Why People Judge Mommies on the Internet |
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Why People Judge Mommies on the Internet

admin June 14, 2013

When I first started blogging, over 3 1/2 years ago now, I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of mommy judgment I encountered.  When you put something out there, some people think it’s perfectly acceptable to lash out and judge it, sometimes very harshly.  I’ve been told I’m a terrible mother, my kids should be taken away, I don’t love them, and lots more — all over silly things like what I ought to be feeding them or what medical decisions I ought to make.

It was really hurtful at first.  I wanted to argue, yell, justify myself, explain to people how I felt and why I made the choices I did.  I sought their approval!

Anyone who’s ever participated in any online discussion has experienced this.  Everyone has felt judged and angry and engaged in a fight with strangers over the “right” parenting choice.  It’s silly — but I understand why it happens.

Parenting is Stressful

Although I love being a mother and wouldn’t trade it for anything, I admit it can be very stressful.

Parenting is the only job that is 24/7, with no vacation days, no sick days, no regular breaks, and the inability to quit.  Once you have children, that’s it.  Any other job, no matter how stressful when you’re “on” allows you time away, breaks, vacations, and you can choose to quit if it isn’t for you.

When we are under a lot of stress, we sometimes say and do things we never imagined.  As parents, we may do or say things by accident or by design (if faced with circumstances we never imagined) that seem unbelievable, that in a perfect world would never occur.  And these things might be as innocent as choosing to share a bed with your baby when you always considered yourself an “I need my space” person, or it could be as dark as screaming or hurting your child.  Everyone faces something unexpected.

Parenting also brings up our feelings about our own childhood.  We think we ought to be “over” it sometimes.  We think we can be as good as our parents.  We think a lot of things — that may not necessarily play out as we’d imagined.

Really, in many ways, we feel deeply insecure about parenting.  We really don’t know the “right” answer in many cases.  We hope we’re doing a good enough job and not screwing up too much.  We have constantly conflicting feelings about if we’re really on the right path, or if another way might be better.  After all, parenting is also the most important job.  You only get one shot at it, and the effects will literally make someone else’s life.

Then, you put a bunch of overwhelmed, tired, stressed-out parents in a virtual room together, where they cannot see anyone else and it feels like words on a screen.  And it all breaks loose.

nathan

Seeking Approval

We’re programmed to seek approval.  We want people to like us and agree with us.  We want validation that we’re doing this mothering thing pretty well, even if we’re not perfect.  We want understanding.

And so, someone “puts it out there” with a question or a thought about mothering.  This discussion quickly evokes strong feelings in others, especially if it’s on a controversial topic (breast vs. formula, homeschooling vs. public school, vaccines, etc.), but sometimes even if it seems innocuous.  I’ve seen people fight viciously over whether or not it’s okay for a toddler to eat a lollipop!

It’s easy to read someone’s words online, not being able to tell “tone” or mood, and misinterpret them.  Everybody reads comments and articles through their own lense of experience.  Things that maybe weren’t intended to be upsetting, are.  And if there’s something that you’re personally struggling with, that you might already be uncertain of, or feel guilty about, it’s easy to feel judged even if that was not the intention.

When someone feels judged, they lash out.  They judge others.  They’re trying to justify their own choices in many cases to make themselves feel better.  They may be conflicted: “Did I make the right choice?  Was there something I didn’t know, something else I should have tried?”  They may even feel guilty that they can’t “do it all,” even though that is impossible.  It’s made worse by the fog of sleep deprivation, stress, and so on too.

When we feel judged, it’s hard to think “To each his own.”  Even if we believe that, we don’t feel very charitable when others don’t seem to reciprocate that belief.  I once got myself in big trouble a few years ago for saying “If anything, it’s parents who do vaccinate that are abusing their kids.”  I didn’t and don’t believe any such thing!  But I was feeling very, very hurt that someone suggested that I was abusing my kids because I had made a different choice than they had.

Living in a Fishbowl

More than ever before, we parent in a fishbowl, so to speak.  Where before public parenting only occurred in public places, it now occurs on the internet.

We blog about parenting (like I am right now).  We share pictures and Facebook updates.  We participate in message boards.  We are all, to some extent, in the spotlight.

