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I recently stumbled across the Facebook post for an essay I wrote a few months ago on a mainstream parenting site. I won't say what the article was about, but I will say that it reflected on a fairly harmless choice I made about one of my sons during a transitional phase. In my writer's mind, this essay was simply a heartfelt piece about baby milestones and the struggles that all moms face when their kids start growing up.


Boy, was I ever wrong.

Even if you had warned me, I could not have prepared myself for the judgment and shame that rained down upon me in the comments section of this post. You would have thought I was advocating for punching my kid in the face every night at bedtime, or some other equally terrible behavior.

If many of the commenters were to be believed, I was a selfish, lazy mother who was ruining her child's life. (That's not hyperbole, though I wish it was.) There were also plenty of supporters and defenders, fellow kindred spirits who thought the detractors should maybe just calm down a little bit. It was hard to hear those more reasonable voices over the cacophony of other people – other women, other mothers – boldly declaring that I had this whole parenting thing completely and utterly wrong.

I know I'm not a bad mother. I know that I'm not selfish in the choices I make for my kids. I also know that I'm not, as so many called me, lazy. My husband laughed at my outrage over that particular insult, above all others. I'm a homeschooling mother of three boys, ages six, four, and two. They are generally always fed and polite and happy and reasonably clean enough to be presented in public, which takes no small amount of effort. A lazy mother, I am not.

Once I recovered rom my initial surprise over the negative reaction to the piece – and brushed off my regret that it hadn't been received the way I'd hoped – there was still a lingering, nagging sense of dejection and discouragement.

Why are mothers so mean online? Why do we share in another mother's experience and then tell her she is no good at mothering, just because it's a different experience than our own?

I'm well aware that I voluntarily put this piece out into the world. Maybe that means I have no business lodging a complaint against people who respond unfavorably to my writing. However, I'm not talking about mothers who simply voice alternative opinions – I don't expect every mother to agree with all of my personal viewpoints or raise her children the same way I raise mine.

What I am talking about is the unabashed, unreserved kind of scathing judgement that can only be found online, in connection to nearly every article about parenting. The “mommy wars" rage in the comments section of articles about everything from breastfeeding versus formula-feeding, to choosing a preschool, to life as a stay-at-home mom (or a working mom, or a work-from-home mom).

Mothers who make mistakes – ranging from innocent and mostly harmless, like allowing their kids to play outside alone, to devastatingly tragic, like accidentally forgetting a child in a hot car – are frequently subjected to vile criticism and accusations of abuse and neglect.

Like it or not, these public lashings are coming almost exclusively from other mothers. A quick glance at the profile pictures of commenters on hot-button articles shows one woman after another, smiling in selfies, cuddled up next to their cute kids.

I'm not the first person to wonder what in the world happens to decorum and civility on the internet, or why basic human kindness disappears as soon as people log onto Facebook. What I can't understand is why, if the internet is truly where our parenting tribe exists now, mothers are so plain mean to one another there.

We are physically and emotionally separated from our friends, neighbors, parents, and extended families more so now than any other generation. We don't live in multi-generational households, with parents or in-laws blended into our daily routine. We don't sit in our neighbor's kitchen on a Tuesday morning, chatting over coffee while our kids play together outside. Our friends are online. Our family is online. Our community is online. Yet we insist on burning that community to the ground with our vitriol towards one another.

I don't expect the internet to be a safe place, but couldn't we make it just a little bit nicer? There are far too many mothers getting a thrill out of being morally superior, finding satisfaction in telling another woman that she isn't good enough, isn't making the right choices, isn't doing everything in her power to raise a perfect human being.

This is The Era of Kindness, as far as modern parenting is concerned, but that philosophy gets thrown out the window every time we find ourselves behind the anonymity of the internet.

If I started chatting with another mother on the playground about our kids and, through conversation, I mentioned the same issue I raised in that essay about my son, that complete stranger would never look me in the eye and tell me I'm lazy. She would never say, “Wow, I would never do that! You are so selfish! Do you, like, not even care about your kid at all?"

No.

She would say, “You know what? Don't sweat it! Do what you gotta do. He'll turn out just fine." If she was an especially friendly mother, she might even confide in me about something she does that's unpopular or weird or not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. As if to say, I get it. I totally get it.

