To the real bullies of the world (mom bloggers)

 

 

 

PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER, COURTESY OF NEW TIMES

0. Cover & Gateways.indd

You are part of a blogging community that rivals, if not exceeds, the size of my own: indie authors. I’m not going to lie and pretend that I make a point of reading very many parenting blogs. If I happen to know the author, or there’s a really interesting hook, I’ll devote the time to it. But I’m not a mom, and I don’t plan on ever becoming one.

“So what?” you might reasonably ask. “You aren’t a lot of things, but I’ll bet you still read about them.”

While I’m not entirely certain I’m comfortable with you arguing with me on my own blog, it’s a fair point.

But I have another reason for avoiding most mom-themed blogs: They tend to be overly judgmental. Bear in mind, that this is a newspaper editor and wanna-be indie author saying this. I’m not the shrinking violet type. I’m more than capable of dishing out criticism when warranted; in fact, as an editor, it’s my job and something I do most days.

But there’s a vast difference between calling someone out for missing a deadline or using first person in an article that didn’t need it and lashing out at someone because they didn’t purchase the same stroller as you. Or because they purchased a stroller at all rather than strapping their baby to their chest or back. Or because they chose not to breastfeed the exact length of time you think is appropriate.

I’m prone to hyperbole, but I’m not using it right now. I have read blogs in which moms rip one another apart for a single, relatively small decision—just one choice or moment in a long, exhausting sea of decisions that probably feel like life or death, which are made with too little sleep and too many responsibilities.

I’m not the type to put moms on a pedestal. You made your choice. That’s the beauty of feminism: There are choices, and while I don’t pretend we all have the same choices—wealth being a large factor in narrowing or expanding the choices available to a person—it’s the rare woman who has no choices at all.

But I’m still capable of acknowledging that it looks damned hard—all that time, all that energy, all that worry, all that money. I can see that most of you, even if you sound confident and even if you’re pleased with your choices, have occasional doubts. Should you be a stay-at-home mom? A working mom? What will your budget and circumstances allow? Are you doing right by your family? By your community? You might not even have time to ask if you’re doing right by yourself. And maybe that’s where a lot of the difficulties lie.

I don’t personally feel all that judged by mom bloggers. As a non-mom, that particular community tends to leave me alone. So I don’t have any particular bone to pick or enemy within this blogging community. I’m choosing to wade into these turbulent waters because I believe in the importance of choice, whether it’s the option of not having any children at all, which is my own path, or the circumstances and environment in which you are most comfortable having your child.

People will tell you that you’re wrong if you give birth in a hospital—that you didn’t possess the necessary facts to make the correct decision. They’ll tell you that you’re wrong if you choose a home birth, implying that you didn’t consider your baby’s health. They’ll tell you that you were wrong if you chose an epidural, that you’re wrong if you use a midwife. That you’re wrong if you give birth in a bathtub. I’m going to stop there, as I’m concerned that this is beginning to sound like a Dr. Seuss book, but I think you understand my point. There are many options available to women when it comes to how and where they bring their children into the world.

It’s insane to me that one of the most personal, intense, and painful events of a woman’s life has become a forum for criticism and judgment. The fact that most of that judgment is being wielded by other women is absolutely mind-blowing.

It’s one thing to write about your own experience: what you chose, how well it worked, whether you regret your decision. But to draw from your own experience and then conclude with a condemnation of another woman’s decision—a leap I see all too often in mom blogs—is not only cruel but absurd. There is no one-size-fits-all anything. Families have different needs. Individuals have different needs. Not everyone experiences pain the same way. Maybe you successfully gave birth without an epidural and don’t understand why another woman would choose or need something to dull the pain. But that’s assuming everyone feels pain the same way. For some, the experience of childbirth is more traumatic than others. There are still women who die giving birth; if you’re going to be outraged, don’t attack a single woman’s choice, go after a system that should be better, safer, and offer even more choices at this point.

I once read a mom’s blog in which, in one post, the author railed against judgmental moms who criticize her for the type of diapers she uses and the fact that she co-sleeps; a few posts later she railed against moms who let their children eat sugar. Somehow, I don’t think she picked up on her own hypocrisy. Somehow she failed to connect how terrible it felt for her parenting skills to be called into question with the idea that she was probably making other women feel the same way.

