I have to admit, I’ve been incredibly fortunate as a new mom. All of the advice I’ve gotten from others up to this point has been very much solicited by me. As far as I know, as a mom, I haven’t been the object of many judgemental stares, and I have yet to find myself on the wrong end of a pointed finger. Actually, come to think of it, neither end of a pointed finger is really the good one to be on. Sure, nobody likes to be lectured on the finer points of parenting, but I don’t know how much pride can really be held in being the one doing the lecturing either.
The other day I stumbled across an article that a (seemingly exasperated) woman had written as an open letter to her fellow “mommy bloggers”. The letter started out as a bit of a rant talking about why all mommy blogs suck. There were a million reasons that she used to support her claim, including the fact that none of us are writing anything original, interesting or genuine, that all we care about is getting people to read our blogs (spoiler alert: yeah, I’d love that), we rely on giveaways and product reviews to get fake followers who only want to get free stuff, and the list goes on. I expected the article to follow the hook with some kind of sage blogger wisdom about how to make my blog better or perhaps it would offer a piece of encouragement to let me know that in spite of the fact that many people might not care about what I have to say and can’t be bothered to read what I write, if it’s something I am passionate about, I should keep working at it. Nope. That never came. The post literally ended with a paragraph advising all mommy bloggers to start investing our time in things that actually matter, like getting some exercise or playing with our kids, because our blogs suck and are a big waste of time.
For starters – Stop writing and go spend time with my kid? Gross.
Just kidding. Like I’m assuming 99% of other “mommy bloggers” do, I write my blogs long after my son has gone to sleep. Sure, I could be sneaking out to the gym or queuing up Jillian Michaels and banging weights around outside his bedroom door at this time, but I actually take a bit of pleasure in sitting down and writing. It’s always been a passion of mine, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve convinced myself that it wasn’t really worth it because trying to get my stuff “out there” for people to read is just way too hard. Blogging removes all of the middle men and lets me do just that.
And as for people not reading my stuff? I know that millions of fans aren’t waiting at their computer screens for the moment I post a new blog so that they can finally get their hands on the latest tantalizing details of what’s going on in my life. But once in a while, people do tell me that they loved what I wrote about something they could relate to. And I love that. It honestly means so much to me to just hear that someone sat down and spent 5 minutes reading something I put my time and heart into writing. It means even more to know that it touched them in a certain way. And that motivates me to do it again.
I feel like this isn’t just about blogging, though. As this woman was going on and on about all the reasons why “our” blogs suck (she was including her own in this general statement), she talked about all of the viral posts she’s had and all of the conferences she’s been flown to and all of the times her kids were able to swim with dolphins/braid unicorn manes/sign up to be the presidents of the first colony on Mars as a result of her blogging, and all of the reasons why these couldn’t be counted as real successes, since she got all of these things by doing product reviews or blogging about coffee or hosting giveaways. I thought about a conversation I had with one of my close friends a few weeks before her first baby was due. She asked me, “Why are moms so mean to each other? Shouldn’t they be trying to help one another? Isn’t being a mom hard enough?”
Yeah. It is hard enough. And blogging is hard enough. And I think that’s the reason why some moms (or just people in general) feel like they have to drag others down. Because it’s so. Freaking. Hard. And making other people feel like they are getting it all wrong means that, by default, they are getting it all right.
I see it all the time in the comments section of Facebook posts. I know which pictures or videos are going to have a whole slew of negative comments before I even click the “Comment” button. Today Pregnant Chicken posted a video of this crazy new contraption that helps swaddle a baby and rock and soothe it to sleep using a variety of different settings. To me, it looked amazing. You can guess what the comments section was full of. About ten thousand different variations of, “I don’t need a machine to rock my baby to sleep! I actually care about my child enough to rock her myself.”
And then there was a blog post a host of some TV show once posted about a modified sleep training method she used on her son (or daughter… I honestly can’t remember). She talked about how she would check on her child every 15 minutes allowing him the opportunity to self-soothe but intervened after a set time to reassure him that she was just on the other side of the door. This was absolutely not good enough for at least half of the people commenting on her post. According to them, this baby was guaranteed to grow up with attachment issues and actually could have died in the process of being sleep-trained, and what kind of self-respecting mother could not only do such a thing, but then have the nerve to advocate it on her very public blog?
I’m not here to get into a debate about sleep training or the pros and cons of letting a machine rock your baby to sleep or any of the other ten thousand “Big Parenting Questions” that many people feel so passionate about sharing their two cents on. What I do want to talk about is the fact that I have no idea what you need to do make it from one day to the next while raising your child and maintaining your sanity and their well-being at the same time.
Guess what? Not everyone has an angelic baby who cries for 6 minutes before calling it quits and going to sleep for the recommended 10-12 hours. Not everyone has a partner who can spell them off when they feel like they aren’t sure how many more times they can sing the Paw Patrol theme song/bounce/swing/rock their baby before having a complete meltdown or literally falling asleep standing up from total mental and physical exhaustion. Not everyone is able to breastfeed. Some people co-sleep. Some people sleep train. Some people let their babies sleep in their room for 16 weeks and others let them stay for 16 years. Some people let their kids have treats once in a while and others never let a grain of sugar pass their children’s lips. The list goes on. And on. And on.
So why are there so many “sanctimommies” out there, patrolling the comments sections of Facebook posts with a vengeance? Why is a mommy blogger who once wrote about how her blog saved her life suddenly turning and proclaiming that all mommy bloggers should just give up and go for a jog instead because their passion simply isn’t worth their time? Obviously, I can’t say for sure. But I have a theory.
All moms (and probably dads too), love to give advice to parents newer at the game than they are. Why? Because it makes us feel like we actually know what we’re doing. If any of us are being honest, each and every day, we say a little prayer, whisper a little word of encouragement to ourselves, and hope that we won’t screw our kids up too badly before their head hits the pillow that night. When we see others who are just learning the ropes, it’s our chance to recommend our favourite shampoo, diaper cream, swaddle blanket, bottle, mom and baby class, or Netflix series to binge watch on maternity leave. These are our badges of honour. The more advice we can give, the more we are able to create the illusion that we are confident in our choices as parents. But let’s be real. As much as you love that organic baby food you’ve been raving about to anyone who will listen, if the cheaper, non-organic stuff is offering a 3 for 2 deal with bonus Air Miles, you’d probably hop the fence, just this once (or is that just me?)
Some people have tried the advice-giving route and have decided that its rewards are not enough. Organic baby food can not just be their favourite way to feed a baby – it’s the only way to feed a baby. There is no grey area between deciding whether or not to sleep train or breast feed or swaddle a baby. There is either their way or certain developmental trauma (maybe even death). My guess is that these parents really are concerned for other parents and the overall well-being of their babies, but that these parents also get satisfaction from knowing that they are doing things the “right” way, and so, so, so many other parents just can’t hack it.
I get it. We all want to look like we know what we’re doing. And we really, really all want our kids to grow up happy, healthy, and well-adapted to navigating the world. But maybe one of the best ways to show them this is just to teach them how to be encouraging to others and trust that others will do the same for them. Maybe if we teach our kids to genuinely care about the people around them, and to support them in a genuine way, they can help to take care of each other and we won’t have to be so concerned about whether our choice of No-Name Brand over Aidan and Anais swaddle blankets is going to scar our children for life.
You don’t need my advice on how to not be a jerk to new parents. You’ve been there, so you already know. The only thing that I feel really needs to be said is that, no matter how long we’ve been doing this parenting thing, we all need to be reminded that we’re doing a good job and we’re not alone. So take a second and give someone some encouragement.
Because isn’t being a parent hard enough?