As a Mom of 3 girls (4, 2 & 1) I feel like I can comment on “The Mommy Wars”. I’m in the “line of fire” so to speak. I’ve witnessed horrible, rude comments, name calling, self righteous comments and complete denial. I’ve been on both sides (although I’d like to think that I snapped myself out of it when I caught myself doing it). It’s such a slippery slope.
If you’d like to experience it for yourself, feel free to go to any parenting / baby / child website and pose a question about any of these hot button issues: breast feeding vs. formula, extended breast feeding, circumcision, elective c-sections, when & how to start solids, vaccination, cry it out, medication for behavioural issues and don’t forget, when to switch your baby from rear-facing to forward facing. There are many more, but these will generally receive immediate responses.
Typically responses will start out respectable, helpful even. Invariably, someone (there’s always a “someone”) will respond with something snarky, attacking, judgmental or name calling, on the other side of the issue. Reactions will abound. Some defending you, some supporting the attacker, some jokingly saying “Why can’t we all just get along?” which will receive sneering posts about ignoring the issue at hand and being a part of the so-called problem.
Some truly feel very passionate about their cause and if you’re on their side of the fence, it makes complete sense! You’ll find support, caring people and a you-go-girl attitude. You’ll be given articles, studies, links to other like-minded online groups. You may even be invited to meet people in person! Being welcomed into the fold is such a relief to a sleep deprived, sometimes stressed and often overwhelmed Mom.
The seedy underbelly is that while high school bullies grow up, but don’t grow out of their ways. Go against the grain and the truth is revealed. A closing of ranks, a linking of arms against those who are out of line by any means deemed necessary. Any tone is justified, all in the name of “education”. Alienating them is acceptable. They were too stubborn anyway. The fact that they may have been offended falls on deaf ears. Being right is more important than helping.
The reality is that there is no “Mommy War”. It’s the internet. Intent is lost in translation. While a person may be correct they can fall victim to a wordsmith who is incorrect. Add the “trolls” who revel in stirring the pot and it’s a mine field out there.
So how do you survive?
- Know your audience. Supportive communities of particular topics tend to have great resources. Articles, studies, clinics, professionals, etc. are at their fingertips. If you’re curious about a topic, search these groups out and get what you need. Keep on topic.
- Tread lightly on new topics, test the waters first. No one community will agree with everything you agree with. If you find yourself not agreeing, simply let it be and find a new community to discuss that topic.
- Pretend that you are speaking to the person face to face. If you wouldn’t say in person, don’t write it on the internet.
- Learn to bow out. If you find yourself in a firestorm, walk away. You don’t know these people. They don’t know you. I highly doubt that you’d stay in some screaming match for hours or days if it were IRL (in real life). So why would you online? Your energies are best invested elsewhere.
- Be honest with yourself. It’s easy to get pulled into the fray. Stop posting. Take a moment. Do you really need to respond or have you already said all that you had to say? It’s easy to continue a heated discussion and miss the points made on both sides. You might learn something.
- Take what works for you, leave the rest.
- Forgive yourself, forgive others. What was done in the past is done. However when you know better, you do better. Onwards and upwards!
It’s simply adjusting to life while being hidden behind the veil of the internet. We know how to behave, we were taught it as children. Be polite. Be respectful. A debate doesn’t equal a fight. Agreeing to disagree doesn’t equal a loss. A difference of opinion is just that, nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t need to bleed into all other areas and ruin a friendship, even if it is just online.
No, there aren’t “Mommy Wars”. It could be any topic online; it’s not Mommy specific.