If you stop to think about why moms shame each other over how we care (or don’t) for our children, it stems from the fear that we don’t think we know what we are doing, and we’re afraid that we are doing it wrong, too. And you’d think that an entire generation of moms who have witnessed huge upheavals in what was previously deemed “safe” and “correct” during our parents’ time as parents (think car seat rules, crib designs, sleep recommendations, safe habits during pregnancy) that we would be a little bit nicer to each other, give each other a little more grace, but you would be wrong.
Moms today are no longer tied up in phone cords to gossip about each other; they have the internet.
And that’s a hell of a lot worse.
We’ve got mandates and judgement coming at us from all sides in the form of Facebook groups, memes, viral videos, blog posts, and news articles to boot, and the judges are anyone from your maiden aunt, who has no children (but LOVES Facebook and telling you about the evils of refined sugar) to your friend’s husband’s grandmother, WHO TYPES IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT’S EASIER TO SEE AND DIDN’T YOU HEAR THAT IF YOU LEAVE YOUR CHILD UNATTENDED FOR EVEN A SECOND THAT SOMEONE WILL STEAL THEM, to some stranger in a Facebook group, who has the audacity to tell you how dumb she thinks you are for making choices different than her.
So how do we cope?
We go on the offense; we put up walls; we hide behind slogans; we hide behind our screens, and we let the vitriol spill from our fingertips at will.
If we prove that they are wrong, then we must be right.
If we prove that they are incompetent, then we must be smart.
If we prove that they don’t have it as badly as we do, then we can justify our actions by our level of pain.
The opposite is true too. If we aren’t comparing our situation to someone else’s to empower our actions, we’re doing it to cheapen the value of our emotions and experiences and damaging ourselves.
“I shouldn’t be frustrated or sad because I only have one child, and she deals with all four of hers with more grace than I do.”
“I shouldn’t be overwhelmed. My husband is only gone for three or four days at a time, not three or four months.”
“I shouldn’t be proud of losing three pounds when she’s lost 87.”
“She’s a better mom than me because she’s clearly smarter.”
And I’m not going to sit here and pretend that either one of these behaviors (comparing and shaming) is ever going to stop completely because it’s in our human nature to feel vulnerable and to want to feel important and empowered. We look to others for validation in what we’re doing is either right or wrong, and we shame those who do differently than we do to validate our choice. We feel and then type without that necessary pause in between because technology is so readily available to hear our pain, to field our concerns, to validate our anger.
So, we type. We text. We post. We tweet. We share.
Without thinking of others, we purge our insides onto screens for all to see.
It’s therapeutic. It really is.
And we believe that it is our right to do so. Everyone else does, so why shouldn’t I? Why should I have a filter when so many do not?
I want my voice HEARD.
I want my experience KNOWN.
I want my pain VALIDATED.
But here’s the thing: everybody has pain and wants to be heard.
But how we react to other’s pain, that is where we can end the vitriol.
That is where we can make a difference. That is where we can do our part to stop passing judgement. But if we’re going to do that, we have to face a very complicated reality:
Hardship isn’t a competition.
It’s a difficult thing to believe and embrace because we feel in absolutes. If we truly believe that pain is pain and the degree is not important, we fear that we lose the permission to seek attention, care, sympathy, or empathy. We worry that we’ll lose that sense of self-approval to take time out to feel and heal.
But if we could stop viewing pain as something that belongs on a scale, maybe we could also stop finding ways to validate behaviors that are otherwise damaging to ourselves or others.
We all hurt. We all struggle. It doesn’t matter how much.
What matters is how we help each other heal and move forward.
Next time you start typing online, stop and think about other moms.
Is what you’re saying kind? Helpful? If not, then stop typing.
Next time you go to hit share on an article, stop and think about other moms.
Is what you’re sharing going to make someone else feel judged or shamed? Are you sharing it publicly to passive aggressively make a point? Would it be a better idea to send it to a specific individual?
If you aren’t sure, exit the screen. Put down your phone. Turn off your computer. Walk away. Take a nap. Grab a snack. Care for yourself. If it’s that important, you can come back to it later.
Above all else, be kind.
Be kind in all you do and say on the internet. It is a public space, after all. So, if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it over a screen.
As Glennon Doyle Melton says…
It’s a choice. Be kind, mommas.