Where Evil Lurks – The Comment Section of Parenting Websites

One of the things that confuses me about being a parent (and trust me there are many) is that we expect our kids to behave better than we do.  For example, last week at the school P.T.A. meeting a group of moms were chatting the entire time.  If they want to visit why didn’t they go to a Starbucks or at the very least stand outside in the school parking lot and gossip up a storm? It’s not like they hadn’t seen each other in months. By the looks of their matching outfits it’s a pretty safe bet they were on their phones early this morning planning what they were going wear.

Now, here they sit and proceed to have their own little meet and greet. At best they were distracting, at worst it was flagrantly rude. Now imagine the same exact scenario, but insert a group of 10-year-olds for the “I’m too important to shut up moms.” The 10-year-olds for even thinking about talking non-stop during a meeting would have been quickly reprimanded and given a lecture that was rich with punishment potential. But, those Brite Smile moms, nothing happened to them.

Sure, many shhh’s were thrown their way, along with a legion of evil eyes and the P.T.A. treasurer even did a, “Ladies, I really need everyone’s attention,” but no one directly told them to be quiet. I was torn. I really wanted to tell them to shut the hell up, but another part of me wanted to see if  they would go for broke and talk the entire meeting  The answer to that is yes, they did.

Now that little scenario of moms behaving badly is nothing compared to the conduct of mothers on parenting websites. I, having moved frequently, use local parenting websites (usually affiliated with a newspaper) for innocuous questions like: Is the Waves of Fun Waterpark worth a season pass?  Other moms post more compelling questions about pregnancy, child rearing, etc.  Last month I was on one well-known national parenting site where a mother of twin toddlers posted that she was just enjoying her kids and not teaching them to read or doing flashcards – yet. That simple statement ignited a crapstorm.

The mother was called everything from being a “lazy loser” to “not fit to have children.”  One person posted that the mom “was what’s wrong with the educational system” and she was “tired of idiot moms who couldn’t get their kids ready for pre-school.” Another said, she was “selfish because thanks to her all the other kids in pre K will be short-changed while the teacher works with her twins to get them up to speed.”

Wow, I thought why all the emotion? It was just a two sentence post from a mom who was sharing her joy in spending time with her 2-year -olds. Get over it. It’s one person’s parenting style not a referendum on child care.

To investigate/pot stir further I decided to do a little more research on the mommy comment harshness factor.  (Note: I know my blog doesn’t runneth over with teeth hurting sweetness, but I think I pick on myself more than anyone else. Nor would I ever reply hurtfully to anyone’s comment. I may think someone’s an idiot, but I would never, ever type it to their face.)

Over the course of five days I posted on different sites three questions or statements that have little or nothing to do with my family and were chosen based on what stage of child rearing a parent would be experiencing.  1) I was having trouble breast-feeding and thinking of going to formula did anyone have any suggestions?  2) I was going to stop nagging my children about homework and letting them fail to so they could learn responsibility and accountability. 3) This winter my kids were taking a break from any sports activity that interfered with the family weekend.

Let’s just say I wished my blog got that many comments.  I was attacked by vitriol.  The breast-feeding comments made me the saddest. Here was a woman (okay me posing as a new mother) in need of moral support and a “you can do it pep talk.” What I got were a few kind comments and helpful suggestions and the rest were a little scary. The nicest mean thing I was called was a “quitter.” The rest were just post after post about what a sub standard human I am from “ a mother who “apparently doesn’t love her baby enough” to “I shouldn’t even have been allowed to have a child.” My education and I.Q. were even questioned based on me even thinking about switching to formula.  After I had a good cry about strangers hating me I moved on to the homework post.

My thinking was this one would address mothers with kids in school and perhaps the responses would be a little saner. I chalked up some of the breast-feeding mom hate posts to sleep deprivation. Well, that hypothesis proved to be invalid. I got just as much crap thrown at me. I was a bad, bad, mommy.  A slacker mom and my favorite a mom who said  “you must be too stuped to help your kids with homework.” That’s right they spelled stupid wrong.

Not one person agreed with me or shared that they too had tried a similar tactic. One person said they used to be a teacher and “mothers like me are why they got out of teaching.”  Well, that surprised me.  I thought teachers would be all over parents insisting their kids take on some responsibility and initiative.

My zero weekend sports activity post brought out the competitive parents in droves. Many of the comments were that I was single-handedly responsible for childhood obesity. One person asked if I were “too fat to climb the bleachers and if that’s why I didn’t want my children to participate in sports?” Ouch!  Many shared the same thought that I didn’t want to remove my rump from the couch to care for my kids. No one even caught on to the “family weekend” concept.  No busy sports weekend translated into loser family.

After having the “strangers rip me a new one” experiment ended I moved on to the conclusion phase. What had I learned?

I learned that some, not all, but some as in many, parents on the mom message boards are mean boarding on evil, opinionated, self-righteous, know it all, jerks whose hobby is trolling cyberspace looking for landing pads where they can spread their bad tempers.

Why, I ask you, do people feel the need to be such asses on-line?  Yes, it is a faceless, nameless forum, but really who carries around that much venom?  And yes, I do expect more nice, more love and more positive from females in general and mothers in particular about fundamental parenting issues. Much has been made recently on the need for us as a nation to practice civil discourse.  Well, let me tell you something if civil discourse starts in the home America is in big trouble.