Struggling mamas are everywhere and they are doing their best. That mom in the trench needs your help, not your criticism and judgement. Let’s create a movement of kindness where women receive support instead of condemnation.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen a series of different memes floating around Facebook newsfeeds that have disturbed me greatly. In each of these memes, parents are called “assholes” for various parenting decisions. One meme shamed parents who spank. Another shamed parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids. Another chided parents for not rear facing their child in a car seat until a certain age. Yet another, humiliated parents who choose to tell their kids Santa exists. Every single one of these referred to the parents as “assholes.” Let’s be clear. Just because someone disagrees with your parenting decisions doesn’t make them an “asshole.”
A few days ago I saw a shaming meme that criticized parents who let their kids cry it out. It made them out to be callous, child-abandoning parents for not comforting their child every single time they cry. I don’t know a single parent who does this as a full-time method. You employ it in different situations. And let me be even more frank. Walking away from your child when you are frustrated and exhausted is an important skill. Babies get shaken when parents don’t learn to do that. I will never shame a parent whose safe alternative is to walk away for a while. Some parents have zero help. Some parents have different limits. Be merciful.
Since I’ve been seeing these, I’ve been paying close attention. There is an interesting similarity in all the types of posts I saw like this. Every single one was posted by a woman. Women criticizing women. Women tearing down other women. Women judging other women. It’s rampant. Over the last few months, I’ve slowly left Facebook groups that were once helpful because of the constant arguing and shaming that goes on. Stay-at-home moms criticizing working moms and working moms shaming stay-at-home moms. Vaccines. Special needs. Homeschooling. Allergies. Car seats. Breastfeeding. Discipline. Name the topic and there will be a line of women attacking, vilifying, and humiliating another woman. Please…let’s stop this.
I Was A Perfect Mom Until I Became One
I can recall before I became a mom. I was so arrogant. “My kids would never….!” Fill in the blank. Then I became a mom and my kids did all the things I swore my kids would never do. They had melt downs, talked back, disobeyed, you name it! As I eased into motherhood, I realized parenting isn’t black and white. There are so many variables and moving parts. Once I had my second son, I learned what worked for my first, didn’t work for my second! As a parent, you are constantly having to calibrate your technique and your decisions. We shouldn’t begrudge someone their learning curve. Each of us is doing what we think is best for our children at the time with the knowledge and experience we have at that moment.
Over the last few years I’ve learned I don’t have all the answers. Perhaps more to the point, I’ve learned my choices don’t fit everyone’s life. When did we become so arrogant as to assume there is only one right way to parent? I deeply regret some of the things I’ve said to other moms in the past. Parenthood continues to humble me and parenthood has stretched my compassion of others.
Over the last year, I’ve re-evaluated my conduct when it comes to other moms. My conclusion: I have been a sanctimonious jerk! I took a good hard look at myself and I was disgusted. I had made a habit of shaming what I thought was poor parenting in others. Because, you know…I’m so perfect! It’s been a hard, humbling lesson, but I totally feel like God was correcting me in this area over the last year. I still fail, but I’m making progress.
Life’s Greatest Teacher
I’m going to be completely honest with you, friend. I want you to know, I have a tendency to think too highly of my opinions too. A few years ago, I had some harsh words for my husband’s cousin on a parenting topic. Since then, I have deeply regretted my words. At the time, I felt this parenting method was non-negotiable! I still feel strongly about it. But it is not my place to impose that on someone else. Ultimately everyone is entitled to raise their kids how they want – that includes allowing them to be human and making mistakes with their kids. And I’ve learned that mistakes are often life’s greatest teachers. Far better than any other method of persuasion. Sometimes, people need to learn things on their own…the hard way. Let them.
Remember that old saying, “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar?” It’s true. People don’t take kindly to judgement or you telling them how to live their life. In fact, most people respond to conflict with a fight or flight defense mechanism. They either get defensive, they shut down, or they run away. Most won’t hear what you are trying to say anyway. Social media has made it very easy to argue with people. It has unleashed a whole new level of venom because you don’ have to look anyone in the eye to tell them what an asshole they are.
Most arguments on social media are completely non-constructive because they lack human-connecting qualities like empathy and compassion. Ask yourself what your goal is. If your goal is to truly persuade someone to your opinion it’s unlikely that will happen by calling them an “asshole” or “ignorant.” People are more likely to take the advice of people they respect.
I am extremely opinionated, but as I’ve grown older I’m realizing how cocky it is to “correct” strangers and acquaintances for everything I feel they are doing “wrong” in their life. Part of being mature is realizing not everything requires your opinion. Restraint (self-control) and humility are beautiful qualities to possess. They inspire others, rather than beating them into submission.
Some People Are Just Surviving
Motherhood has taught me lots of things. But one thing I’ve learned is that lots of moms out there are just barely surviving. Some moms are in a pit of depression and are literally taking one minute at a time. There are new moms who don’t have mamas of their own to guide them through this journey and impart wisdom to them. There are single mamas out there who are stretched thinner than pantyhose. Some women have a husband that doesn’t lift a finger to help. Let me say it again, they don’t need your criticism. The don’t need your sanctimony and condemnation. They need your support.
After the birth of my second son, I was in a very dark place. Like, I was contemplating suicide. My postpartum depression was growing worse everyday. During that time I had a falling out with a good friend. Even after knowing I was suicidal, this “friend” chose to shame and berate me for every perceived wrong I had ever done to her. Her condemnation sent me spiraling out of control. Quite frankly, it pushed me over the edge and almost made me despair. (Don’t worry, we’ve since apologized to each other) We never know what someone is going through behind closed doors. Our harsh criticism, our judgement or condemnation may be the very thing that destroys someone. Let’s extend mercy and grace instead. Give people permission to be human.
If You Must Say It, Say It With Love
A few weeks back, a new mom posted in a local Facebook group for moms with what should have been an innocent question: “When do I stop rear facing my child in the car?” The post had more than 200 responses. Women of all ages and experience chimed in with varied answers.
Now I also believe children should stay rear-facing as long as possible. But the nastiness I saw was just appauling. Several older, experienced moms, suggested turning them around once their legs were too long and scrunched up (by about age three). That was the trigger that made women viciously attack!
There was lots of name-calling. One wrote, “Lies! It doesn’t matter how long their legs are. Your advice could get someone’s kid killed!” Other women piled on, “better broken legs that a dead child! Your advice is ignorant and outdated.” Another woman wrote, “it’s people you like you that are killing children with their ignorance. Stop spreading misinformation.” Now, really. Was that necessary? The same thing could have been said nicely. “I thought that too. You may not have seen, but doctors and safety experts are now recommending to keep your kids rear-facing as long as possible, even if their legs appear to be too long. Here is an article that changed my mind.”
If you feel you must speak up about something, fine. But we don’t need to be nasty to someone because they haven’t learned something yet or because they have arrived at a different conclusion. The rudeness is getting hard to stomach.
Life is tough enough for all of us. The world has enough cynics and critics. Be someone’s light in a dark world. I guarantee you that encouragement is far more productive than sanctimony. You can persuade others without badgering them. If you have to choose between being “right” and being kind, choose kindness. You’ll never regret being kind. Golden rule, y’all. It still applies today. That mom in the trench needs your help, not your criticism.