Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mama Bashing

Welcome to the February 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Respectful Interactions With Other Parents

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have focused on how we can communicate with other parents compassionately.

One of the things I find hardest on-line is the levels of judgement and competitive mama-ing I have witnessed: in forums, on blogs...

I call it mama-bashing.

I was gobsmacked the first time I witnessed it. It was like a forest fire. Women around the UK were obviously sat glued to the ensuing battle, their comments flying in thick and fast. Feverish anger, name calling, finger pointing, reputation smearing, judgements left, right and centre.

Mama-bashing… the online equivalent to stoning.

I felt sick and shaken.

And do every time since that I have witnessed it.

I have seen it just as often in the natural parenting blogosphere as the mainstream. And it cuts me to the core.

I have never been much good in conflict situations.

Mama-bashing  is like a playground fight. The sides gather, drawn by a controversial opinion – often genuine, sometimes trollish. If our children were involved in such vicious behaviour, we would not find it acceptable.

But instead because smacking is right or wrong, or breastfeeding needs to happen to this or that. Because sugar/ school/ doctors are right… or wrong (given the forum any of the above can be true… or not!)

Differences it seems are not acceptable.

There is good… and bad. And woe betide the person who pokes their head above the wrong parapet to speak their truth, to venture a difference of opinion, to challenge the status quo. Or even to state point blank that they tried this… and it did not work. Or circumstances made things this way for them.

Behind the scenes, in private Facebook groups, by text message and in person, there is baiting, bitching, shock, glee, tears, deep hurt…

This is my least favourite bit of human beings. Especially women folk. The anonymity of blogging brings out the worst of it.

And so, I take this opportunity to request an end to mama-bashing. An end to public humiliation, judgement and hurt. An end to stoning the bad woman. To ask that we see the vulnerable mother before the opinion. The woman muddling through under the cloak of certainty. To embrace the whole gamut of peoples’ personalities, experiences, situations and cultures. To abstain from supreme judgement, and an acceptance that we are all, deep down, doing the best we can. And those that are not… well that is between them and social services, them and their god. Not us.

I try my utmost to ensure that it will not happen here. In all my 17 months of blogging I have had only one slightly hurtful comment, that I should go and get anti-depressants – though I know it was meant with care. A friend had a similar comment on her blog, which was not voiced so carefully.

And so I am mindful with comments- both mine and others – that the comment usually say more about the commenter than the post.

Some people find expressing their emotions or deep truths hard, some find expressing themselves in writing hard – don’t we all really? Some are communicating in a second or third language, some will be having past hurts or present guilts exercised by your words.

And, as we have discovered in our women’s group – the written word is not good for communicating tone - often hurts are no more than misunderstandings: humour or irony not interpreted.

And so whilst I respect that others choose to use their experiences with parenting choices to categorically inform others, this is not what I choose for my blog. The only thing I can know with absolute truth is my own experiences, my own ambiguous, ever shifting reality. This I speak as my truth - reclaiming my "I".

Because in the end, I do not have certainty. I cannot know that my choices are better than yours. But I can share my journey and how I have come to my choices.

As with all aspects of free speech and contraversial opinion, I risk, by speaking my mind, to be judging the judgers. I hope the message of peace in this post, is louder than the voice of war and that we might further the wonder of this online project through mindful interactions.

In the words of Anne Frank: "We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same."


