When it comes to the slice of the internet occupied by parents, moms frequently get called out for our comments and behavior over the so-called “mommy wars,” which is only partially fair. Yeah, we’re in there scrapping sometimes, but we should recognize and name how internalized sexism combined with the soul-crushing stress of systemic economic and gender oppression makes it hard for people to have civil conversations about anything, especially motherhood. But dads are not at all immune to the aforementioned, and there needs to be rules for dads commenting on parenting articles, too.
While men typically comment less frequently on parenting articles (largely the result of them doing less reading about parenting, because men still do disproportionately less work related to child-rearing overall), when they do show up in the comments, it's usually a hot mess. As if it wasn't bad enough dealing with other moms telling us how we should birth or how we feed our kids or sleep; having men who will never experience most or any of that stuff show up to tell those of us who will is just the worst. Nope, nope, a million times, nope.
Now, I can already hear y’all objecting, and yes, I agree that not all men are this bad. Like with anything, if it applies it applies, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But if your first instinct is, “That’s not fair! Not all men are like that! I know I’m not like that,” you probably are, but nobody wants to be the one to tell you. So, since the people who need to learn this most probably aren't reading right now, here’s some ammo for you, moms, to bookmark and save for the next time you’re in a parenting conversation on social media, and that guy shows up to tell everybody their business. You’re welcome.
Read Everything At Least Twice Before Commenting
Sorry, dudes, but it must be said: while a lot of people apparently struggle to actually read things in their entirety before commenting online, cisgender men are especially bad. I've lost count of how many times men have written to me or commented elsewhere with points that were either thoroughly addressed in the original piece they were responding to, or that are just totally irrelevant to the conversation they were basically interrupting. Spare yourself and everyone else some trouble. Read, then reread.
Don’t Tell Women What To Do During Pregnancy
I don't care how knowledgeable you (think you) are about pregnancy. You will never be pregnant, so there is almost no way for your comments about how women “should” handle pregnancy to not be horribly annoying and useless. Unless you're commenting about what you did to help your pregnant partner, just keep your opinion to yourself.
Don’t Tell Women What To Do During Childbirth
Definitely keep your mouth shut if you're thinking about telling any woman what she “should” include in her birth plan. No one cares that you think women should choose epidurals. No one cares that you think women should choose unmedicated births. No one cares what you think about labor and delivery at all, because no human will ever come out of your body. Just stop.
Don’t Tell Women Anything About Breastfeeding Or Not
Don't tell women we should cover up. Don't tell women we should nurse exposed. Don't tell women we should only bottle feed in public. Don't tell women we shouldn't bottle feed at all. Don't tell people with breasts what we should do with our breasts. It's bad enough when other moms try to do that. It's way worse when people who will never face that choice or that experience try to tell us what to do about it.
Basically, Stop Mansplaining Our Own Bodies To Us In General
There are just some times when dads need to back off. When the topic at hand involves a bodily function you cannot perform, you don't have a right to say what other people should do with their own bodies. The only legitimate way to contribute is to support, or talk about how to be supportive.
Focus On How Dads Can Dad Better
Especially on articles about pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, instead of talking about what women can or should do differently, talk about what you would do for your partner, or how dads can be better at supporting moms’ work. In all other areas, where dads can and should share the load equally, talk about how dads can step up and be great in their children’s lives. That's a contribution that's often missing in these conversations.
Beware Of Words Like “Just” And “Only” When Talking About Moms’ Issues
A lot of men have the infuriatingly bad habit of minimizing the significance of (and the work involved with) many aspects of motherhood. If you're commenting on articles that specifically have to do with issues facing moms, first ask yourself if you really ought to comment at all.
If you plan to keep going, pay close attention to sentences with “just” in them. For example, do not ever tell a breastfeeding mom she should “just” pump. Pumping breastmilk is really f*cking challenging, it's not necessarily something you can “just” do. Ditto for things like saying a mom “just” stays home with her kids, or “only” has one kid, like that's not a lot of hard work.
Be Careful Where You Aim The Word “Should”
"Should" is a powerful word. It's one we use when we want to let ourselves or other people know what we think their behavior is supposed to be like, which raises the specter of judgment and shame. That doesn't mean the word is off limits, but it does mean it's important to be careful before using it, especially if you're a person with more social power telling a person with less social power what they "should" do, as happens when men talk to women, white folks talk to people of color, and so forth. Chances are, there's some personal or social context you're missing, that makes it really problematic for you to presume you know enough to tell us how we "should" behave.
Be Careful With Phrases Beginning With “Well, At Least...”
Unless, of course, you're intending to be horribly dismissive of whatever struggle the person you're responding to just shared. Then definitely talk about how "at least" this other worse thing didn't happen, or how they "at least" don't have to deal with this thing you have to deal with. If you go that route, prepare yourself for some digital torches and pitchforks, and/or to lose a friend or two.
Just Delete Any Comment That Includes “Well, What About…”
You may very well have an important contribution to make in the public conversation about parenting. I don't discount that in the slightest; there is so much about parenting that needs to be dissected, discussed, and reimagined. But if you're commenting on a post targeted at, say, how moms can handle our stress or anxiety, and you're swooping in with, "Well, what about dads?" you're derailing an important conversation to make everything about you. That's a crappy thing to do, no matter how insightful your observations might be. Instead of commenting on that post, go write something of your own, and help contribute to a new and necessary conversation on the thing you care about.