I read these blogs and I want to wrap these mothers up in a warm hug. I want to tell them that I know they are doing the best they can. I want to tell them that I know that the tantrum their toddler threw in the supermarket does not define who he is. I want to tell them that I don’t know any better than they do. That we are all just figuring it out, one day at a time, one minute at a time, one child at a time.
And then, against my better judgment, I read the comments. Inevitably, among the kind words that appear in support of these struggling moms are words that have gone through a blade sharpener on their way to the comment thread. Words that tear mothers down at the very moment they are seeking support. It is not that people have varying opinions that makes my heart hurt; in fact, that part makes me smile. Constructive discussion is how we all learn! But, the venom. Where does it come from?
I recently joined the ranks of these women sharing their stories. I’ve been blogging for years but rarely about personal incidents and not typically to a large audience. After an experience with my pediatrician left me uneasy, I felt that writing about it would help me process it. And it did. But, it also allowed me to be on the receiving end of some of these scathing replies. It was an eye-opening experience.
Internet comment threads are notorious for their nastiness and vitriol. Wise web users often advise to avoid them at all costs. Within the parenting community it is particularly upsetting. If you have children—whether they are still in diapers or on the playground or off at college—you are in this boat with me. We are all in this together.
There is not a parent among us who hasn’t struggled at some point. Children do not come with batteries or remote controls. They don’t come with user manuals or directions. They are people and they are all different and their needs change rapidly. We need to be supporting each other as much as we can. We need to be giving each other the benefit of the doubt. We need to approach parents – online and in person – with the assumption that they are doing their very best.
None of us has all the answers. It’s possible that in certain circumstances we believe our own methods would work better than the ones being employed by the mother in front of us, and maybe we’re right. But, so what? We need to collectively swallow the urge to tell other parents we could do their jobs better than they are doing them. We have not raised their children.