As a younger mom, I am endlessly appreciative of older moms who take the time to share some hard-earned wisdom, or who help out when they see I'm struggling. (Shout out to the uber-mom who played with my rambunctious toddler so I could fill out forms at the dentist. Real MVP, right there.) It makes me wish there were some rules every older mom could follow when commenting on parenting articles, to keep comments in the realm of "useful advice and support" and not in the "yet another opportunity to hate on young people."
That's wishful thinking, I'm sure. Occasionally, on really well-curated online communities, comments sections can be enlightening, funny places that are almost as good as the articles themselves. Far more often, though, comments sections are places where faith in humanity goes to die a slow, painful, typo-ridden death. Something weird happens when people remove themselves from the in-person world and start commenting online, especially if the topic is something people are passionate about, like, oh, shaping the future of the human race.
Now, I’ve definitely encountered a few judgmental folks in real life. However, the drive-by elders who are convinced my hat-throwing son is going to "freeze to death" in the time it takes me to walk the 200 feet between my car and the entrance to Costco are nothing compared to, well, probably those very same people once they have the opportunity to actually sit and type uninterrupted. People online are just way, way worse than people in person, for a variety of reasons. That near-universal tendency, combined with other generations' knee-jerk disdain for millennials, makes for some really nasty conversations between parenting generations online.
But behind our screens, we’re all still real people with real feelings, real insecurities, and really low tolerance for fielding unfair judgments and unsolicited advice in yet another area of life. If your goal is to actually improve the quality of parenting, and ultimately the quality of life in a society you’re quite sure is going to hell, please consider my unsolicited advice before leaving your comments on a parenting article. (Hey, I learned from the best. And no worries, there are rules for other moms to follow, too, so it's not like we're just picking on the seasoned mothers over here.) Or, you know, ignore the following, write whatever the heck first comes to mind, and let the flame wars rip. Lord knows we could all use yet another excuse to whip out that Michael Jackson eating popcorn meme, right?
Consider Your Intentions
If you're trying to help enlighten the younger moms coming up behind you, rather than taking an opportunity to not-so-humble brag about how much better you and your generation was at this motherhood thing, you might just be better off just skipping the comments entirely and writing your own article.
If You're On Your High Horse, Please Put Your Phone Away
If your comment includes any version of "I would never have..." it's very likely that you're on your high horse, looking down on other people. Probably best to just hit that x and keep on riding past, lest you gallop straight onto the low road and directly towards mommy-shaming and flame wars.
Check Your Nostalgia
Chances are, if your comment includes any version of "[People] these days," or "Nobody [does anything worthwhile] anymore," it's probably not only unfairly judgmental, but really distorted by the power of nostalgia. Everybody's "good ole days" feel better than the present, because over the long term, our memories tend to edit out all the times when we were freaking out, stressed out, and didn't know what the hell we were doing.
Ask Yourself, “How Would I Feel If Everyone I Knew Saw This Post?”
Your comment might be the same kind of rant you'd spout over coffee with a close friend, but acquaintances and strangers can't screenshot your verbal conversation and post it elsewhere for other people to pick apart. That's a thing that can happen on the internet, so unless you're comfortable with your boss or your book club potentially seeing you get dragged across the coals for your views on whether boys should be allowed to wear nail polish or whatever, think twice before commenting.
Ask Yourself, "How Would I Feel If This Post Went Viral?"
Again, screenshots are a thing and the internet doesn't forget. If you come for the wrong person, and they have a highly active social network, your moment of petty could end up being way more visible than you ever imagined. We all have our moments where we want to let off steam about some parenting trend or another that annoys, angers, or even scares us. However, if being the bigger, wiser person is at all important to you, beware of letting a fleeting moment of pettiness become a lifetime of internet infamy.
Please Stay On Topic
If you want to share your wisdom on a variety of parenting topics, start a blog. If you are joining an existing conversation around a specific article, please respond to the article, not just whatever thing you feel like talking about that's only tangentially related to what the author or the other commenters are discussing. It's kind of a drag for other commenters to get loads of notifications about some randomness they didn't sign up for.
Ask Yourself, "Did I Really Know Better, Or Was I Just Lucky?"
If your kids are already grown up and turned out OK, you probably deserve major kudos for your contribution to society. But if you're about to comment on an article about a contemporary parent having a hard time (or worse, about to pile onto a parent who is experiencing a tragedy), stop and think before responding. Now that everything is OK, it can be hard to sort out what was actually a result of your effort and good judgment, and what was just plain old luck. It's entirely possible that the horrible, unthinkable thing that's happening to someone else actually could have happened to you, it just didn't.
Maybe Do A Quick Fact-Check Before Dropping Some Knowledge?
Official recommendations from public health authorities change on the regular, and "expert" opinion is as diverse as it is conflicting. If you're zooming in to school everyone else on how they should be doing things, please double-check that researchers haven't recently discovered that your advice might actually be deadly to children.
Make Sure You Actually Clicked Through And Read The Whole Article
We know you've been there and done that several times already, and you're quite seasoned at this parenting thing. Still, that doesn't mean you've actually seen the specific information or opinion presented in the piece you're about to comment on. If your take is based solely on the thumbnail photo and the headline, you might be diving in with an embarrassingly irrelevant comment. Not a good look.
Pretend You Are Talking To The Other Commenters In Person
Seriously: just picture the other moms you're about to respond to. If you wouldn't be able to say what you're typing directly to their tired, vulnerable, just-doing-their-best faces, maybe don't say it online, either.