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 14 with all the carnival links.)
  • How to Respond Respectfully to Unwanted Parenting Advice and Judgment — At Natural Parents Network, Amy (of Peace 4 Parents) offers some ways to deal with parenting advice and criticism, whether it's from your mom or the grocery store clerk.
  • Judgement is Natural - Just Don't Condemn — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shared her views on why judgment is unavoidable and why the bigger issue is condemnation.
  • Four Ways To Share Your Parenting Philosophy Gently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares tips for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner.
  • When Other Parents Disagree With You — Being an attachment parent is hard enough, but when you are Lily, aka Witch Mom, someone who does not enforce gender roles on her kid, who devalues capitalism and materialism, and instead prefers homeschooling and homesteading — you are bound to disagree with someone, somewhere!
  • Mama Bashing — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on the hurt caused on the blogosphere by mama bashing and pleads for a more mindful way of dealing with differences.
  • Accentuate the Positive — Joella at Fine and Fair shares how she manages interactions with the parents she encounters in her work as a Parent Coach and Substance Abuse Counselor by building trusting relationships and affirming strengths.
  • The politics of mothers – keys to respectful interactions with other parents — Tara from MUMmedia offers great tips for handling the inevitable conflict of ideas and personalities in parenting/mother's groups, etc.
  • Trying to build our village — Sheila at A Gift Universe tells how she went from knowing no other moms in her new town to building a real community of mothers.
  • Internet Etiquette in the Mommy Wars — Shannon at The Artful Mama discusses how she handles heated topics in the "Mommy-space" online.
  • Parenting with Convictions — Sarah at Parenting God's Children encourages love and support for fellow parents and their convictions.
  • How To Be Respectful Despite Disagreeing On Parenting Styles... — Jenny at I'm a Full-Time Mummy shares her two cents' worth on how to have respectful interactions with other parents despite disagreeing on parenting styles.
  • Public RelationsMomma Jorje touches on keeping the peace when discussing parenting styles.
  • Navigating Parenting Politics — Since choosing an alternative parenting style means rejecting the mainstream, Miriam at The Other Baby Book shares a few simple tips that can help avoid hurt feelings.
  • Hiding in my grace cave — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants to forget that not all parents are as respectful and tolerant as the people with whom she now surrounds herself.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting - Respectful Interactions with Other Parents — Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles explores how her attitude has changed regarding sharing information and opinions with others and how she now chooses to keep the peace during social outings.
  • Empathy and respect — Helen at zen mummy tries to find her zen in the midst of the Mummy Wars.
  • Not Holier Than Thou — Amyables at Toddler in Tow muses about how she's learned to love all parents, despite differences, disagreements, and awkward conversations.
  • Nonviolent Communication and Unconditional Love — Wendylori at High Needs Attachment reflects on the choice to not take offense as the key to honest and open communication.
  • Respectful Parenting As a Way of Life — Sylvia at MaMammalia writes about using her parenting philosophy as a guide to dealing with other parents who make very different choices from her.
  • Homeschooling: Why Not? — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how parents can often make homeschooling work for their family even if, at first glance, it may seem daunting.
  • If You Can’t Say Something Nice… — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells her philosophy for online and offline interactions … a philosophy based primarily on a children’s movie.
  • Different Rules for Different Families — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how differences between families affect our children, and how that can be a good thing.
  • Respectful Interaction With Other Parents — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares the ways she surrounds herself with a like-minded support network, so that she can gently advocate in her dealings with those whose opinions on parenting differ vastly from her own.
  • Parenting as a mirror — Rather than discrediting others' parenting styles, Kate Wicker discusses why she tries to focus on doing right rather than being right — and why she’s also not afraid to show others that she’s a heartfelt but imperfect mama just trying to be the best mom for her family.
  • The One Thing {Most} Parents Have In Common: They Try Their Best — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry finds interacting with other parents easier once she accepts that they are all just trying their best, just like her.
  • Finding your mama-groove: 5 ways to eliminate judge/be judged metalityMudpieMama reveals 5 ways of thinking that have helped her find her mama-groove and better navigate tricky parenting discussions.
  • Speaking Up For Those Who Can't — We've all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you're stunned into silence. Afterwards, you go home and think "Gosh, I wish I said…" This post by Arpita at Up Down, And Natural is for all the breastfeeding mamas who have thought "Gosh, I wish I said…"
  • Thank you for your opinion — Gaby at Tmuffin shares her go-to comment when she feels like others are judging her parenting style.
  • Mending — A playground conversation about jeans veers off course until a little mending by Kenna at Million Tiny Things is needed.
  • The Thing You Don't Know — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about what she believes is one of the most important things you can consider when it comes to compassionate communication with other parents.
  • 3 Tips for Interacting with Other Parents Respectfully When You Disagree with Them — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares what she has learned about respectful interactions on her parenting journey.
  • Peacefully Keeping My Cool: Quotes from Ana — How do you keep your cool? Ana from Pandamoly shares some of her favorite retorts and conversation starters when her Parenting Ethos comes into question.
  • Kind Matters — Carrie at Love Notes Mama discusses how she strives to be the type of person she'd want to meet.
  • Doing it my way but respecting your highway. — Terri from Child of the Nature Isle is determined to walk with her family on the road less travelled whether you like it or not!
  • Saying "I'm Right and You're Wrong" Seldom Does Much To Improve Your Cause... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how living by example motivates her actions and interactions with others.
  • Have another kid and you won't care — Cassie of There's a Pickle in My Life, after having her second child, knows exactly how to respond to opposing advice.
  • Ten Tips to Communicate Respectfully, Even When You Disagree — What if disagreements with our partners, our children or even complete strangers ultimately led to more harmony and deeper connections? They can! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares ten tips to strengthen our relationships in the midst of conflict.
  • A Little Light Conversation — Zoie at TouchstoneZ explains why respect needs to be given to every parent unconditionally.
  • Why I used to hide the formula box — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen finally talks about how judgement between parents changed her views on how she handles differences in parenting.
  • Assumptions — Nada at minimomist discusses how not everyone is able to nurse, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  • Shushing Your Inner Judgey McJudgerson — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction knows that judging others is easy to do, but recognizing that we all parent from different perspectives takes work.
  • Respectfully Interacting with Others Online — Lani at Boobie Time Blog discusses the importance of remaining respectful behind the disguise of the internet.
  • Presumption of Good Will — Why — and how — Crunchy Con Mommy is going to try to assume the best of people she disagrees with on important issues.
  • Being Gracious with Parenting Advice — Tips for giving and receiving parenting advice with grace from Lisa at My World Edenwild.
  • Explain, Smile, Escape — Don't know what to do when you're confronted by another parent who disagrees with you? Amy at Anktangle shares a story from her life along with a helpful method for navigating these types of tricky situations (complete with a handy flow chart!).
  • Balancing Cultures and ChoicesDulce de leche discusses the challenges of walking the tightrope between generations while balancing cultural and family ties.
  • Linky - Parenting Peacefully with Social MediaHannabert's Mom discusses parenting in a social media world.


