SALT LAKE CITY — We are all familiar with the mommy wars. The judging starts with when we choose (or don't choose) to conceive, and continues until we decide how to distribute our wills.
Very few of us are immune to the little slights and subtle judgments handed down by the mommy police patrolling the playground. You know the types: the moms who ask, “Are you going to feed him that!?” right as you hand your kid a pack of fruit snacks. A lot of their sentences start with, “Were you aware that …” or “Your child is …,” and most of the responses in my head go something like, “Nuh-uh! Really! Sorry, I'm just that out of it.”
While these rebuffs lead to bruised feelings, it's pretty easy to ignore the less-than-tactful advice of strangers on the street. However, the Internet has created a whole new breed of mean mommies.
The Internet's anonymity leads some mothers to believe they can say whatever they want without any fear of repercussion. Mothering boards, blogs and Facebook have become the new battleground for the mommy wars, and innocent women are getting hurt by these thoughtless attacks.
It is an unfortunate truth that women in our society can be unduly harsh with each other. For some reason, a select few women live under the premise that they have to justify their own parenting decisions by discrediting all others. Reading through Facebook or the comments attached to some articles, I'm often shocked and saddened at what others will say to a complete stranger.
I know I have said things to other mothers that I wish I could take back, and I hope I've apologized to anyone I've offended. I will go out on a limb and guess that most of us have said things we later regretted. However, there is a line that rarely gets crossed in everyday interaction.
The vast majority of us know better than to outright attack another mother's personality, mental stability or parenting choices. Unfortunately, this line is blatantly ignored on the Internet as people hide behind their computer screens, knowing they won't have to deal with a real-life confrontation.
Most mothers are already hard on themselves, and they don't need anyone else making them feel incompetent. We need to band together to stop this online attack. Raising kids in this day and age is immensely challenging, and women need all the support they can get. Before you post a comment or respond to a status, think about these five ways to avoid propagating the mommy wars:
Think of the writer as a real person
In this digital age, it's easy to forget that there are real people with real feelings behind every article, blog post, tweet and status update. Writing about motherhood takes extreme courage, and it takes a brave person to open up their hearts to potential criticism.
Unkind comments hurt, whether or not they are said in person. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't type it. To paraphrase the golden rule: speak unto others as you would have spoken unto you.
Remember that every child is different
Did natural birthing/sleep training/parenting with love and logic/breastfeeding/early potty training work for you? Wonderful! However, we need to realize that every child and every family situation is different. We can't presume that what works for us will work universally. All parents are doing the best they can with what they have.
Share with tact
If you find a particular parenting technique that works well for you, please share it with the rest of us so that we can learn. But as you share, please take care not to offend others.
Saying that your way is the “best way” or the “only way” to do something implies that every other method is wrong. The worst thing to lose is an open mind, and you never know when your beloved method will stop working. In fact, what works for one child may not work for other children, even in the same family. Acting like a know-it-all may come back to haunt you later.
Recognize when to offer advice and when to offer support
Ask yourself before posting, is the author asking my advice on this? If the answer is no, or if you are unsure of the intent, don't offer your opinion. What mothers need more than advice is support.
There are a million decisions every parent has to make every day, and many parents spend hours questioning their judgment. The best gift you can give a mother is to affirm her worth.
If you must disagree, choose your words carefully
Sometimes we are faced with a situation where we feel the safety of a child is in danger. If you need to correct something a parent has said or written, make sure you are speaking in the best interest of the child, not to satisfy your own pride.
When you do correct someone's parenting, avoid language that puts the mother on the defensive. Give the mom the benefit of the doubt. She probably didn't know that safety guidelines had changed, or she may have been raised in a family where dysfunction was the norm. Very few mothers knowingly put their children in danger.
The Internet can be a wonderful tool for sharing, supporting, affirming and encouraging mothers from every walk of life. Young or old, single or married, we all have something we can share with each other.
Imagine the collective good that could be accomplished if every mother on the Internet responded kindly to others. Women have an incomparable capacity for nurturing, and we need to use this nurturing instinct not just with our children, but also with our fellow mothers.
The other day I found myself repeating this age-old advice to my 3-year-old: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. It's good advice for him, and it's good advice for me as well.
We have the power to end the mommy wars, and all it takes is being kind, giving others the benefit of the doubt and learning to hold our tongues. Ladies, it is time for us to start acting like ladies.
Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan, mom to two crazy boys, and wife to one amazing husband. You can learn more about her eco-conscious lifestyle at moderatelycrunchy.blogspot.com.