Anything you want, you got it ... but not really

Playing the good mom, bad mom game

JUN 2, 2010 | COMMUNITY


I had a little Facebook fiasco recently.

My husband said I could've avoided the drama if I hadn't cared so much what people think. But it would have arisen eventually, because any mom who puts herself out there, whether by posting a status update on her children or by simply taking her kids out in public, risks being on the receiving end of stinging criticism.

Of course, I increase my odds by writing about parenting, both in print here and on my blog. So, I suppose it was just a matter of time.

Did you know moms are reported to be among the meanest people on the Internet?

It just so happens that my little Facebook fight occurred within a day of ABC's airing of a Good Morning America segment titled, "Mean Moms." And it's so true that the isolation of the Internet fosters hyper-hostility. 

Even though I always put my real name on anything I write, online or otherwise, I still find myself reacting more harshly to online attitude than I might to some of the smug, judgmental attitudes prevalent on playgrounds and other places where mothers meet in person.

When I'm lucky enough to beat the boys awake, I catch a quick shower and hop online while mainlining some caffeine. The morning of the aforementioned incident, I found a chiropractor friend had posted a link to an article highlighting the safety concerns of some commonly used baby gear, three elements of which I had within few feet of my computer.

I respect her personally, as a mother with a baby the same age as mine, as well as professionally. But her parenting path is paved with, shall we say, more organic materials than mine. Frankly, my road has been littered with good intentions, but also with plastic, chemicals and sometimes processed food.

I spent the better part of the morning eyeing my baby in his various "containers," wondering if I really was sacrificing his development in the name of entertainment (his) and convenience (mine). I wouldn't call myself a lazy mom, but rather your average two-handed one. 

The nagging feeling that I was somehow harming my children stayed with me. After the boys went down for an afternoon nap, I re-read the article for alternatives to the ExerSaucer, and I noticed some people had weighed in on this surprisingly controversial subject.

In the few seconds it took to scan the comments, I felt personally attacked. Even though the Internet evokes a sense of anonymity, real people read your words and their reactions have an impact. 

One mom explained why she shunned the use of ExerSaucers. "It's a commitment, because you have to put in the extra time to actually watch your kid. But hey, I think that's what they call parenting."

That's when I got a little insane.

Here my friend had posted something that was interesting to her, and instead of being able to have a real conversation with her about differing opinions and parenting methods, I got this overwhelming sense those of us who did things differently were under attack as "uneducated" and "neglectful." I’m not putting words in people’s mouths, or keyboards, by the way. Those are quotes.

I responded by posting a comment of my own. It wouldn't be helpful to rehash it here, but suffice it to say that 30 comments later, I wish I had simply said:

"You can feed your baby exclusively organic food, make sure their little hands never touch a piece of plastic and ensure their eyes don't take in a second of television, but if you're not raising them to be kind, considerate and thoughtful of others by your very example, I don't much care to know what you think about anything else. But, if you do happen to mess up, and you're mom enough to call yourself on it, I've got your back."

Nathalie Hardy is a local freelance writer who writes in the margins of her life with two busy little boys, a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting and a sweet, semi-trained Labrador. She invites your feedback at nathalie@nathaliesnotes.com or at her website www.nathaliesnotes.com.

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