Feedback is a Gift/On Mommy Wars
I want to talk about Mom bullies, or the mommy wars. And I am probably going to take a different approach than you’re used to reading.
I’ll start with my B.L.U.F. I think articles like the one I read that inspired this post are at the core of the issues. I think the media perpetuates an us vs them dynamic and we do little to solve any of the problems by continuing to dissect and figure out the root cause. Because as we are doing so we are sitting in our roles as bullies or victims. I believe by building better support networks, being open to hearing feedback so we can grow and recognizing that change is good we will solve much more of the issue.
I’ll start with a quote from the article that inspired me to write this:
“Jennifer Mayer, 33, owner of a doula support service in Brooklyn, says that being a new mom feels like high school all over again. For her, "mom meet-ups" became so judgmental that she had to stop attending altogether. She recalls one particular day when a group of moms were swapping birth stories: "I was shy to speak up because I gave birth at home and people think you're crazy for doing that. But I decided that I'll just share my story, because it's mine, but also, I want to help normalize homebirth." Mayer says that she was shamed by another mom who declared that she would never risk her own child's life that way. The intentional dig coupled with postpartum hormones was an awful experience for Mayer. "Insinuating that I risked my son's life by my birth choice was the meanest thing someone could say to me."
This woman’s reaction to Jennifer has nothing to do with Jennifer. She was likely responding to her own insecurities and fears around her own birth and birth process. And the author makes the statement that this woman’s response was intentional, when it likely wasn’t. It had nothing to do with Jennifer. It wasn’t about her.
Let’s rewrite this:
“Jennifer, herself being a new mother and feeling vulnerable knew that the woman’s response wasn’t about her. She went home and talked to her support network who confirmed what she was feeling. She returned to the mom meet- up and befriended the woman. Jennifer was her doula at her next birth.”
Do you see where we go wrong in making assumptions about how other people react, in leaning in to a victim role and then closing ourselves off to relationships, feedback and growth?
There is one small piece that I believe the article gets right:
“For Garrett, Facebook—with mothers posting pictures from every event of a child's life—is partially responsible for the negativity. "It can make you feel like you're doing a bad job as mom," she says. So she now tries to add some balance to the ecosystem. "I might post a photo of my daughter throwing a fit or my son flipping someone off," she says. "We're not a perfect family and I don't want to act like one online." So far, no shame. When Garrett posted a Facebook video of her daughter crying on the first day of school, she got comments like "this is me going to work" and "that's why we have them—to torture them!" The realism is relatable, but not many women are willing to put it out there. “
This is why I use the #messyreality. This is why I created this platform to be real about my experiences as a parent. I even write about it when I fake it: I fake-stagramed
But I don’t think we need to focus to heavily here to solve this issue. I see it happening already. People are getting more real. They are more prone to sharing the messy reality of their lives.
And that’s great.
And there is more to do.
I disagree with the assertion in this piece that mom bullies haven’t always existed. The author talked to one person who said they didn’t, the author's mother. That doesn’t mean there weren’t bullies.
Bullying will always exist, because there will always be people who use others to build their own egos.
But that doesn’t mean that a mother who wants to give feedback, a mother who wants to help others and teach them is being a bully. Yes intent vs impact is important. But it is also in how we approach it.
I’m sure people have judged me. I’ve never felt bullied.
I’ve also received feedback, and read as others got feedback on parenting things I myself had done, and used it to grow. I didn’t feel judged, I didn’t feel bullied.
I’ve given other mothers feedback. I’ve reached out and coached and guided people. I’m not a bully. I’ve talked to other parents about car seat safety, about air travel with infants (they should be in their own seat in a car seat), I’ve coached parents on babywearing safety, I’ve given feedback on the steps to take to fix feeding issues.
This is all based on my knowledge, on the feedback I’ve gotten, on research and facts. I’m not judging these parents as I reach out, I’m sharing, I’m passing information on.
Why would we want to close ourselves off to that because it could be judgement, it could hurt feelings, I could be a bully?
I follow a woman who has a large platform and I’ve seen her several times post pictures of her child buckled-in incorrectly. Not, “In my opinion that’s wrong”. Actually wrong, chest clip at belly wrong. I haven’t said anything. Because I know I’d be put in the mom-shamer hole. And that isn’t ok. Why can’t I reach out and say, “Hey the chest clip should be at the chest for the car seat to operate correctly.” and hear a “Thank you!” and I can respond, “You’re welcome!” and we are all better for it. My reaching out isn’t judgement. But it may be interpreted as such, and that is where we go wrong.
It is feedback.
And feedback is a gift.
But we are taught to keep our mouths shut. We are taught that if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. And that is a failure for us all. That stagnates us. It closes us off to learning and growth.
Feedback is a gift. A gift you take forward. A gift that enables you to grow and with your growth are ripple effects. You’re more likely to pass it on. Everyone grows.
But when we breed an us vs them mentality you have to be put in to one of the two boxes. And that doesn’t work.
I don’t give feedback on the car seat clip needing to be moved up because I don’t want to be the bully.
Jennifer from Brooklyn doesn’t continue to attend the mom meet up and becomes the victim.
I don’t have a solution. But I have some thoughts.
First, stop covering this. Let’s start writing about how we can support each other and build support networks. Because the bullying will always happen. On social media and off. Trolls live everywhere and they get stronger when they’re fed. Articles like this are big fat juicy steaks for them. Let’s stop talking about the mommy wars and start talking about the mom communities. About how we can create our own villages. And please don’t use the word tribe, it isn’t what you think it is.
Secondly, change your relationship with feedback. It is truly a gift and we can all start using Radical Candor in our lives. It is not just for work. Show people you care personally, and then challenge them directly. See how someone cares personally and accept the challenge as a way to change and evolve.
Third, call BS on the formula companies using Mommy wars to sell more formula. That is a slight OT venty rant on a pet peeve of mine, but I’m leaving it in there.
And Fourth or lastly, be open to change. It is so necessary and so good for us to continue to evolve. I know it is scary. I know it is easier to stay in a comfortable space and coast. But change is critical to evolution. And we need to evolve as parents. We live in a new world, in a modern society with social media platforms, with access and insights that can enable a lot of good. Let’s use it for that.
I hope you’ll join me.