The best and worst part about it is putting our best moments out there.  We might inspire someone else, or give someone joy to see our happiness.  Family and friends who don’t live close can watch our families grow!

On the other hand, we get a skewed perspective.  We don’t see the bad parts, the tense moments.  Nobody says “I screamed at my kids all morning and threatened to take all their clothes and toys away if they don’t keep them off my floors because I didn’t get any sleep last night” even if that’s what happened.  We can be left feeling isolated, like *we* are the only mom struggling.

It’s even worse because I’ve noted that sometimes if a mom does post something negative about her kids/parenting, some think social media isn’t the place for that, and judge her for having done it.  She’s more likely to put on a “happy face” and only post positive updates in the future, even if she’s struggling, for fear of being judged again.

Who’s to say what the right answer is?  Our children will be the first to grow up with such a heavy social media presence.  There are no guidelines here.  We don’t know how it will affect them.  Likely it will depend on the individual.

Why People Judge Mommies on the Internet

It’s Not You, It’s Them

Every person out there is a messy, complicated individual, with a messy, complicated family life.  Everyone has their own experiences and set of strong beliefs.  Everyone has bad days, hypocritical moments, and harsh thoughts.

Put millions of complicated people altogether, and you get The Mommy Wars.

But truly, it’s not you, it’s them.  If someone judges you, especially if they are harsh or rude, it’s not about you.  It’s about their own complicated feelings.  You don’t have to answer.  You don’t have to justify yourself.  You don’t need their approval!

It’s hard to be judged.  It’s hurtful.  But next time it happens, don’t snap back.  Don’t say something in anger you’ll later regret.  Don’t seek approval from those who don’t really matter.  Walk away, take a deep breath, and remember this:

I am a good mom.  I am a unique person and so are my kids.  No one else has quite the same situation.  No one else can fully understand.  I do the best job and make the best choices I can.  I love my kids and they love me.  This is what matters; others’ opinions do not.

Go be a great mom. 🙂

What do you think about the Mommy Judgment?  Have you ever felt judged…or dished it out?

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30 Comments

  1. Thank you for addressing this. I feel like I am one of the few bloggers and advocates out there who are more interested in ending than fueling the mommy wars these days. I find myself flitting between being so enraged that I seek out the attackers and fight back and then become exhausted from the battle and throw up my hands and just stop reading anything and everything “parenting” for while. It shouldn’t be this way…moms should be helping each other in this very, very difficult but rewarding journey.

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  2. Thank you very much for this post, agree to the letter. It is not easy to be a mom and nobody is perfect and everyone’s situation and circumstances are very different, so do not judge and do not seek approval.

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  3. Very well said. Moms should support each other in their unique needs and situations.

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  4. It’s hard when my own child judges me. There were too many other good solid people in our lives, who were part of and witness to her upbringing that I have wonderful feedback from to know I was a good mother to her. Since she has declared that she will not pass along my terrible genes to another soul, she herself will never know what being a parent entails. The judgement then, I suppose, will continue til the end of my days. =(

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  5. AGREE! Mom’s need to support one another’s differences. Hey, if you have to feed your kid a less than par diet just so you don’t stress out and become an angry parent. Do it 🙂 If you feel you are rich enough to do a completely organic diet, do that 🙂 If you want to parent one way, and someone else another way, then do that 🙂 As long as your child knows they are loved, the inbetween stuff doesn’t matter as much. I bet if we were all honest, we would all agree that we have days we stink at parenting, and days we feel good about our parenting efforts. I don’t know any perfect mothers! Someone said in their parenting book, that our flaws help our child in actuality, because it shows we are human and need a Savior just like they do. When we acknowledge our mistakes in parenting to our children when we screw up, it makes them feel secure, knowing that we are accountable just like they are, and that we aren’t “untouchable.

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  6. Totally agree. I am certainly guilty of judging, but I also try to keep it to myself. It does no one(including me) any good to denounce another’s way of parenting, just because it’s not my way. And, while I post the good stuff on FB, I also will post the bad. Not every time, but I don’t shy away from it all. It’s my life, and by having a FB page, I’m inviting others into it-good and bad.

