Like any person who doesn’t always use her time well, I can get sucked in by comment fights on the Internet. I try not to let them actually upset me and I try not to engage, but sometimes it’s hard not to throw in your two cents, then, of course, defend yourself if your two cents aren’t somebody else’s particular cup of tea.
Very few topics seem to get the Internet masses roiling as much as parenting stuff, since everybody has an opinion. A person who has never been pregnant has no problem voicing a thought on whether Jessica Simpson gained too much weight during her pregnancy and plenty of child-free folk have lots of advice on how people can best get their kids to behave in restaurants.
You can also open yourself up to bad-mother talk before you’re actually a mother. I myself have been told that I’m possibly putting my child’s life at risk by:
- Investigating the upsides of formula-feeding over breast. “Congrats: You’re choosing to give your child a higher chance of dying from SIDS,” someone wrote back to me when I once commented on a post titled “Are women who choose not to breastfeed selfish?” which should have just had the subtitle “A: Yes.”
- Accepting second-hand baby equipment, according to The Bump, which sent out a newsletter warning mothers about the dangers of accepting hand-me-downs (P.S., The Bump also advertises pricey cribs and car seats).
- Having an occasional drink while pregnant. This I brought upon myself, as I blogged about the topic for another site and then decided to read the comments. Some were supportive, while others opined that I am a selfish person with a substance abuse problem.
Why do strangers feel compelled to attack women over their parenting and pre-parenting choices? Well, because it’s easy, thanks to the Internet. Children are an easy target of lazy shows of pretend-caring by people who probably wouldn’t give you or your child a second thought in real life. “Think of the children!” plenty of people say. Oh, cool. While you’re thinking of my children, do you mind babysitting tonight? Or maybe paying for the next doctor’s appointment? No?
And, judging women on how they parent is just a lovely way of targeting what many consider their essence: If you’re a selfish mom (I.E., one who gives into or even acknowledges her old vices, pleasures and conveniences), you’re a bad mom and you are bad woman and so you might as well just kill yourself.
But why do some of us decide to read these comments and open ourselves up to this scrutiny? Like I said earlier, sometimes it’s just the plain good-old fashioned distraction of drama; reading those comments is easier than standing up and going outside. But also, I think sometimes we believe that reading all the horrible things strangers may say about our choices could help fortify our beliefs (or in a few cases, change our minds). Now that I know what Sandy1977 thinks about new moms who go on vacation, I am potentially better-equipped should a real-life person I know decide to attack that choice, should I make it. This is all very practical, you see.
The funny thing is, though, I’ve encountered maybe one, two people max in real life who have semi-raised an eyebrow at any of my potential decisions (none of which have been set in stone, since my main baby plan is to “make no real plans”). My friends who are moms have all encouraged me to save the money, to have the glass of wine and not worry if breastfeeding doesn’t work out because it’s really not that big a deal in the end. And even if I don’t go the route they went, they haven’t had much to say about it, because they’re not jerks and they know that I will, like they did, be just trying to do my best. There have been no perfect moms or perfect kids to date, and real life people, people who aren’t behind a computer screen getting worked up about some stranger’s stance on parenting, know this, deep down.
Last week Salon posted an article titled “Here comes the reality breastfeeding show,” and, like usual, I hovered my mouse above the link to read the comments on the piece, which would inevitably run the gamut from criticizing those who breastfeed publicly to criticizing those who formula feed to criticizing attachment parents to criticizing those who criticize.
And then I realized, since I knew all this already, why bother? What am I going to get out of this? I already have excused myself from judging attachment parents and La Leche Leaguers because I’m sure they want me to stay out of their business as much as I want them to stay out of mine. Do I need to read more opinions of strangers who will say that whatever choice I’ve made is the wrong one? I already know I’m a selfish woman who deserves to have a baby born with a limp (yes, someone posted this somewhere about me) so why does that need to be reiterated? So I skipped reading the piece. And I’m going to skip the rest.
I have seven weeks to go now and I’m tired. My feet have exploded, I can’t feel my hands anymore and I pee so much that I have to pee even while I’m peeing and I still haven’t even figured out how to use the car seat or learned Infant CPR. So I’m officially over the opinions of people who might have lots to say about how I go about parenting but won’t have anything to do with it in real life. I just don't have time or energy for nonsense anymore. I’m checking out. I just wish I had done this earlier.