Marshall Stief, Romper

Is Online Shaming Ever "Helpful"? Moms & Experts Debate On 'Bearing The Motherload'

Share even the most innocuous details about your parenting decisions online, and you're sure to experience a seemingly never-ending barrage of judgment, condemnation, and even hate. When something as personal as parenthood is discussed on something as unforgiving as the internet, the results can be, well, unfortunate. That's why Romper decided to explore online shaming and "call out culture" in our third episode of Bearing the Motherload, our video series where parents with different perspectives on an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not condemn) each other. After all, feeling judged for a parenting choice is something that every single mother has experienced at one time or another.

At least 64 percent of moms feel that their parenting decisions are judged at least sometimes by other moms, according to data from The Research Moms. When the data was broken down even further, researchers found that 24 percent of moms feel their decisions are always judged by other moms. And since 68 percent of moms who use Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram feel their parenting decisions are judged at least sometimes by other moms, sharing our lives with others online has made it much easier for us to feel as though we're constantly failing or making the "wrong" choices.

However, motherhood, and particularly new motherhood, can be isolating. So simply saying "stay off the internet" isn't an adequate solution to the judgment moms feel from other moms online. And since "it takes a village to raise a child" has been a long-standing call for unity and community, why should we keep our decisions to ourselves? As a mother to a 3-year-old, I can tell you that sharing the things I have decided to do with those I trust has given me perspective, allowed me to learn from moms who do things differently, and given me a chance to bounce new ideas off moms who have been there.

So, can this "call out culture" ever be a good thing? Or is it nothing more than a chance for people to bring others down in an attempt to feel better about themselves? Ebony and Starrene are the two moms with very different opinions who appear in this episode of Bearing the Motherload. Ebony is a single mom with a 3.5-year-old son. And when it comes to sharing her opinions with other moms, she doesn't back down. "I share my opinions without being asked. I know that I do. Being a nurse, my personality is to be very, very helpful. I like to help people and take care of them, honestly," Ebony says. "Being a parent, I like to share my opinion, a lot of times, just because I feel like I'm helping another mom who may need some advice, even if she didn't ask for it."

Ebony appears on Bearing The Motherload to talk about giving other parents unsolicited advice. Photo courtesy of Ebony.

And, perhaps, Ebony isn't wrong. The number of moms who are deciding to stay at home and raise their children has increased in recent years, increasing to 29 percent in 2012, up from a modern-era low of 23 percent in 1999, according to Pew Research. That decision (made by either choice or necessity) can make new moms (and seasoned moms, for that matter) feel lonely. And according to Crowdtap, which conducted a study of 1,000 millennial parents with at least one child 10 or younger, 90 percent of millennial parents find social media to be helpful. When you're isolated at home, with a child who may or may not be able to use the toilet properly, connecting with other parents who have been where you are with the click of the mouse is, well, sometimes essential

But it's not all fun and games, of course. Starrene, a married mother of one who works from home, likes to figure things out on her own and doesn't appreciate someone stepping in without asking. "I'm still kind of discovering my parenting style," Starrene tells Bearing the Motherload. "I hate when people just kind of step in and are like, 'Hey, let me do it for you,' and I'm like, 'No, let me figure it out until I finally decide I need that help.' I don't give unsolicited advice to other moms."

Starrene, a work-from-home mom, joins Bearing The Motherload to share why she doesn't call out other moms. Photo courtesy of Starrene.

Family and Child Therapist Meredith Shirey joined the moms on Bearing the Motherload to give her expert knowledge as to how "call out culture" can, in fact, be beneficial, when conducted in an appropriate manner, of course. Dr. Judich Joseph, a Child and Adult Psychiatrist, isn't too sure, though. Joseph highlights the often negative reasons behind calling another parent out; reasons that can erase even the best of intentions.

In the end, as parents, we're all just trying to do our best. And often times, that means sharing our lives, our decisions, and our children's milestones online. How we respond to the different ways others parent says more about us than it does them, and how often we're willing to help others through kind and thoughtful commentary can actually benefit us all.

Watch Ebony and Starren below in Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.