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  7. This was so perfectly stated! Thank you!! I know what it’s like and have learned to just move on and stay positive 🙂

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  8. Good post. Just love that picture of your cutie. Keep up the good work.

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  9. Love this blog post! I went through a phase of getting easily hurt by others judgement which in turn made me want to defend myself…I have always had the mindset that “you catch more flies with honey” so to speak when it comes to sharing the topics i am passionate about. It is HARD not to get into it with people at times ESPECIALLY when they belittle my choices and have absolutely no knowledge behind their opinions… I will continue to spread information in love and all I can do is hope that it is received the same way 🙂

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  10. I always appreciate the note at the top (or bottom) of many bloggers’ sites indicating the thoughtful discussion is welcome but negative comments will not be tolerated. It’s statement is usually said with more creativity and grace than that but the idea is there. I think it helps to keep the post valuable and not deteriorate. Good article.

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  11. I really appreciate this post and think it is spot on. I will have to say though – in the spirit of being honest, please mop your floors before posting pictures. I have a hard time paying attention to the wonderful advice you give and the great things you have to say because things often look so dirty.

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    • Hmm…I can’t help but say, do you realize how ironic your comment is? On a post on not judging mommies on the internet, you’ve judged me. I have four children and no, my home is not spotless. I clean it as needed, and please remember everyone has different ‘standards’ for how clean is okay. If I had to scrub and mop every surface before I took a picture, I’d never take pictures! I’m also often taking pictures in the middle of a process, in a working kitchen — this is no magazine.

      And how ironic, too, that I’m responding to you…when my point was not to care what others think. Even comments like yours can be seen as judgement, so please think carefully before you type.

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      • I really wasn’t trying to be rude or judgmental and I am sorry if you took it that way. I was simply trying to inform, not offend. I did realise the irony, but I really like your blog and your information -it’s just so hard sometimes to take it seriously.

        Sorry again if I offended. Not my intention

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        • Ya know, if anything, I think it makes ME feel more normal knowing I’m not the only mom in the world with dirty floors. I do think you meant to offend or you wouldn’t have passive-aggressively made another stab at her in your reply here. Maybe just let it go and take the words to heart and not worry about the background so much.

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          • Passive aggressive? Really? Good lord -I really wasn’t passing judgement. As a blogger -I would WANT someone to give me feedback, good or bad. I mean -isn’t this about making healthy choices for your family? Keeping your kids well, happy and well adjusted? Cooking from scratch and avoiding contaminants and chemicals? Yeah, ok – it’s hard to believe that when someone’s house is dirty -especially the floors -when babies are crawling on it…….that the advice is something one should follow.

            I NEVER had the intention of being rude or ugly. The rest of you can get angry, be passive aggressive, or pass judgement if you want -I don’t care. I was just giving feedback and will say no more.

            Kate -I am sorry. I really like what you do, how hard you work at this and at motherhood. I appreciate your advice and will no longer comment, if I follow at all.

            Talk about me amongst yourselves…..I am off to clean. :p

        • 🙂 If you find it hard to take someone seriously if they don’t have their lives perfectly together and their homes perfectly clean in all pictures, you may want to stop following every blogger ever. Because I promise you, we are all real, we all have messy homes (sometimes), we all have stuff that isn’t together. Goes with the territory of being human!

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          • For what it’s worth, once I saw the comment from ‘friend’ I had to scroll back up to look for what she was talking about! Nathan is a.d.o.r.a.b.l.e. I LOVE his hair!! He looks like a very happy little guy 🙂

          • I didn’t notice the floor just how adorable your cutie is. Had to look as I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but I posted early and didn’t see all the other comments. I never had and still don’t have perfectly clean floors and didn’t care anyway. With kids there’s always dirt somewhere, it’s what kids do. 🙂 Just keep doing what you do. You do a good job.

    • Wow…your comment on this post IS quite ironic. The focus of the picture is on the child, not a demonstration of how to keep your kitchen clean. If you can’t take Kate’s info seriously because of a few spills then you have the option of not continuing to be a follower. When I see pics like these, I actually feel more at ease because I feel like there aren’t these high standards to compare myself to. It’s real….dirt happens especially with kids around. You must not realize what it is like to be a super busy mom with multiple kids. It can be very difficult to have a totally clean house every single day. Please think about others feelings because you publicly judge someone you don’t know. It’s easy to judge when you don’t have to say it face to face.

