Today we’re able to access parenting advice from other mums online. But, writes Kelly Murray, there’s no need to judge each other in the process.
I am the mother of two children, who despite my wanton disregard for their safety (they didn’t have a paleo/organic/vegan/pescetarian diet, were always surrounded by animals, played in the dirt, ran around nude most of the time, went to day care AND had a nanny and we never visited a naturopath), they survived. They have today grown into strong, healthy, well adjusted adults. Although all of those parenting philosophies have their place, at the time I never knew if what I was doing was right, I just knew what I was doing was the best that I could do.
When my children we growing up, we didn’t have the social media that is around now, which meant there was less room for judgement. There were no blogs, no chat rooms, nothing. If I wanted to join a mother’s group, I went to the one at the local playgroup in town. The benefit of the face-to-face mother’s group is that it’s very hard to pretend to be perfect when you’re looking someone straight in the eye while your child runs around with half a fairy bread sandwich sticking out of their ear, a juice box that contains… wait for it… FRUIT DRINK (i.e. less than 25% real fruit juice) and you have a big smear of Vegemite on your cheek that no one has the guts to tell you about. It was an environment where we could talk about mothering. The awesome bits. The not so awesome bits, and the downright awful bits. We were all there together, in the flesh, sleep-deprived but taking joy from the smallest things (like wearing clothes that were both washed AND ironed) and realising that we probably should have gone to the hairdresser about 6 months ago.
Flash- forward to now, when digital parenting has a big impact on mums. When you’re online, it’s much easier for mums to pretend to be perfect, maybe to reassure themselves, or for them even be unintentionally hurtful to other mums. Hence, the amount of harmful, vindictive and, let’s face it, incorrect advice being thrown around. Sometimes it seems like everyone who’s ever had a child, thought of having a child or walked past a child in Woolworths that one time back in 2006 now has a blog, they’re on Facebook with the name Jane Supermum Doe, there’s the Instagram account (@imabettermotherthanyou), they’ve got a Twitter account where they dole out poor advice to every new mum looking for help or even veteran mothers looking for an outlet. You might have had an experience yourself when you, the normal mum, looking to make the right decisions about your offspring, asked an innocent question online. And the result? Fire. And. Brimstone. While some responses are genuinely kind and understanding, that’s what you potentially get. Nasty, vindictive, or passive-aggressive responses that are unnecessarily harsh.
Of course, these more judgemental mums have (reasonably) good intentions. They want to help. They want to be recognised for their superior mum skills. They want to let you know that if you follow their advice, you too can be a super mum like them. But for all their good intentions, most of the time, these women don’t have qualifications to back up their massive statements. The only experience they have is being a mother themselves. So here’s the bad news: being a mum doesn’t give you the right, the experience or the qualifications to judge other mums. We’re all doing the best we can, we’re all providing the best we can for our children. We are all struggling. All of us. None of us are perfect. None of us get everything right, all the time. We all have good ideas. We all have bad ideas. God knows, I have had some shockers over the years and I specialise in child psychology! Sure, you may believe that only feeding your child organic food is the only way to go, but that person you’re so lecturing on Facebook or Twitter may not have the money to buy organic all the time. You might believe that staying at home with your child is the only way to parent, but you could be mouthing off to a single parent, or a woman who’s a better parent when she works. Who are you to judge? We are all mums, we should all support one another and the point I’m trying to make is – YOU – yes, YOU are doing a FABULOUS job at motherhood, and let’s all try to be kinder to each other.