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Friday, July 24, 2009

Mamapedia: New parenting resource

A cross between Google and Wikipedia for parents, Mamapedia just makes sense. And so did its CEO, Artie Wu, when I asked him how he came to create the two-month-old site.
"We have two kids [3 and 9], and when my wife, a doctor, and I were new parents, we were the first in our circle of friends who had kids. Like all parents, we'd struggle with the kinds of questions you aren't going to ask a pediatrician - like what kind of stroller to buy, or should we have car seats in both cars so we don't have to constantly move them back and forth?"

With questions like that, Wu said, you want to ask the experts: "other parents at exactly the same stage as you in parenting." And remembering back to when my kids were little, I heard him when he said you also want a range of views to choose from. "There are no right answers" for everybody, he said.

So it makes sense to allow users to type a question into the search box, as at Wikipedia or Google, and turn up a whole bunch of answers, with plenty of opinion but no judgment. Wu says moms "don't want to be judged," and I think he's right. Better to have opinions on what to do than on what *you* do as a parent.

I asked Wu how Mamapedia's different from other parenting sites. He said they generally "fall into two buckets: slick, professionally written sites with a lot of 'official answers' and dos and don'ts from experts and then the other end of the spectrum: social-networking-like sites for moms with chat and discussion boards. They provide a great social experience, but it's more about meeting fellow moms and bonding with them - like C-section moms, July-baby moms." He should know, since his company's other project is Mamasource, local online communities for parents in all 50 states.

"We wanted to create something in between: a Google for moms, if you will," he said - "the real scoop from real moms with real-world wisdom."

I obviously appreciate that, because it's the premise on which we built, a forum for parents to share family lessons learned on kids' use of tech and the Net.

I asked him why not a Papapedia? Are dads welcome too? "We're totally open to dads too, but there's something special about the way moms help each other and communicate with each other that's unique ... they really have a culture of sharing around these topics."

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OpenID dadwhowrites said...

"Something special about the way moms help each other..."
My Master's research project was on how fatherhood is constructed in the workplace and it's fairly typical to find (in discourse terms) this kind of stereotyping. It may well be the way fathers (don't) act or communicate - but it's also the way they're told, over and over again, that they should act - as people who don't communicate as well as women or mothers, who are (by implication) on the periphery of the parenting experience so far as societal norms are concerned. I'm sure that Wu had NONE of this in mind - but he's contributing to maintaining those kinds of barriers through that kind of describing or structuring of how fathers do and don't communicate.

Forgive me for ranting - been lurking on your site for a while and I'm disappointed with myself that the first comment I leave here is a little bit negative.

I should wrap up by noting that this is disempowering for mums as well - as long as fathers are told that they don't communicate and share about parenting, they'll continue to feel sanctioned to act out just that role in a parenting situation...

1:27 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Tx for your thoughtful post, dadwhowrites. Then maybe you should start a papapedia and prove him wrong.

8:58 PM  

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