My job as a full time writer has been both a blessing and a curse. I'll never forget my first published piece of work. I was so excited and so proud, but like a rookie, I read the comments. One commenter hailed me as their spirit animal, and the next accused me of being a hygienically challenged mother who needed to seek treatment for anger issues. That was just the start of it. My job has made me quite familiar with the rules every mom should follow when commenting on parenting articles and, honestly, the fact that some of these rules even need to be said is a little disheartening.
I've got thick skin, so I assumed I would be immune to the unfair judgments and assumptions of strangers pertaining to my parenting or other life choices, but the comment section of my first published article has admittedly scarred me. I kept feeling the need to explain myself to the women who were coming at me with their metaphorical pitch forks and condescending comments. I wanted to tell them the whole story; to make them aware of satire and sarcasm, and to tell them to honestly just chill out.
I don't get why people get so worked up over a stranger's words, and I definitely don't understand the benefit of handing out verbal lashings to complete strangers. I started writing so that I could share my experiences with people in the hopes that they might be able to relate and be reminded that they're not alone in their parental struggles, but instead, some of my words have been met with hostility, name calling, and absolutely insane accusations of torture and neglect. One time, for example, a fellow mom made a comment that a "snake would make a better mother" than me, and that I should hand my kids over to the government. Oh, the comment section is just the most fun.
Mothers need to feel supported, and social media can be an invaluable gift when a woman feels isolated by parenthood, but it's also a double edged sword. For every supportive comment, it seems like there's four more hateful ones that will inevitably follow. For that reason, I've come up with some rules that moms should follow when commenting on parenting articles, because we're all in this together and bashing someone behind the safety of a keyboard just isn't cool.
When you read an article written by someone who you don't agree with, try to remember that they want the best for their kids just like you do. Also, keep in mind that you don't know them, their child, or their situation, so making assumptions based on 800 or so words is unfair. You have no idea what their life is like outside of that one article so maybe, you know, don't berate them.
Don't Be Too Quick To Judge
Both of my boys were sleep trained. We practiced the "cry it out" method and had a lot of success with it. I've written about that multiple times in an attempt to clear the air on the "cry it out" method and to reassure people that it is in no way a torture mechanism, yet people consistently and distastefully took to the comment section to rip me to pieces. These people don't know me or my children. They don't see how loved they are, or how much of my life I've sacrificed so that I can put their needs first. They just see a paragraph about me allowing my kids to cry for three minutes and assume that I'm undeserving of my mom badge.
Remember, you don't know what is happening behind closed doors. You don't know the writers or their families or their unique situations. You can't possibly understand a family's entire life based off one article, so please, put your pitchforks away.
Don't Get Into Online Fueds
Keyboards and anonymity make people bolder than usual, and the resulting feuds in the comment section are kind of hilarious, yes, but honestly, they're more disturbing. Facebook wasn't a thing until I got to college, so online bullying wasn't something that I ever experienced. If I had a discrepancy with someone, I'd pass them a strongly worded, creatively folded note, like the cool girl that I was. I wasn't able to hide behind the safety of my computer like people do today, and truthfully, I don't understand the appeal of getting into a war of words with a complete stranger who probably isn't going to think twice about what I have to say, and who is going to continue to live their life the way they see fit, despite my admirable plea to sway their opinion.
Just don't get into fights in the comments. Not only is it immature, but it's a complete waste of time and effort. We need to focus our energy on supporting one another, not taking one another down with a strongly worded string of anonymous comments. It accomplishes nothing. Literally, nothing.
Read The Article Before You Comment
If you come across an article with a brash or bold title, understand that it's worded that way to grab your attention so that you'll read what the writer has to say. If it offends you, don't read it. It's really that simple. Don't take to the comment section to debate about something you haven't even read. Article headlines are worded in specific ways for specific reasons and starting a valuable conversation is definitely one of them, but if you haven't actually read the article your contribution to the conversation is irrelevant.
Don't Be Hateful
Some of my fellow writers and I joke about sitting at our computers with a bowl full of popcorn, laughing hysterically at some of the comments for the sake of entertainment. I've been called a snake, an incompetent human being, a whore, a sad excuse for a mother, a bitch, a slut, and an alcoholic, among many other things. The comments don't phase me anymore, but they do make me concerned for humanity. I can laugh off most of what people say, but being a verbal punching bag for emboldened strangers isn't exactly something that I enjoy. Just know that the more hateful you are, the less serious you're taken.
If you have something to say, find a way to say it without ripping the author or other commenters to shreds.
Try To Understand The Writer Or Commenters' Perspectives
No two people parent exactly alike. We've all got different parenting methods and opinions, but I think it's safe to say that we've all got the same goals in mind: to raise happy, healthy, and kind children. So if you're reading an article that's got you scratching your head, try to understand the other person's perspective. Just because you and other parents aren't in complete agreement, that doesn't necessarily mean that one of you is right and the other is wrong. Put yourself in their shoes. You don't have to agree with them, but you really should listen to them before you make judgments about their way of life.
Remember That No One Is Perfect
If you're a perfect parent who has never messed up, raise your hand. Odds are, no one is raising their hand right now. No one is a perfect parent. Seriously, no one. I don't care how many organic recipes you know or how many sensory activities you do or if your kids never watch TV or are the most well mannered little geniuses on the planet, you're not a perfect parent. You just aren't. There's no such thing. So before you take to your keyboard to berate someone for feeding their children chicken nuggets, remember that you're not perfect either.
If A Seasoned Mom Is Giving You Advice, Try Listening Before You Get Defensive
I'm not going to write that every "seasoned," long-time mom is out to help new moms from the goodness of their heart, because there are plenty of older moms who shame young moms for being "clueless" or doing things differently. However, there are plenty of situations in which a new mom can actually benefit from someone else's learned experience, so it's worth it to actually open up your mind and listen and see if certain suggestions could make your parenting life easier.
Be Respectful, Even If You Disagree
We're all adults here, so we should be able to agree to disagree. There's nothing wrong with healthy debate or sharing opinions or advice, but there is a right and a wrong way to do these things. Not agreeing with someone else's opinion doesn't merit your eye rolls or fingers pointing. If you're old enough to have a baby, you're old enough to mind your manners.
Don't Be A Bully
I never realized how bad online bullying really was until I started writing online for a living and, wow, you guys, it's bad. Personally, I'm able to continue to live my life after I've been taken down in the comment section, but I have a feeling that others aren't. Words are so, so powerful. You might think what you're commenting isn't a big deal, but to the person your words are directed at, it might be a very big deal. Instead of using your words to take someone down, use them to build others up. Like I said, you don't have to agree with someone to have a meaningful conversation with them. You don't have to berate someone to get your point across. If you have something to say, feel free to say it but, you know, don't be a jerk about it, OK?