  1. What an inspiring post! I agree with you on "Because in the end, I do not have certainty. I cannot know that my choices are better than yours. But I can share my journey and how I have come to my choices."

    That's what I do to when other mummies wrote in to ask me questions. I can't tell them what I do is right but what I do is share with my opinions and experiences and why we do it.

  2. I breathe this wish with you. It is so hurtful to see the vitriol that exists sometimes in the anonymous atmosphere of the internet. I so appreciate it when we see each other as people first and foremost, and connect with each other in a human-to-human way.

  3. Your point about the comment speaking more about the commenter is spot-on. That one thing has helped me really calm down when I get negativity on my blog/FB page - it is not a reflection on me. I completely agree with you - I would love to end all of the mama bashing - we could be so much more productive and supportive by simply living, learning, and supporting each other.

  4. You're right -- those battles are NASTY. I have been in some knock-down, drag-out internet fights. I always go in with good intentions, thinking I will offer another perspective, maybe tone down something critical someone else said ... and the next thing I know the bombs are flying. It's scary!

    So my rule now, that you mentioned, is to talk only about ME. My own story is the only story I know. I simply have no idea what brought other people to their choices, and I know for sure there is more to their story than they have room to tell me online. I don't even know what makes the nasty ones get nasty. Perhaps they're hurting inside -- I just don't know. So I try to just walk away from that kind of thing, and go back to my own blog where I tell MY story ... and no one else's.

  5. It is liberating to move away from conversations online that become nasty for no good reason and instead just allow everyone to have whatever feelings/opinions they choose and just be comfortable with my own. There is no benefit to be to raise my blood pressure because someone chooses differently than me because of their own life experiences. All I can do is empathize with their feelings and offer a change in perspective if they are willing to walk with me along my own journey for a moment.

  6. Thank you all for your insight and wisdom - I was worried that in writing this I might be attracting some mama-bashing myself for being judgemental! You never know! So I feel heartened by your responses, and glad that I am not alone in my feelings.

