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Parents

Happy 1st Birthday to the TODAY Parenting Team!

When we created the TODAY Parenting Team a year ago, I had some fears about this totally open community that anyone could join.

And no, my main fear wasn’t that people would post porn. They didn't. (PLEASE DON’T START POSTING PORN JUST BECAUSE I SAID THAT.)

My main fear is that people would be mean. Mean?!!! On the Internet??!!! I know you’re shocked.

Jordan McMillen / TODAY Parenting Team
SMAAAAAAAAASH CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE! We know how to celebrate a birthday in style, just like Today Parenting Team member Jordan McMillen's children.

Sign up here: Join the TODAY Parenting Team community

In a way, we're lucky to be parents in such a connected age. But we all know it’s a double-edged sword. Dr. Google can set your mind at ease about your child’s fever… or make you certain that your baby has Zika, Legionnaires' disease and probably a touch of Ebola. Your community of Facebook “friends” can support you through the rough patches of parenting… or judge your every move. Instagram photos and Pinterest ideas can inspire you… or make you feel like you’re totally failing as a parent because you’re not constantly baking your own organic bread in a sunlit meadow with your smiling children.

Britney Fitzwater / TODAY Parenting Team
Sunlit, yes. TODAY Parenting Team contributor Britney Fitzwater advises: "Don't compare yourself to other mothers. You will always be special to your children."

TODAY Parenting Team challenge: Share your birthday ideas!

It can be exhausting. In a recent, unscientific survey of more than 300 parents on TODAY.com, 48 percent of parents say seeking advice online makes them feel better and 52 percent say it usually makes them feel worse!

Luckily, we’re learning that “keeping up with the Joneses” is overrated: 63 percent of respondents say they don’t compare themselves to other parents on social media (because those Instagram filters make everything look sooooo perfect).

Still, there’s a lot of good on the Internet: 45 percent of parents say online resources have helped them be better parents, and 49 percent say they could use more support and community as a parent.

Read more: The one thing TODAY's Sheinelle Jones tries to do for her kids' birthdays

Kristin Shaw / TODAY Parenting Team
We get by with a little help from our friends... TODAY Parenting Team contributor Kristin Shaw lives by her grandmother's kindness motto: "It's nice to be nice."

That’s where the TODAY Parenting Team comes in: On topics ranging from bringing home baby to sleep to birthday parties, our community members have written thousands of posts with “been there, done that” advice and stories. Even better (and rarer, on the Internet) we’ve made the TODAY Parenting Team a truly nice place to be!

We are about support, not judgment; help, not criticism; genuine laughter, not scorn.

Refreshing, huh? That's the goal.

Jen Hatmaker / TODAY Parenting Team
"The new mom brain can be a real enemy, saying you are not enough and falling apart and a hot mess. But look at your children. Their shoes are on the correct feet, at least one has combed hair, those round bellies are clearly well-fed, and peek in their little eyes: lot of light in there, Mom. Those are the eyes of loved, cherished, cared-for babies. You’re doing it. You are raising whole humans, healthy and happy and safe." Thanks for saying what we needed to hear, TODAY Parenting Team contributor Jen Hatmaker.

It only works because of the parents who participate. TODAY anchors like Savannah Guthrie, Willie Geist, Jenna Bush Hager, Natalie Morales and Sheinelle Jones have led the way. We've been lucky to attract contributions from some of the top mom bloggers out there, like Glennon Doyle Melton, Rachel Macy Stafford and Jen Hatmaker. We've got expert advice from authors, doctors and parenting coaches like Dr. Tanya Altmann and Amy McCready.

Savannah Guthrie / TODAY Parenting Team
Proud mama moment with TODAY Parenting Team contributor Savannah Guthrie and daughter Vale.

But more importantly, we've got hundreds of "regular" (I would say extraordinary) moms and dads who have generously shared their experiences. As Elizabeth Stone wrote, having a child is like choosing to let your heart go walking outside your body. Writing about parenting can sometimes feel as risky.

Leslie Oh / TODAY Parenting Team
Happy birthday to us! Now, let's all go eat cake and enjoy it as much as TODAY Parenting Team member Leslie Oh's daughter at her first birthday.

So thank you to TODAY Parenting Team contributors like Lisa Barr, who wrote about middle school exclusion.

Thank you to TODAY Parenting Team contributors like Kara Lawler, who wrote about overcoming body image issues.

Thank you to TODAY Parenting Team contributors like Cherie Lowe, who wrote about getting the dreaded Phone Call From School.

Thanks to all who read, and post, and share from the TODAY Parenting Team. We truly are all in this together. So on this, our first birthday, raise a cupcake in celebration. We made it to a year! Here's to many more.

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