Sometimes I seriously question my decision to write. I don't have the thickest skin, and people aren't exactly nice online. The day I published my first controversial article, I couldn't believe some of the comments people made to me, a person they didn't even know. I had people saying I'm a horrible mother, that they felt sorry for my kids and my spouse, and that my children would be better off without me.
Seriously? You can tell all that from 1,000 words? I recognize that putting my opinions online for the entire world to see and judge is my own doing, and I really feel that my creative outlet is worth the criticism. However, all moms, not just me, deal with these stupid comments every day.
When was the last time you had your parenting decisions questioned either to your face or on social media? I've even had people stop me in the store and question my parenting tactics, and I guarantee I'm not placing my children in danger (that's a topic for another day). I would also bet you've had the same things happen to you. Ladies, this has to stop. It's not OK.
The dirty secret about judging
I think it's useful to look at how all this mommy shaming begins. We hear that we shouldn't judge others, but let's get real and all acknowledge that we are at fault. It's human nature, especially since we're looking for signs that we're doing this parenting thing right.
I have looked at another mother in the store and thought to myself, "If that were my kid...". If we're being honest, we've all been there and done that, and it doesn't make us bad people. Parenting has this maddening way of making us feel insecure. Raising kids is like trying to put together a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle without any idea of what the picture looks like. We're all guilty of the occasional unfair judgment, but it's how we act on that judgment that matters.
What's not OK is thinking you are better than another human being because you compare your strengths to their weaknesses. So what if that mom in the store lets her kid run around? Maybe she's also the master bedtime whisperer, and your kids can't get to bed before midnight. Before you start assuming you're a better parent based on limited interactions, realize that you don't have the whole picture.
The whole picture
In fact, it's impossible to ever know exactly what's happening in someone else's home, head or heart. Unless you've lived it, you have no right to comment on it. Therein lies the big difference - making snap judgments is human, but putting someone else down is rude. Sometimes we forget that keeping our mouths shut is a perfectly viable option.
It's OK to disagree with someone's choices, and it doesn't mean you have to disparage their good name. Our kids demand different parenting styles, and every mother is doing the best she can to raise her unique kids. When we recognize that we all come from different backgrounds and have different skill sets, it's amazing what mothers accomplish. We're all a little screwed up in our own unique way, and yet we dedicate each day to making our kids' lives better. Let's celebrate that!
Our job as women and mothers is to come together for the good of our kids. Do we want to model bickering and gossiping to our kids? It's time to start humanizing other mothers, especially in our online interactions. While it may feel like you're typing to a blank screen, there's a real person with real feelings on the receiving end. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't type it. I'm going to hope we're all civil in public.
Parenting is hard enough without fielding everyone else's opinions. You have no right to talk down to another mother. You do not live in her household, and you do not know what her kids need. It's time to start taking the same advice we give our kids - if you can't say something nice, keep your mouth closed and your fingers off the keyboard. Let's stop making life hard on one another.