    At the time I didn't realise - but it is apt that this is posted here today - it being V-Day - the day celebrating the global movement of violence against women - check out my post on the "real" meaning of Valentines Day over at my website The Happy Womb. com http://thehappywomb.com/archives/404

  7. I believe that parenting is a hard enough job as it is without adding in the mama bashing you speak of. I have found that while I sometimes read things that I disagree with, my rule is that it is not for me to decide what is right for someone else as a mom (unless of course it clearly crosses the line and children are at risk of being abused).

    Thanks for sharing this post, I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said the bashing says more about the basher than the one being criticized.

  8. Ahhh yes. Mama bashing, mama wars, mama face offs. It's so dang third grade. It is so embarassing to mothers everywhere. We women should support each other, especially because we know how darn hard it is to do this mama thing.

    Very insightful, raw post as usual. You got right to the root of the whole judging issue. We judge and scorn that which we dislike in our own lives.

  9. I recently had a comment on a post I wrote which felt very hurtful because it was from a good friend and out of the blue. She completely misunderstood my intention which was to say that women are stronger than they think, that they have more rights and more power than they think. Away from the blog we have had a heart to heart about some issues that were worrying herr, person-to-person. I can come across pretty feisty in blogland sometimes when in fact, my true nature is much more timid. And when I write with passion on a topic as I recently did about how birth flows in the absence of drugs/ distractions, I felt I could write with authority cos I pretty much copied many ideas from the 'greats' drawing together the essence of what I have read from the books of Kitzinger, Ina May Gaskin, and others. Not massively original. When we channel the ideas of the folks who are at the top of their tree,, it's easy to feel right, cos they have decades of experience - which I do not. I think it's harder to stay calm and not write feisty responses when you think someone is getting the wrong end of the stick, and it can take longer for peaceful resolutions because we don't have other visual cues, touch, eye contact to aid our understanding of each other. The llink list above will make great reading, and I'm sure I would benefit from taking a step back sometimes when I perceive someone in blog land to be too self righteous, so I don't storming in with a 'oh for goodness sake don't be so silly' type comment. 99% of my interactions in the blogosphere are heartfelt offers of sympathy, condolence, love, affection, and I often carry around a persons story that I have heard with an ache in my heart for them if it was something sad. Most transactions online are in a spirit of love, but every now and then if someone really rubs me up the wrong way, I react. Not cool.

  10. Not cool - but I admire your honesty dearest MF. I totally agree that the lack of other signals doesn't help - and I totally carry round with me the other stories,and comments I have read on line in my life, as real as those that come from friends.

    You give so much love and energy in your comments which I am in awe of - I'm not great at the old comments myself - I NEVER know what to say, or how to say it...

    Like now! xxxx

  11. Yes, what you said! I agree it can get nasty out there in Internet Land. I also try to remember (before I type) that the only thing I am sure of is my own experience and my own thoughts. And, I try to imagine the person I'm writing to sitting on my couch drinking coffee with me. Would I say these words to her face? In person? Or am I just plugging my own agenda?

  12. Brilliant piece Blog sister. I know EXACTLY what you mean ;-)

  13. Your point about the comment speaking more about the commenter is spot-on. That one thing has helped me really calm down when I get negativity on my blog/FB page - it is not a reflection on me. I completely agree with you - I would love to end all of the mama bashing - we could be so much more productive and supportive by simply living, learning, and supporting each other.

  14. I agree and join with you. Oh, we all so need something different than bashing. We have all had moments (and will have) that we grow and learn from; we do not need harshness from one another. We need listening, love.

    Thank you for speaking up for this, for doing your part, and for feeling deeply enough to write about it. Much love to you and yours. :)

  15. This is a lovely post, full of kindness and compassion. I hate all this 'mummy wars' business ~ I had NO idea they existed until I became a mother myself. And you're right, the internet bashing is vicious, downright nasty at times.
    'To ask that we see the vulnerable mother before the opinion' ~ absolutely. Because however someone is choosing to parent, I'm pretty sure no-one ever thinks 'I know, I'll make some bad decisions and damage my child'.

    Lovely blog, really glad to have been introduced to it through the carnival.

  16. Thanks Amys both - delighted you found me too Zen Mummy - you're very welcome here!



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