Some women have the uncanny ability to decimate another person’s confidence with one well-aimed eyebrow-raising glance or suggestion smothered in judgment. I’m not talking about the accidental slip of the tongue (which afflicts me on a daily basis), but deliberate, arrogant, unapologetic jabs. Some ladies learn the power of verbal weaponry early through taunting and cliques. This grows into sorority-style exclusivity and then professional posturing. Some mean girls marry mean men and grow into mean mommies who assert control wherever they can. The easiest playground with least resistance is online, far away from the retaliation of a real ass-kicking. We call these smutty creatures trolls, and mom trolls are the worst.
Judgemental nastiness isn’t their only crippling method; well-meaning Pollyannaish criticism is equally demoralizing. Pollyannas strike with a veiled compliment and gain entry to our psyche through the door marked “insecurity.” They insist parenting is a life-affirming practice performed in calm and suggest we work harder to seek a similar bliss… complete with butterfly kisses and dandelion wishes. They suggest the only way to a happy and fulfilling life is through motherhood, and in reality, this is so offensively wrong a paper bag over their heads is too good for them. Any honest woman will tell you, you don’t need children to be happy, in fact, children are a sure-fire way to experience postpartum depression and/or a mild drinking problem.
I try to avoid people that make me feel small, but online, temporary encounters will always happen as long as commenting panes have submit buttons. Critical commenters don’t have context beyond their own northerly pointing nose. They probably don’t know what Oppositional Defiant Disorder is or understand anything about the reserves needed to cope with a child living with a life-threatening condition. They would seek support if they did, not separation, or worse, they try to distance themselves from their own dismal reality. Tip: It feels less dismal when you own it.
Writing helps sort emotions and decipher what is and is not important. Writers share their words to gain connections, which reaffirms what they feel is real, survivable and not unique. Perspective grows in that last bit; in a society that rarely includes extended family in daily childrearing, support is hard to come by. It’s clearly cathartic for authors and readers to identify with each other, but describing these experiences for parents who have no idea the struggles other parents live with is also important because it highlights that their baseline for normal is probably pretty narrow. To assume any of us know enough to criticize other well-meaning parents is grossly naïve. In the same way, each child is idiosyncratic, so is each environment. It’s like a woman who lost weight quickly after giving birth offering unsolicited advice to another woman with a different metabolism, support system, schedule or physical make-up. It is insulting if even well-meaning.
Humor makes uncomfortable or negative experiences relatable. When I mock parenting issues, I find a way to appreciate the absurdity of them. We laugh not out of disrespect, but in recognizing it’s less significant than it feels. For most of us, it could be worse; walk through a Children’s Hospital.
My point is this, don’t spit venom on someone for trying their best to cope. The very thing you’re tearing them down for is how they admit and come to grips with their own condition, that of a human being. What type of human being do you want to be today?