This post is part of “Bully No More,” an editorial series hosted by the Fort Worth Moms Blog.
I’m going to assume that every mom reading my words right now has a few (or a million) strong opinions about something regarding her parenting. Any halfway decent mother wants the best for her children and will learn, ask, research, observe, experience, etc., and then form beliefs based on that body of information. Sometimes, those beliefs change with age or experience, but generally we tend to stay one “kind” of mother. And while this has been true for generations, what’s new is the inability to support one another as mothers unless we’re on the same page. About everything. All the time.
Have you ever been made to feel stupid because of how you feed your baby? Has another mom ever expressed outrage about your vaccination decisions? What about education? Does someone look down on you for your schooling choices? Now, what if I ask if YOU’VE ever been the one dishing out the judgement? I’ll go ahead and raise my hand here, admitting that I’ve often judged not only the methods, but also the motives of other moms.
When did relationships between mothers start looking like a scene from Mean Girls? Suddenly, moms who make different choices can’t sit with us at lunch. Plenty of us ooze superiority, and plenty others are left marginalized rather than supported. Instead of being ready to offer wisdom when a mom reaches out, we go ahead and ram that wisdom down unassuming throats and believe we helped. Again, guilty here. And when a mom doesn’t agree with our opinion, she is often lectured, shunned, or mocked.
Mothers! We can do better. There will always be opportunities to sharpen our skills in building community, so let’s start doing that. You’ll keep encountering moms who discipline in ways that make you roll your eyes, forbid their children to do/read/eat things that you consider harmless, or expose their kids to things that you think are inappropriate. Other moms will shake their heads at how you let your kids dress, tell their kids not to repeat words heard from your kids (ask me how I know), or bemoan the lack of structure you provide for your kids. Also, you’ll be that mom at some point. So all that eye-rolling and head-shaking? Keep it inside. Swallow the “helpful” words you want to say because you just KNOW how to fix that mom’s problems.
I think it’s possible to hold ideals, beliefs, and opinions about mothering while still maintaining loving, gracious friendships with those who don’t agree with you. Actually, I know it’s possible because it’s my reality. This doesn’t mean that we need to apologize for our choices, over-explain why we’ve made a certain decision, or sheepishly communicate our ideas. Be confident in the mom you are, supportive of others, and always teachable. If another mom asks your advice, give it! Share that wisdom you’ve accumulated, but don’t disparage if it isn’t accepted. Mom-on-mom bullying is never attractive.
One last note here about the problem of mom-bullying. Along with the rise of bullying, made so much more effective through abuse of social media, also came the rise of self-appointed victim status. Friends, hear me: Just because another mom holds a different position on breastfeeding than you and is vocal about it does NOT mean she is bullying you. That friend that extols the virtues of her epidural, knowing full well that you had a homebirth? Yeah, she’s not bullying you either. And the mother that is talking about her homeschool curriculum right after you dropped your kid off at the local public school? Nope, still not bullying. Someone might even dare to tell you that she thinks you’re wrong. Don’t cry “Bully!” just because you’re offended. You are not a fragile flower, and you can take disagreement. Assume the best about someone’s motives, and move on.
I can easily get lost in my world of doing the thousand thankless mom things we all do every day and forget that I need encouragement. Hopefully, I’ll remember more often that I need to encourage others too. Being a mom can be really confusing and exhausting, but that’s nothing new. For centuries, moms have been loving their kids the best they can and rallying around each other to share the load. Let’s not make the load heavier.