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.


33 thoughts on “Where Evil Lurks – The Comment Section of Parenting Websites

  1. Angela says:

    Hi Snarky. I joined a Mom forum here, though I am past, (way, way past) my child bearing years, and presented myself as such, just an interested Gramma. The bitterness and vitriol that appears there stunned me, and I rarely venture into that snake pit any more.

    I loved your post. I breastfed my kids, but my grandkids have been breastfed in varying ways and for varying amounts of time. I’m not their Mom. While I’m be happy to help if asked for advice, when I haven’t been, I’ve kept my mouth the way God intended it: closed. That’s why it has a flap.

    I never helped my kids with homework. I’d say, “Sorry. I passed 7th (or whatever) grade. I don’t have to do that homework. Good luck.” I know: bad, bad mommy.

    And sports….yeah, right. I was enough of a Mom to take care of my kids on my own. I didn’t need to farm them out to kidsitters/coaches. I had one son who was really good at baseball, and since he really wanted to play, we let him join Little League. He played for two years, then it was his decision to quit when he got tired of all the parents and coaches yelling at the kids. My kids are smart enough to know that games are…yeah, games.

    Love you, Snarky. You are my hero. Keep up the amazing work. Thanks for this blog. Most moms I know aren’t as honest as you, and I am grateful for at least one place on the net where I can find and read a real Mom!

    • Catherine says:

      I used to have a profile on a popular mom website. A few years ago, I posted a question about getting the weird build-up off my toddler’s scalp. (Since then, a hairdresser told me that it’s a toddler form of cradle cap.) I said that I don’t wash my son’s hair every day and the backlash was ridiculous. You’d think I said I never bathed him. I removed my question and never posted anything on there again.

      It’s really frightening that we’re supposed to be teaching our children to be decent human beings and adults (moms) can’t even follow suit.

      Thanks for keepin’ it real, Snarky Mom…although I swear you have to make up some of the craziness that appears on your blog. But then again, I live in a different part of the U.S. and my kids aren’t in school yet.

      • snarkyinthesuburbs says:

        Oh sweet, young Catherine let me assure you that everything I write is totally real. Trust me once your oldest gets to elementary school you will find yourself going, “Oh no Snarky was right. How dare I question her greatness!” Right around the time your first born is in second grade will you begin to see the real world of elementary school moms. The first time kindergarten and first grade moms are buffered, a bit, from the harsh realities of the elementary school mom pecking order. But, once second grade hits the gloves are off and it’s on! I have lived in 2 cities in the northeast, on the west coast, Texas and throughout the midwest and nothing changes except the names. Please look me up (snarkyinthesuburbs@gmail.com) once your child is in school and if I’m not correct I will owe you either $50 in Chuck E. Cheese tokens or a Target’s Gift Card. If I’m right you owe me your undying gratitidue for sharing the inside stories of the dark underbelly of elementary school parents.

  2. Mary says:

    While we may not share the same philosophies, I respect varying parenting styles. It’s a shame you encountered such venom! Keep up the great work on your hilarious blog!

  3. Anna says:

    You should give car seat safety a whirl. Talk about a lynch mob. I was once accused of gambling with my child’s life when I asked a question.

  4. JJ says:

    You have to remember that the people behinds those mean comments are the most insecure mothers on the planet. They want to be so sure that they are doing the right thing for their child, that they have to make everyone else feel bad if they don’t agree.
    A lot of passionate moms often don’t realize that kids aren’t plants, there is no one single right way to make them successfully grow into the best possible person and even worse, even in hindsight we don’t know definatively that our choices were what made the difference.

  5. Cheryl says:

    Glad I’m not the only one. I’m a moderator for one such “Mom Site.” Luckily, our city isn’t very harsh, but boy oh boy the National threads leave me stunned some times. Anonymity is not synonymous with abusive, dismissive, scurrilous or down-right degrading. Pick up a thesaurus if you don’t believe me. 🙂

    • Michele says:

      Normally when I read your posts I laugh so hard I almost cry. Today (unfortunately) I just wanted to cry. Your points about civil discourse and the need for it to start in the home definitely ring true. It is very sad that Moms attack other Moms on such personal issues – especially without knowing all of the factors that go into personal decisions. My friend recently wrote an article for a web-site about guilt free formula feeding. In her article she clearly stated that while breasfeeding is best, sometimes people either need to formula feed or opt to do so. Her article was a really balanced look at some of the pros of formula feeding with the overall message being that while breastfeeding is best, in some cases formula may be the better choice for you and to not beat yourself up for it (or allow other people to beat you up). You would have thought she advocated starving your child! One of the responses she got was just cruel.

      Again – thank you for a great post!

  6. BC says:

    I think there are a few different things at play, here.

    First is the intensely status-conscious “Mean Girls” factor. For many women, childrearing becomes another zero-sum competition for status in a peer group, and finding fault with someone else’s efforts is a way of marking a scorecard.

    Second (and I should make clear that I’m not trying to denigrate parents by saying this) is the tendency of many modern parents to overcomplicate childrearing to make themselves seem more heroic than they really are. For instance, the reality is that the choice whether to breastfeed or to use formula is just Not That Big A Deal(tm) in the grand scheme of things. But many parents desperately NEED it to be a big deal, NEED to micromanage every aspect of their child’s existence, to feed their own sense of self-worth. Someone asking a question implies that maybe there’s not One True Way, which in turn implies that being a micromanagerial parent doesn’t make you supermommy.

