Monday, August 29, 2011

Do Online Parenting Boards Fuel the "Mommy Wars"?

I was driving to school this morning, Heading to my Oral Communication class, thinking about things we had discussed and what I had read. It was about perception and how we use our experiences to perceive things.

This got me thinking- about a time when Lil Man was around 2-3 months old. I was taking my niece to the zoo and had stopped in a back area to nurse Lil Man while she played on a slide in the zoo. A couple other moms came with their infants, bottle fed, and let their older children play. I smiled at the moms, and they gave what I perceived as a forced smile to me. They then stared at how I was nursing my child, and then got up and walked to another area. To me, it seemed clear that they either did not approve of my nursing in public (even though I was using a cover to keep my fair child from getting scorched by the sun) or they were worried that I was going to say something about the method they chose to feed their child.

Now, I am not sure that they moved because of my nursing, but the body language, and expressions made me feel like they well as one other experience with a popular online birth board. Online, I had read countless stories of breastfeeding mothers getting dirty looks, being asked to leave, or rude comments made in passing. I had also read several stories of formula or bottle feeding mothers saying they were chastised out in public for not breastfeeding. I had never SEEN in real life, any of these events take place, yet these stories skewed my perception of how breastfeeding and formula feeding moms interact with each other.

In real life, every mother that I know uses disposable diapers. The few I have met (in passing) that use cloth, never talked about it. They just did it, never paid attention to if my child wore cloth or disposable diapers, and we talked about other, more important things. If you go online, to a birth board, cloth vs disposable is one of those "hot topics" that will ultimately end in a show down. Cloth Diapering mothers arguing to the death about how cloth is more cost effective, cute, less toxic, and so much more. Disposable Diapering mothers feeling as though they have to explain why they chose to go the route they did. Not only that, inevitably, a EC mommy (elimination communication) will come in and point out there would be no issue if everybody just did EC.

The list goes on and on- CIO vs No-Cry sleep methods, stay home mom vs working mom, purees vs baby-led solids, vaccination vs not, circumcise or not, and so much more. The words that spill out on these "threads" can be snide, crude, antagonistic, and so much more.

I can't help but think that these online sites have taught us to put up our defences. These interactions, often quick and thoughtless by those who antagonize, make us feel that everyone is waiting to judge or comment on each choice we make as a parent.

Now don't get me wrong, there would always be people who judge. Those that think "if they would just do this, their child wouldn't be like that" and so on..... BUT- how often in real life, do we TELL people these things? Not very often. If we think them, we usually keep them to ourselves, or at most, say something to our spouse, or friend. While this doesn't make those thoughts right, it does spare feelings, and unnecessary confrontation.

So while I would never, ever, say anything like that in real life, and most of us probably wouldn't, the online forums have made us feel as though someone will. Online, people chuck their manners out the window before sitting at the keyboard, they have no one to answer to, no "real" consequences, and if things get heated, it is easy for them to walk away. They also usually find a group to back them up in how they fill. If they word things just right, the bully, can even come off as the victim.

But in real life, we are usually in a one-on-one type situation. We are just as vulnerable as the other person. Not only that, we want to be liked in real life. We want positive interactions with other moms. We want to share common experiences, not dwell on the choices we make that are different.

If I had never been to this online forum, and never seen some of these "wars" I would not even know of their existence. I would never have thought that those moms were either judging me or waiting to be judged, I would have thought they just were wanting some privacy (since there were 2 and they were in a conversation).

Technology and the internet are wonderful tools. I have made some wonderful friends through these online sites, but I can't help but notice they have taken the "Mommy Wars" to an entirely new level. We expect to be judged for every choice we make, and we feel that we need to label ourselves, and group ourselves with other moms that have our labels. Is there an answer to this? Yes. The answer is to stop putting labels on ourselves and others, educate but be respectful, and use the same courtesy we would in person, online. Will people do this? Probably not. While it would be AMAZING if they did, every month, a new birth board is started for expected mothers, and every month, their are new moms to get in wars. Moms seeking advice will get strong advocates- some that are respectful, and unfortunately some that are not, and the mommy wars will continue.

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