The internet has never not been a part of my life as a parent. Some of the first people I told I was pregnant were a bunch of women I’d never met “in real life” on a message board.
Quite a few of those women are still my friends- REAL friends, whether I’ve met them in real life or not. (And I have met quite a few of them, and gone to their kids’ birthday parties, and spent nights in hotels with them.)
My time as a mom on the internet has been like a lesson in human psychology, and it’s taught me a lot about myself and others. Over the past nearly 8 years, I’ve learned a few things that have helped shape me as a friend and mother, both on and off the internet. And I think they are pretty key to thriving in this online life that so many parents have. (You’re probably one of them if you’re reading this.)
1. Nobody has this figured out. No matter how confident a blogger or friend on Facebook or message board commenter appears about a certain parenting topic, I promise you they are struggling in other areas. Perfect parents do not exist- not off OR online.
2. But there are some people who desperately need to convince THEMSELVES that they are doing a good job at this, and there are several ways they may go about this:
a. They tell everyone what other people are doing wrong.
b. They emphasize what they are doing right.
c. They put others down to make themselves feel better.
3. In my own personal experience, the times I’ve been most judgmental of other parents have been times I’ve been the most insecure about my own parenting. I can’t speak for everyone, but I would venture to guess that’s kind of how it goes for a lot of people.
4. It’s probably not really about YOU when someone online gets defensive or judgmental with you.
5. But also? You need to check your own gut reaction, and try to understand why you think that person is judging you. Are YOU the one being overly sensitive and defensive? Have they touched on your insecurities inadvertently?
6. Conversely, when you find yourself wanting to point out what you perceive as others mistakes, is that coming from a place of love and concern? Are you doing it in a kind way? Or is it coming from your own desire to make yourself feel better.
Listen, the media is hell-bent on perpetuating this idea of “mommy wars,” but I truly think a very small percentage of parents online are intent on purposefully hurting and calling out other parents in damaging ways.
So we can either keep believing that there is a line in the digital sand that divides us into a fractured circle of millions of pieces, or we can take a deep breath, think about what we’re about to type, and embrace our diversity as a community while refusing to let other’s choices make us feel insecure about our own.
It took me a long time to come to this place, and I still have to catch myself before firing off a snarky response to comments that bring my judgement into question. I’m guilty of all of the above.
I see new parents coming to the internet for advice in Facebook groups, on Twitter, in comment sections, on Instagram, etc. And I want so badly for them all to learn these lessons quicker than I did.
The internet is an AMAZING resource for community, support, advice, and commiseration as a parent. The sooner you can figure out the human element of this technology the better.
I’d love to hear from some of you who’ve done some growing as a parent and person on this beautiful world wide web. In your experience, how have you evolved in terms of your tolerance and views of people who parent differently than you?
I’m planning to talk about and expand upon this when I speak at Miami’s Ultimate Baby Affair on February 6th. If you’re in the area, I’d LOVE to see you there! Tickets start at only $15, and VIP tickets include a Beco baby carrier! The Baby Guy NYC and Honest Toddler will also be there, and we are sure to have a lot of fun and candid conversations about kids and parenthood.