If you’re a mom, your social media feed is probably peppered with accounts re-tweeting sarcastic posts about kids from mom and dad bloggers around the Internet. The little quips start off being charming, ironic reminders of the challenges of parenthood. Until all of a sudden, they start showing up a little too often in your feed. Suddenly, it seems like the business of parenting involves taking a well-timed crack at your kid every time you grab your phone and escape to the bathroom for a few minutes of peace and quiet. For a culture so obsessed with ending mom-shaming, why do we so readily make fun of our kids?
Hits, of course. Likes, re-tweets, whatever you want to call the act of getting attention on the Internet. That’s the main purpose. It’s the main purpose behind mom-shaming, too. And speaking out against mom-shaming for that matter. There’s a vicious shame cycle occurring on the Internet that goes a little like this: Find “friends.” Use social media like a confessional. Get shamed. Whine about getting shamed. Fight back against being shamed. Rinse, repeat. Why are bloggers, particularly mommy bloggers, addicted to such a damaging cycle of behavior?
Because people pleasing is a natural side-effect derived from shame. Nothing thrives on people pleasing more than social media. Repeat shamers screaming “I’m not ashamed! Don’t shame me!” feed off the false feeling of freedom the Internet gives us. You never encounter 99 percent of these people in real life, so why be ashamed of a behavior or action you’d otherwise be horribly embarrassed by in public? When it comes to kid-shaming, you’d never sarcastically snap back at your child who is misbehaving in Target. You might like Judd Apatow, but you aren’t living in one of his movies. So, you save the comment for your social media feed, your imaginary crew in that imaginary reality you’ve created for yourself that feels a lot like This is 40. You can mock your kid there and feel cool with no shame. Right?
Except, of course, that the Internet is the storehouse of everything you’ve ever said, every picture you’ve ever posted. One day, probably sooner than you think, your kid is going to read that sarcastic joke and take it the wrong way. Then all those hours you spent at Baby Einstein classes teaching her character values will fly out the window because the person they role model the most had a character-less moment online. Several of them, actually. All involving making nasty comments about the kid they sent to pro-equality, judgment-free trans-preschool. Given the headlines that scream, “Internet shame is killing our children,” shouldn’t we be the first to avoid the shame cycle, no matter how tantalizing its instant gratification can seem?
Instead of spending so much time advocating for all those Internet moms we don’t know, shouldn’t we be cheering for the kids we live with in real life? Yes, parenting has its tough moments. And it’s good to find humor in the hard days. But cracking jokes about how you wish you’d made different life choices while your five-year-old daughter hangs around the house, bored out of her mind and wanting your full attention during summer vacation is nauseating. It’s self-centered. And it’s everything being a parent shouldn’t be. I want to hear from moms who are proud of their kids for doing everything from winning awards to just being themselves. That’s the kind of encouragement that makes us thrive – parents and kids alike.