The sad reality is that the people in this country who face the greatest degree of criticism and scrutiny are not high-level politicians or CEOs of billion-dollar companies polluting the planet or dodging their tax responsibilities. It’s women who aren’t making a single dollar off their time and energy, who are often struggling simply to make it from one day to the next.

There’s a major anti-bullying movement that’s been sweeping across the nation. Everyone thinks it’s important for kids to understand that it’s not acceptable to make each other feel like crap about themselves. That it’s better, healthier for everyone, if they build each other up. But how can they when their own moms are ripping each other apart on the Internet with less mercy than a crocodile at the watering hole shows a baby zebra?

The mom you’re tearing down isn’t destroying her child’s life by co-sleeping or not co-sleeping; in fact, given the number of moms passionate about doing right by their kids, whatever sacrifices they have to make, I don’t think the major concern should be the overall well-being of the children. Maybe there should be a more direct effort to address the well-being of the women raising them, whether they’re getting enough sleep, support, time away. Because I have a hard time buying the idea that a community of rested, happy, confident women would devote what little free time they have to tearing other women down, particularly if they know the challenges these other women face, having fought the same battles.

I’m not entirely certain why I haven’t witnessed the same level of parent-on-parent violence in the dad blogging community. This community is younger and smaller, but it’s growing, and I wonder sometimes whether they will eventually grow into the hateful, enraged verbal brawl that has become so characteristic of mom blogs. Somehow, I don’t think so. In the first place, dads don’t seem subject to the same level of criticism if they choose to work. It’s expected and though I know dads who spend their workdays missing their family, pining for time with their kids, I don’t think they devote that much time to doubting whether their choices aren’t, in fact, what’s best for their family. Perhaps if dads did opt to fight, challenge, and humiliate each other’s choices, the rest of us would follow.

“Yeah,” we’d cry, sharpening our pitchforks, “why isn’t he staying at home? He must not love his children! He’s bent on tearing apart the fabric of society!”

Maybe. If they turn on each other, what’s to stop the world from turning on them? But they haven’t yet, and maybe they look to this aspect of the mom blogging community as an example of what not to do. A community is supposed to be about advice, encouragement, and support and while I’m certainly not naive enough to believe that discussions will never become heated, that feelings will never be hurt, I’d prefer not feel like I’m wading into a battlefield every time I visit a mom blog—a battle in which a smug woman flings bottles of organic puree baby food at a frantic woman dodging the attack with cloth diapers.

Maybe the fact that I’m not a mom means that I’ll never understand. It’s true that I will never comprehend the depths of your feelings for these tiny, fragile, noisy creatures that take over your life the moment they enter the world. And maybe that’s my loss. But that’s not how I feel when I read a rant about how all women who feed their children sugar should be hanged at the weekly farmer’s market. I feel grateful that there’s nothing in my life that I love so much that it inspires me to alienate and belittle all the other people in the world who feel the same way.

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Comments

  1. I was a young mommy long before there were blogs to cripple me with their judgment, which is something to be thankful for, I suppose. But fear not, because even in the early 90’s neither I nor any other mother was safe from the judgment of every single other person who thought they knew how to raise my baby better than I did. Age was no barrier – a child once approached me in the grocery store to tell me what her Aunt would do…

    We are our own worst enemies.

  2. AMEN 🙂

  3. Great post. I’m glad my kids are now 12 and 9 and if there were parenting blogs when they were little, I didn’t read them. We are not quite so extreme on parenting in the UK yet but it’s on its way.

  4. Healing Slowly says:

    I want to start off my comment by thanking you. I thank you for knowing that you don’t want to be a parent and sticking by that. I think if more people could be honest about that, then perhaps children would suffer less abuse from parents who never wanted kids, but felt forced into it by their peers. I’ve been pregnant five times. The first time I got pregnant, I was 20. I wasn’t capable of loving myself, and I was terrified that I would end up resenting the baby. I didn’t believe that abortion was an option, so I decided to give him up for adoption. I suppose, in retrospect, that decision showed that I did love him enough to make the best choice I could at the time. I was abused as a child, and so it was with great trepidation, doubt and insecurity that I thought about being a mother. Would I wind up abusing my own child? Would my child end up hating or resenting me, because I wasn’t sure if I could give 100% of myself to them? It was a daunting thing to consider. I am so glad that you’ve made your choice, and stuck by it. I’m so glad that you took a stand for what you wanted for your life, and didn’t back down.

