My social media accounts make my life look perfect: happy little family photos, sharing recipes, and my book review of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
I don’t post about how my baby crawled off the changing table and landed on his face, several feet below. I don’t confess that I allow him to teethe on my flip flop because he loves it. Mostly, though, I make sure to never admit what a crappy sleeper my ten-month-old son is. He wakes 3-5 times each night for 40-minute nursing sessions and totals 8-9 broken hours of sleep. He is the lightest sleeper when it comes to naps. Today I opened the filing cabinet in another room, and he woke up!
So, sure, I’m fake, but not for my vanity. It’s for my sanity. I wouldn’t dream of telling Facebook my problems because I have seen how “friends” treat moms who complain online.
I’m not worried about overt jerks attacking me online, rather well-meaning, unsolicited advice.
Overwhelmingly, a mother who says that she is having difficulty with parenting is given advice. Some social media users dole out advice so quickly and without thought, it’s like they can’t control their fingers from typing – like they are vomiting advice.
Take my friend Vanessa. She posted the following online about her 1-month-old: “So Chris is saying I’m never getting anything done again. He’s been either nursing or crying to nurse for the last 3 hours straight. I need to eat lunch too, kid!!!”
The replies came fast.
Reply 1: “Don’t demand feed!“
The first reply seems to say, “You’re having trouble because you’re doing it wrong. If you didn’t nurse on demand, you wouldn’t have this problem.”
Reply 2: “I had the same problem and I had very little cream in my milk, so I had to supplement with a bottle. I did both nursing and formula so my child wouldn’t starve.”
This reply says, “I’m sure you’re having the same problem I had and you need to supplement with formula or your child will starve. If you just fed a bottle too, you wouldn’t be having this problem.”
Reply 3: “Marshmallow root and fenugreek will enrich your milk…call me.”
This reply says, “I know exactly what will fix everything with my obscure natural solutions which you probably don’t have at home. Also, you’re having trouble, so call me, even though my phone also dials out.”
My huge issue with the way people respond to moms who are having a difficult time is that they immediately vomit advice. This implies that the mom is parenting “wrong” and with some changes, it can all be fixed. But that assumes that if you parent correctly, you will never struggle. If you just followed the right advice, you can happily raise perfect little children.
So if I were parenting “correctly,” I would never have an infant who cries hours for no reason, a kindergartner who pushes on the playground, or a teen who cuts class. I would have no reason to complain online. If you are complaining online, you must be parenting wrong, correct? No.
Struggling to parent is real and valid.
It doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. It means you’re trying and that parenting is hard. Perhaps you do need a new tact, but often what you really need is someone to listen to you, tell you, “you are amazing”, and then bring over lots of waffles.
So maybe now you understand why I don’t publicly admit to my baby sleeping poorly.
I actually do appreciate advice, just only when I ask, rather than any time this parenting business gets tough. I confess, I look much better rested online than I do in reality. It’s not completely honest, but I think it’s important for my mental health. If I can’t get sleep, at least I can keep my mouth shut to avoid stepping in a puddle of advice vomit.
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