    Third is John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, which there’s just no way around.

  7. Scott says:

    That’s just sad that they’d jump on a twin mom like that. My wife had twins, tried to breastfeed, but we had to supplement. She was beating herself up, was already dealing with the hormones, and really had a hard time until she decided formula wasn’t such a bad idea. After that decision, things were MUCH better for all involved and I think our kids are fine today (I’m sure the “must breastfeed crowd” would disagree. To pounce on a mother that is dealing with all that (and a mother of multiples to boot) is just really, sad. What a bunch of b*tches!

    • greeneyedmom says:

      I totally agree there are some real bullies in those comment sections. They’ll twist one thing you said around and call you all kinds of names. Breastfeeding and stay-at-home moms seem to be two big hot button issues.

    • snarkyinthesuburbs says:

      Don’t worry Scott I totally get what your saying and kudos for being such a charming husband defending your wife. I can not imagine feeding twins. The best parenting advice I ever got was “A happy mommy means happy babies.”

  8. SB says:

    Women are crazy online. It’s so weird!
    I am actually just recovering from one of the angry mobs that went further than I’d ever imagined- the end (at least, dear God, I hope its the end!) was that I had to leave the website, facebook, shut down my email and even change my phone number to make the craziness stop. It was AWFUL. It can only be called an extreme case of adult cyber bullying.
    I actually received a private message from one of the craziest that had nothing in it but my home address.
    Long story… so long. Mob mentality is scary!

  9. Susie Kline says:

    This is the best post! I’ve been so disgusted by the comments in mommy forums that I refuse to ever venture back! It’s too heart-wrenching!

    Often on my blog I talk about our job as parents being that we need to mold useful members of society. That means ones with manners and social skills.

    xo Susie

  10. Jenni says:

    Snark, I couldn’t agree with you more. So many parents these days are trying to mold their children into everything they wish they were instead of raising polite, well mannered, independent, productive members of society. Parenting isn’t a competition! There is no prize when your child reaches adulthood. Many of these “Poison Parents” wind up with kids who reach adulthood who are lazy, because they think they are “too good to work their way up in an organization or do ‘manual’ labor,” rude, because “you are beneath them and being a human being is no reason to be nice to you,” whiney, because “they can’t have it their way,” and generally a drain on society not to mention being an adult bully, which are really the worst kind.

    I am also quite disgusted at the rude behavior of adults on many internet sites. If you would never SAY something like that to my face, you certainly should avoid TYPING it to my face! I think reality TV and the internet (not to mention the current political climate) have fostered a disconnect between how we should treat one another and how we are treating our fellow human beings. My mother didn’t raise me to be rude. If I ever so much as thought to do what some of these people do, I would have been picking up my teeth all over the floor. Not to say my mother was abusive, she never once laid a hand on me. She didn’t have to. She wasn’t trying to be my friend, she was my mother. And when she said, “Don’t do that or else!” I never question what that “else” would be. I never pushed her. She raised me to respect her. She was my mother, not my best friend (at least until I became a responsible adult, I really miss her). What the Hell happened to the rest of the population?? Before people type something they should ask themselves, “would my mother be proud of me for this?” If the answer is “no,” then keep your opinion to yourself. Because if you can’t say something nice….

    Keep up the great posts, Snark!! I love reading them!

  11. Jeanine says:

    It bothers me when other parents are so mean. I always think that most parents are doing the best they can. Parenting is hard and sometimes you just want to know that you are not the only one dealing with a certain situation (let’s face it, sometimes you feel like you are the only one dealing with breastfeeding issues or homework issues). The last thing you need is for other parents to tear you down for being human.

  12. Amanda says:

    You are so right about how mean these women can be! What I want to know is if they are so busy being super mom when do they have time to be posting all these mean comments. If they think the way they are parenting is so perfect what are they doing spending so much time making mean comments to other parents? I am not super mom and I hardly have time to be trolling around and making mean comments.

    • snarkyinthesuburbs says:

      No kidding! If they’re such parenting experts why aren’t they reading to their kids or doing an edutainment arts and crafts/science experiment with their brownie troop. The last place a perfect parent should be is on the internet wasting time – that’s my job as an unperfect parent.

  13. Amy Deckman says:

    Snarky you are awesome! It’s like you’re living in my brain!!! I can’t wait to read more of your blog ’cause I’m sure I’m going to find a story about how your (my) time has no value (which I discovered when I did a few quick calculations after making caramel popcorn for the girl scout bake sale a few years ago)!

  14. Valerie says:

    I have pretty well stopped using the local message board I used. It’s like semi-anonymous junior high school, with cliques and gossip more than abundant.

  15. FirstTimeMommy says:

    I’m a first time mom, albeit a young one, to my now 9 month old. Out of all the “mommy” boards that I have been on so far, (read or joined) I have found that the nicest ones that I have been on are http://www.reddit.com/r/beyondthebump, a message board for mommies that have just have had kids, and http://www.reddit.com/r/BabyBumps, which I frequented on when I was pregnant. Both have smaller communities, which led to a lot of excellent talks, and very few small arguments. I just wanted to say that I love your blog and I feel more mentally prepared for my future, while laughing my butt off.
    Thank you Snarky for keeping it real!

  16. loptastic says:

    Is it sad that I’m apprehensive about having children because I don’t want to be beat up by every other mom? Snarky, I need some wise and encouraging words, please!

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