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      • I guess for some their priority is a spotless home…others focus their energy on cooking….others focus on spending time w the kids. It is hard to find a balance and if we aren’t careful in it, someone or someTHING will pay the price. We are all mommies. We all know the struggles and the balance. To me, Kate has found the balance and put priorities where they should be FOR HER FAMILY and that’s what we should all strive to do. Just because one’s priorities are different from another is no reason to point it out or give feedback when feedback is not asked. It’s one thing to come from a trust close friend face to face when there is a true issue that needs attention. It’s another coming from a stranger on the internet. To all the mommies out there, take note and do not allow someone elses priorities become your own, nor their judgements or comments knock you down. You find your priorities and you live your life to the best of your ability, faults and all, and if you are brave enough to show your weaknesses to the world, then by all means – DO SO – it reinforces that we are all real and need eachother to keep on keepin on! 🙂

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  12. PP- You can’t take someone seriously that doesn’t always have their floors mopped? Maybe I’m missing the connection, but how does that make any sense at all?

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  13. Katie you are a great mom and I learn a lot from reading your posts. This one is spot on and funny how “Friend’s” comment proves it too!

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  14. As a teacher in a preschool, I saw a lot of parenting styles. I remember thinking I was going to parent a certain way based on what I thought were mistakes other parents were making- until I had my daughter. It ALL went out the window! Which was a good thing because I hadn’t realized that I was being so judgmental! And then, I had a “friend” judge my parenting choices and it really hurt. I felt so misunderstood. And now she is going through the same things and totally gets it. It is so different when you are living it day-to-day. As another person commented- giving each other support (because it is so hard) is so much more important than telling someone they are doing it all wrong.

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    • Oh, and I could only notice how completely adorable your son is in the pic. Nothing else but that sweet smile stood out 🙂

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  15. Yes, I feel judged quite frequently. Especially by “hard core” SAHM’s, not only on AP websites such as this, but also by hyper-involved super moms at school. I work full time outside the home and have been told that I am “damaging” my children by not being with the 24/7/365. Someone in another blog actually wrote, “I pray that God helps your husband realize the importance of him being the breadwinner and you, the mother, being at home to raise and properly nourish your children”. Huh? Last I checked my husband is a super awesome dad and I am blessed to be in a situation where I have no worries about good childcare while I go to work and fully financially support my family. And he actually feeds the children… lol.

    All of our situations are unique and we should be supporting each other not criticizing. Parenthood is hard enough! But it does make me crazy when people who are not parents give parenting advice!!

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  16. […] week I wrote a post all about Mommy Judgment on the internet.  It was pretty well […]

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  17. Yeah, actually, just before this I read your post (from two years ago) about how YOU are RAISING your children while mothers who work outside the home are self-centered and have the wrong priorities, and I felt judged.

    I hope that in the past two years you’ve learned that there are more than two types of parents in the world and that holding a paying job does not make it impossible for a parent to raise a child. In particular, I hope that as your children grow you’ve realized that their father is raising them, too, and is a big influence on them despite spending less time with them than you do. One of the things that bothers me most about mommy-judging is that so many people act as if everything depends on mom. I know that I feel my parents were equally important in raising me, even though my mom was home until I was 11 while my dad worked at least full-time; he made his time with me count, and I think I’m doing the same with my son. Certainly it’s clear that his dad and I are the biggest influences in his life and that he’s much more like us than like his childcare providers or teachers.

    Pam: I know that sometimes non-parents give parenting advice that is laughably off-base. But everyone who was ever a child has an informed opinion about how to treat children. I’ve found that my childless friends sometimes have a more balanced view of a parent-child conflict than my friends who are parents, and sometimes their empathy with my child’s point of view helps me to realize that I really am being unfair to my child in the way I’m approaching a situation.

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  18. I would like to see more baby pictures, please! 🙂 That is an adorable little boy you’ve got there!

    And the post is excellent!

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  19. […] week I wrote a post all about Mommy Judgment on the internet.  It was pretty well […]

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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