“Here we go again,” I thought as the headline popped up in my Facebook news-feed. “Country Star Fires Back at Mom Shamers With Viral Instagram Post.” I sucked in my breath as I opened the article and prepared to see some horrific insults hurled at this country star that warranted she take to social media in an attempt to put the offenders back in their place.
Instead, here’s what I saw. A celebrity mom posted a picture of a grocery store conveyor belt laden with jars of baby food on Instagram and comments that included:
- “Make your own!!! Don’t buy jars. Yes they’re convenient, but not as nutritious as mummy’s homemade.”
- “Make your own. It’s cheaper and way healthier ;)”
- “Why not make them instead?!”
While I admit that the three exclamation marks on the first comment would get my dander up, even I can appreciate that anything made from scratch without preservatives is healthier. Plus, the softness of the word “mummy” makes it really hard for me to see it as an angry comment. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom if you give your kids jars of food instead of making their food yourself. If that’s the case, then I’m guilty as charged.
The second comment is clearly a suggestion with two supporting reasons to give baby food making a try. Without the question mark, sure maybe it can look more like a command, but I’m guessing the winky face isn’t meant to illicit ill-will. Number three is clearly a question. Have we lost all ability to ask questions of other parents because they might think it comes as a judgement?
The one really powerful thing about the internet is its ability to connect people from all over the world who would never meet in real life. It allows us to share information in real time. Perhaps there’s a problem with not really taking a second to think about what we’re typing.
The REALLY tricky part of the internet is not having the ability to see the people who are interacting with us on social media. That means we can’t get visual cues that we would use in a face to face conversation to determine if they were talking sternly, cheerfully, or just normally. We can’t hear the inflection or tone of voice of the people we’re interacting with either and that’s problematic as we use this tool to determine the perceived “intention” behind someone’s words.
Even in real life we sometimes get it wrong, so is it any wonder we’re probably interpreting a million interactions incorrectly on the internet? I’m very lucky to have gone about parenting my three kids free of “shaming.”
Here are the experiences I’ve had in real life of “mom shaming.” I was in the café in my medical office after my pre-natal checkup when I was near the end of my pregnancy with my oldest daughter. I asked my husband as I held up a small cup, “Should I get decaf or regular?” A woman behind me piped up with, “You shouldn’t have coffee. It’s bad for the baby.”
Did I fire back with a “mind your own business?” No. Did I respond with a “thanks for your concern, but my doctor assured me that one small cup of coffee a day would pose no threat to my baby?” No. Either were perfectly legitimate options, but here’s what I thought instead.
I was asking my husband’s opinion because the baby I was carrying is his just as much as mine and so it mattered to me what his opinion was. I didn’t know this stranger and while I didn’t ask for her opinion, she probably was actually concerned for my baby’s health, which is kind of nice. I guess if I was holding up a bottle of malt liquor instead of a small coffee cup, I would want that kind of person to speak up on behalf of my baby’s health when they don’t have a voice yet. Lastly, I thought I don’t NEED to let her comment make me feel bad. That would be MY choice. So I brushed it off, moved on with my life and had a beautiful, healthy baby girl.
I’ve also dealt with less than stellar comments online, but I always try to respond with grace and remember that someone took time out of their day to read my work. I had a fellow blogger share a post I’d written calling me out on something she didn’t agree with. So, I politely explained my position and thanked her for sharing my post. She was shocked I wasn’t angry and was thanking her. You can turn a spark into a fire or you can put it out. It’s your choice. The world is full of people who don’t agree with you. We can simply agree to disagree.
I have vowed from the beginning. I will NEVER use my platform to propagate hate. I always try to offer advice, which I pray is received with the love and grace that is intended. I’m sure I have or will say something that offends someone, but the truth is we can’t always help that. Perhaps we’ve accidentally touched on someone else’s insecurity or fear. Perhaps we didn’t phrase it in the best way that would indicate our good intentions.
Bottom line: We will all say something to offend others and we will all be offended by something someone says to us whether it’s in real life or online. BUT it’s our choice whether we pick up that offense or walk over it. If it’s someone whose opinion you truly value, then I would suggest you ask the person about their motive. If you don’t know the person in any way, you can choose not to respond or to respond with grace. “Thanks for your concern, but I’ve got this.” will usually suffice.
The saddest part for me about all this “mom shaming” is that a lot of it might be misunderstanding. It’s also that when someone “fires back” and does a public online rant about the offenders, instead of dealing with an individual directly what happens is that “fire” ignites more and more people. Hate and outrage spread like wildfire. I read a post this week clearly meant to devalue SAHMs and I was sickened, but the worst part was that it garnered over 1,500 responses many of which were straight up mean.
I’m suggesting a very radical thing here when I say, we are not helpless victims forced to come to our own rescue. We can choose to be confident in our parenting choices. We can also be open to other people’s suggestions. We can take advice or leave it. I will never support someone intentionally “shaming” someone. But we have a choice, even when someone’s advice or comment sounds negative. Shame is what happens when you allow those words to change the way you feel about yourself as a person and a mother. If you know your worth ladies, then no one can ever make you question it.
Always remember, parenting is a lifelong string of decisions and they aren’t going to be black and white. There’s simply what you do and what you don’t do and nobody has it all figured out.
Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.