    I don’t know what kind of people you surround yourself with, but I would imagine that at some point, some woman that doesn’t know you from Adam, has called you selfish and arrogant for not wanting to be a mother. For some strange reason, too many women, mothers or not, have come to a place where the sisterhood is gone, and has been replaced by high school cliques that make the Bloods and the Crips look like kids playing hop-scotch. We used to support each other. We used to build each other up. We used to stand in the gap when one of our sisters wasn’t feeling well, or had to deal with the loss of a loved one. We used to do all these things, because women are uniquely qualified to understand other women, and we knew it was important to have this network of our peers to lean on. We need to get this sisterhood back. I think one only needs to look around to see how the loss of that sisterhood has impacted the world around us.

    But I digress. You made some very valid points in this post, and it was a pleasure to read it. You were spot on when you said that different families need different things, and that something that works well with one child, doesn’t always work well for another one. I now have four boys, two with special needs, and let me tell you that my imagination, and my ability to overcome and adapt has been well honed over the years. I have had to learn to take each child as an independent person, and adjust my approach based on who they are and what they need. Thanks so much for writing such an intelligent, insightful and thought-provoking post.

    • Thank you for such an incredibly personal comment! It sounds like you have a far better grasp on the challenges of motherhood than I will ever have, and I am definitely in awe of the amount of strength and patience it must require to care for four boys, two of which have special needs. I hope you get support from your family, community, and other moms. It sounds terrible to acknowledge, but I don’t know that I would have the patience and strength required to care for one child, much less four. And yes, people (men and women) have made judgmental comments about my decision not to have children. Actually, you were spot on about the nature of the comments: that I’m selfish and arrogant. It used to bother me more, but I’ve mostly come to realize that people who go out of their way to judge another person’s life choices usually do so because they aren’t pleased with their own. I don’t think I would make a good parent and I don’t want to risk being a bad one, and I know that’s the right choice for me.

      I do wish that women were more inclined to support one another, because I think we tend to make each other’s lives completely miserable with competition and judgment. It might be naive but I’m hoping that just starting a dialogue and admitting I don’t have all the answers, or any of them really, is some kind of beginning.

      • Healing Slowly says:

        That is not a terrible thing to acknowledge about yourself. It shows that you are able to be honest with yourself about what your limitations are. We all need to strive to truly understand our strengths and our limitations. We have been trained to think that our limitations are weaknesses, but they are not. The weakness lies in refusing to admit your limitations. When you ignore them, the potential for failure rises exponentially. You, on the other hand, have said, “these are my limitations, and I will work with them, not against them.” And yes, we really do need to support one another. We need to stop looking at each other as the competition, and remember that we are sisters. Also, anyone who says they have all the answers, or pretends to have all the answers, is someone we should avoid at all costs. There is a great chance that they have a mental health issue, and we cannot help them. If any person had all the answers, they would be promoted to a god status, and then this world would be in dire straits. P.S. Sometimes I doubt my own ability to handle the challenges of being a mom to my boys. But if you never doubted yourself, you’d cut yourself off from being able to grow and learn. What I never doubt, is that I love them, and that I’d sacrifice absolutely anything for them. I also never doubt that they love me, because they show it in so many ways, even when they don’t say it. I have a very wonderful husband, who supports me so much. My family has proven to be a lost cause, so I have had to create a family of my own out of friends I know I can trust. Their support is always at hand. I feel quite fortunate in that department. 🙂

  5. Narcissistic Mommy Syndrome.. when a woman becomes so self identified with being the supreme, ultimate, perfect Mommy she forgets how to be human. A great topic for today, Mother’s Day, btw. I have always been the quintessential bad mother (or so the local mommy authorities say) . I was reflecting last night the irony of it all. My daughter, unlike the children of perfect, good, authoritative mommy goddesses, isn’t on Ritalin, hasn’t has experienced drug or alcohol abuse, or delinquency, and is just now graduating from high school (instead of dropping out as predicted by the local mommy authorities years back when I was first ID’d as Baddus Motherus Vulgaris) . There’s not a lot of forum’s or voices for bad mothers but if you are one, have ever been one, plan to be one, never plan to be one but if you did you’d choose to be a bad mother…Happy Bad Mother’s Day to You 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. […] you can tell them it’s a bonding leisure activity, and then later use it as artillery in a Mommy War to judge other mommies for not being as engaged as you […]

  2. […] “To the real bullies of the world (mom bloggers)” Feb. 26, […]

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