Last Saturday night, after coming to terms with my Facebook addiction, I promised to keep my phone use to a minimum so I could be fully present with my family for the rest of my weekend.
And then on Sunday morning, I found myself in the middle of a sanctimommy vs. shit mom frenzy that consumed way too much of my time. (I am the “shit mom” in this scenario, by the way–an insult that was apparently coined by a group of very bored women I encountered.)
Just before bed, a sanctimommy group had popped up in my suggestions on Facebook. Assuming its title was a form of satire, I requested to join, thinking it would be a supportive group where moms lifted each other up. “You let your kid eat an M&M from the floorboard? We’ve all been there.” That kind of stuff.
You guys, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I woke up to a slew of notifications. In order to belong to this group, I needed to respond as soon as possible with my stance on the following:
- Breast is Best
- Crying It Out
- Age for Solids
- Bumpers in Cribs
- Extended Rear Facing
And most important of all, I needed to upload a picture of my child in his carseat to determine if I was a true sanctimommy or just another “shit mom.” In the sticky post in which I was tagged with the other new members to answer these questions, I scrolled through their responses. If they weren’t completely in agreement with the Sanctimommies, their parenting methods were attacked.
What the what? It kind of seems like they’re expecting moms to do the impossible. Babies cry. A lot, if I remember correctly (I mean, it’s been 6 years since I’ve had one.) Despite what we know about the harmful effects of “crying it out,” admitting that you didn’t rush to your baby’s side the second they started wailing means you’re just normal.
Funnily enough, I agree with these sanctimommies on most of their stances. I follow the latest research, not only for myself and my son, but beause I share this information with the preschool parents at my center. I’m for extended rear-facing and I oppose CIO, just like these sanctimommies. I’m a huge advocate for breastfeeding, just like them. Et cetera.
However, like a lot of things, these mommy issues aren’t just black and white. It’s not “do this and you’re supermom, or do that and you should go to prison for child abuse.” Certainly there’s got to be some gray area there, right? Are the moms who supplement their breast milk with formula harming their babies? Is it breast is best, or fed is best? When it comes to giving your baby solids, should you listen to your pediatrician, or Judith, the sanctimommy? Judith doesn’t know anything about your baby or his experiences with feeding.
Shut up, Judith.
And Then I Accidentally Succumbed to the Drama
I never had the chance to tell the Sanctimommies that I actually agreed with their stances, just not their methods of educating others about them. That’s because once I saw what kind of group it was, I asked them how much time they wasted each day berating others and said the group wasn’t for me.
That’s when I was called a shit mom. They assumed I was a bad mother because I refused to be a part of a group that prides itself on scolding complete strangers on the internet. After that delightful exchange, I left my phone at home while my family went to the movies, just like I had promised.
Hours later, I returned to another long list of notifications from this group. All of the admins (and some of the “top dog” users) were tagging me, trying to get me to answer their sticky post. “Come on, Katie, tell us why you’re a shit mom,” they said.
Sunday afternoon, I watched the notifications roll in. They took turns tagging and insulting me. I let my curiosity get the best of me, and I hopped in to see how they were shaming the other new moms in the group. One mom admitted she had a scheduled C-section, which was a big mistake. “No one cares how your unmentionables were birthed,” one sanctimommy said.
I regret to admit that I let this Facebook group steal too much of my family time. It was kind of like a circus; I didn’t agree with everything that was going on inside, but their antics were entertaining. I succumbed to their drama, and after a few hours of the repetitive tags, I finally replied to tell them all that I had been busy “tending to my unmentionable.” And, for my own amusement, I told them they were a miserable bunch. Unsurprisingly, I was eventually banned
We Can Educate Other Moms Without Being Sanctimonious
The sanctimommy group has over 11,000 members. These are moms who, for some unknown reason, are desperate for validation for their parenting skills. I saw woman after woman posting a picture of her baby in a carseat–waiting to be judged. Or, as the sanctimommmies said, “educated.” Moms, why are we doing this? How can we be sure that a group of hateful strangers online knows what’s best for our children?
Some of us are taking this whole motherhood thing one day at a time. Being a mom is rough. If we stay home with our kids, we’re lazy. If we work, we’re neglectful. If we don’t breastfeed, we’re depriving our kids of proper nutrition, but if we breastfeed too long, we’re freaks. And it’s not easy to stay up-to-date on the latest research in child care. I’m amazed at how much has changed just since my son was a baby.
It’s great to educate other moms about what is factually and scientifically best for their children, but let’s use a polite approach. Teach other moms by modeling the best practices yourself. Instead of berating them, set an example. This approach is more effective than belittling them.
I relate this to my recent efforts in adopting a more sustainable and minimalist lifestyle. Do you know how annoying I would be if I got snarky on my friends’ posts about their consumerism? I would lose friends faster than you can say “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Instead of judging everyone else, I occasionally mention what I’m doing in a casual way. If minimalism isn’t their cup of tea, they can simply ignore me.
We can do the same thing in motherhood groups. When we keep our educational approach kind, casual, and non-intrusive, others are more likely to listen. None of us are perfect, and I can guarantee that spending our time fighting with moms on the internet is not the best use of our time. It wasn’t for me.
–Shit mom out.