I experienced something new and horrifying last weekend.
The Huffington Post published an old blog post of mine that was originally published here, titled 10 Things a Postpartum Mom (Actually) Wants. (You can check it out now if you want some background.) The post is in “list” format and is meant to be lighthearted, somewhat dramatic/exaggerated, and sarcastic. Essentially, I posted from my point of view, ten things (that aren’t objects) that a woman would love to have after a baby. The ten things were: baby holding, laundry folding, sibling entertaining, freezer meals, supportive words, disposable dishes, errand running, healthy snacks, babysitting for a date night, and wine. I elaborated on each thing.
What I basically said: Hello people. These are things that saved my life and didn’t cost a dime.
What I definitely didn’t say: Let’s plan a trip around the world murdering innocent humans.
BUT. If you read the comments you would think I was advocating for babies to smoke meth (or something equally as insane).
We hear about cyber bullying in the news and how “it’s so much worse than the traditional bullying we all dealt with”. But why? I always wondered.
Now I know. Bullies are…bullies. They are everywhere, and they have one goal in mind, to cowardly prey on people who are somewhat defenseless. The internet is a breeding ground for bullies because there are unlimited opportunities to achieve this. They are able to hide behind their devices and attack strangers with words.
Initially, I decided I would “just check” on the comments to see how people were reacting to my article. I expected the supportive ones and even a few disagreements or people who “liked all but ____”. I did NOT expect some of the things I saw. Of course, then, I got obsessed and read a ton more.
Here are a few of the winners (losers):
“This author is ridiculous. What a dumb article written by some wanna-be cutesy mom who actually has no decent advice.”
“Sounds like her husband is a piece of s*** who should get off his a** and help out.”
“Maybe she shouldn’t have kids until she grows up.”
“She’s obviously more worried about getting out of the house and getting drunk than bonding with her poor child.”
“She doesn’t even care about the environment and just keeps having kids and leaving them to this world she is destroying and won’t even be here in 30 years.”
“She should add #11. Condoms.” (You’ll get it in a second.)
and my favorite…
“F*** you Katie Mullis Crenshaw and your bullsh** article.”
Here’s the worst part. Comments are EVERYWHERE. They are on the the actual article and then every form of social media the site has, which included three Facebook pages. Hundreds and hundreds of comments. The most common negative comments were calling me a terrible mother. Why am I a terrible mother? You name it. Because I drink coffee, because I have a glass of wine occasionally, because I prioritize my marriage enough to want an hour with my husband away from my kids every two weeks, because I used paper plates, because I let people hold my baby. I could go on and on. The trolls of the internet literally picked apart my article and used every one of my words against me. They spouted false information about coffee and wine being unsafe for breastfeeding (totally inaccurate), they accused me of hating the earth, they decided that I have a husband who is a deadbeat, they assumed that I didn’t/don’t bond with my baby, and that I don’t care that I am exposing my baby to germs by letting family hold her.
All of these assumptions (and more) were based on my little 800 word, “list style” blog post that was in good humor and came from an honest place. Yet, mean spirited strangers came out in droves to critique my personality, my marriage, my parenting, and my values.
Here is my biggest problem with it.
What about the moms who are like me? Did they read the comments and feel like they were less than? Did they question their choices as a mom? Did they feel guilty for needing help postpartum? If they did, I wouldn’t blame them!
Alas, I have tougher skin than most. After a day or two of processing how it made me feel, I moved on. After all, this was my first experience being published for such a diverse and large audience and it wouldn’t be the last.
But what about my readers?
The Mommy Wars are alive and well on the web. The sanctimonious dialogue is anywhere and everywhere, and I don’t suspect it will end anytime soon. Social media just exacerbates the problem. As much as we wish the shaming would end, it probably won’t. All we can do is work on our own psyche because in the end, that is all we can control.
Here is your call to action mamas:
Believe in yourself. Standby your parenting choices and reassure your self that you are a good mother. The scrutiny from others will never end but the self shaming can. Through exposing myself to public opinion, I realized that the “public” doesn’t know me. They don’t know exactly who I am and how I operate as a human, wife, woman, or mother. They will take little information and use it as an opportunity to cast judgment and spew negativity.
Love those babies and embrace your unique journey. If you need that 4:00 glass of wine and to hide from your kids and eat chocolate, you’re awesome. If you use paper plates on days that it’s just too hard to get a dish washed, it’s ok. If you are a superhero who can manage it all flawlessly with zero help and your household is 100% eco-friendly, you’re awesome too (and I’m a little jealous).
I don’t know your whole story and you don’t know mine. We are all different and that’s what makes it so beautiful.
*Edited to add: OVERWHELMINGLY I was supported and praised by other women in the comments. This post is totally about the community of trolls.*