“If you don’t care what people think about your parenting, why do you write about it so much?”
A question I am often asked, and the answer is simple: 4 years ago, I did.
Let me be clear- I never cared if, why, or when people thought that I was wrong, it only became a problem to me when just an opinion that disagreed with mine crossed the line into bullying. When Parker was only a few months old, that is exactly where I found myself.
As if having an infant isn’t hard enough, let’s throw a serious illness into the mix. If those two things aren’t hard enough, let’s throw a group of judgy nasty women who disagree with how we (along with many doctors) were caring for him without ever having met me or my child. It very very quickly crossed the line from just being mean to harassment and cyber-bullying. It got so bad, in fact, that they actually had the audacity to report me to child protective services for “child abuse”.***
Why did it go so far? I still don’t really know for sure, but no reason will ever be a good enough one to justify bullying someone.
I was flabbergasted. Appalled. Shocked. Scared, even. Any time I would sign online I was afraid of the next horrible thing they’d said, rumor they’d spread, person they’d attempted to turn against me. I tried ignoring them, blocking them, moving on- but for months on end the bullying continued. It was awful, and embarrassing. To have a group of women (strangers, at that) that disliked me so much that they were hell-bent on ruining my life was not something I ever could have prepared myself for. I had been under the impression that as mothers, we were all in this together and were there to help one another; not harm.
I didn’t know who to talk to, or who to turn to, because I’d never heard of this kind of thing happening. Of course I had Thomas, but he wasn’t bearing the brunt of the bullying, so I’m not sure he ever fully understood what it felt like. Even if you are a confident parent, positive that you are doing the right thing for your child/ren, months of insults, criticisms, bashing, lies being spread, and friends being lost can really do a number on you. It wears you down.
The internet had betrayed me. The internet should have all of the answers, but the internet brought me hate and ugliness, and it also brought me a sense of feeling completely alone, because all I really needed was one person who had been there and made it through to the other side. Someone to say “I’ve been there. It will be okay!”- but there was no one.
No one should EVER have to feel that way.
People will tell you not to care what others think, not to let it bother you, just to ignore it. It’s so easy to say those words. It’s MUCH harder to apply them and make them reality.
It’s a shame that something created to bring people together has created an easy avenue for people to turn to bullying. Things that people would never say to someone in person in fear of getting the snot kicked out of them fly from peoples’ fingertips so easily on the internet. We’ve become a society of haters. God forbid anyone is ever different from anyone else! We must stomp on it, because if they are right, that MUST mean that I am wrong- and I can’t be wrong!
One picture of your child in a car seat with the buckle too low and you are suddenly the worst parent in the universe because you clearly don’t care about vehicle safety… even if the car seat wasn’t in a car, or the car hadn’t started moving, or you adjusted it right after the picture was taken but the picture was cute so you wanted to share it. One picture of your child with their hair accidentally in their eyes and you are the parent who doesn’t care if they can see and their learning is being damaged because you are just letting them walk around blindly. One mention of giving your baby a bottle can turn into a flame war of Breast vs. Bottle and who is the better parent and who is wrong.
Do they care if they are crapping on your self-confidence or ruining your day? No, because there are no consequences. They can rip you to shreds without a single drop of remorse and go about their day as though nothing happened. Even if you know them outside of the internet- it’s so much easier to write ugly things in a little box on a website instead of confronting the person.
“But Jenny, you’re giving them attention. Isn’t that what they’re looking for?”
Yes and no. Yes, they want attention. Many bullies want a rise out of you, and some are just satisfied with the acknowledgement that they hurt your feelings. I don’t fight with bullies, I ban them, block them, and remove them from my life; but someone needs to stand up AGAINST them.
“But Jenny, we always learned that if you ignore them, they’ll just go away!”
Maybe they’ll go away, but unless they are confronted with their own actions, they will continue to bully. If not you, someone else.
Bullies are like children- if you don’t TELL them that what they are doing is wrong, they will continue to do it thinking that not only can they get away with it, but that it’s okay. Some enjoy the act, and some pretend they aren’t bullies, they are just trying to show you how wrong you are in your wrongness. They are the saviors! The one who will guide you to be right by making you feel like shit for an opinion that differs from theirs.
Childhood bullying is still a HUGE problem, but look at the strides we as a world have made by finally coming out of hiding and shining a bright light on it. Schools have zero tolerance policies, kids are learning that they shouldn’t be ashamed if someone is bullying them. Things are changing. It’s about damn time things started changing for adult victims (and I hate that word) of bullying. The only way to start the wheel turning is to talk about it. The first step on the road to progress is opening a dialogue, admitting it exists, and working together to end it.
Never did I think that person would be me, but I’ve been there, and I know what it’s like, and if anyone else can benefit in any way from reading my story, even if just to know they aren’t the only one to be judged and bullied- it’s worth it.
So no, I don’t always bring up the negative comments or the people who call me a bad mother because I’m over here licking my wounds. I do it because SOMEONE needs to. Hell, maybe all of us do.
I have a hope that maybe no one will ever have to go online in a panic and search for someone who has been bullied as well, just to find out what to do, how to act, how to feel- but for now, if they do, I will be here.
*** If you’d like to read my whole crazy bullying story (along with other stories of life and parenthood), pick up a copy of my book “Musings of a 20-Something Mom”- available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle!
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