and I get a little closer to being parents, and to fetching our soon-to-be-son, who’s half a world away. I alternate between being so excited I can hardly think — and being so terrified that I think too much. Thank goodness for this advice, on Facebook, from my mother-in-law, Linda.

“Sure, your life changes, big time. … But when I would go for walks with the boys, they would squeal with delight over a butterfly or bird, something I would have missed because I was always rushing around. There is no better way to see the world then through a child’s eyes.”

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