Because that's what sharing stories about our kids is supposed to be about – making the great big world of parenting just a little bit smaller. It's about making connections. I share stories about my kids because there have been times in my motherhood when I have felt totally alone –desperate, even. I have felt like I was hanging off the edge of an enormous precipice with my kids standing over me, lifting up my fingers one by one to loosen my grip.

When I read some other mother's story about the exact same thing I'm going through, just like that, I'm able to pull myself back up again. The precipice doesn't seem so high. The struggle doesn't seem quite so hard. My world is suddenly a little bit smaller – all because some other mother reached out and said, I get it. I totally get it.

Moms, let's learn a lesson from ourselves. More than anything, parents today are trying to raise children who are kind and thoughtful, compassionate and empathetic. If we really want to make the world a kinder place through our children, we have to be kinder to one another, too.

Maybe we could start in the comments section.

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Going back to work after having a baby is hard. Regaining your footing in a world where working mothers are so often penalized is tough, and (just like most things during the postpartum period) it takes time.

The challenges we face as working women returning from a maternity leave can be so different from those we faced before, it can feel like we're starting over from scratch. But mothers will not be deterred, even if our return to the working world doesn't go exactly as planned.

We are resilient, as Serena Williams proved at Wimbledon this weekend.

She lost to Angelique Kerber in the final, just 10 months after welcoming daughter Alexis Olympia and recovering from a physically and emotionally traumatic birth experience.

Williams didn't get her eighth Wimbledon title this weekend, but when we consider all the challenges she (and all new moms) faced in resuming her career, her presence was still a huge achievement.

"It was such an amazing tournament for me, I was really happy to get this far!" Williams explained in an emotional post-match interview.

"For all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried. I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

The loss at Wimbledon isn't what she wanted, of course, but Williams says it does not mean there won't be wins in her near future.

"These two weeks have showed me I can really compete and be a contender to win grand slams. This is literally just the beginning. I took a giant step at Wimbledon but my journey has just began."

When asked what she hopes other new moms take away from her journey, Williams noted her postpartum recovery was really difficult, and hopes that other moms who face challenges early in motherhood know that they don't have to give up on whatever dreams they have for themselves, whether it involves working or not.

"Honestly, I feel like if I can do it, they can do it. I'm just that person, that vessel that's saying, 'You can be whatever you want to be.' If you want to go back to workand to me, after becoming a mom, I feel like there's no pressure to do that because having a child is a completely full-time job," she said.

"But to those that do want to go back, you can do it, you can really do it."

Thank you, Serena. You may not have won, but this was still a victory.

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Since baby Crew became the newest member of Chip and Joanna Gaines' family three weeks ago, his proud parents have been keeping the world updated, sharing sweet snaps of their youngest and even giving us a glimpse into his nursery.

Now, Chip Gaines is showing off a pic that proves there is nothing cuter than a floppy, sleepy baby.

"My heart is full..." the proud father of five captioned the photo he posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Earlier this week Crew's mama shared how she gets him so sleepy in the first place, posting an Instagram Story showing how she walks around the family's gardens on their Waco, Texas farm to lull her newborn boy to sleep.



The couple are clearly enjoying every single moment of Crew's babyhood. As recently as 7 days ago Chip was still sporting his hospital bracelet. Joanna says with each child he's worn his maternity ward ID until it finally wears off. We can't blame Chip for wanting to make the newborn phase last as long as possible.

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It was a changing table must-have a generation ago, but these days, many parents are forgoing baby powder, and now, the leading manufacturer of the sweet smelling powder was dealt a big financial blow.

Johnson & Johnson was just ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer.

A St. Louis jury says the women are right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks.

Way back in 1981 the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates.

In 1998 Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the kind alleged to have caused ovarian cancer in the lawsuit (which Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal), but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks as alleged in the case.


Bottom line: If you are going to use baby powder on your baby's bottom, make sure they're not getting a cloud of baby powder in their face, and if you're concerned, talk to your health care provider about alternative methods and products to use on your baby's delicate skin.

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In the days since a The New York Times report revealed a resolution meant to encourage breastfeeding was blocked by U.S. delegates at the World Health Assembly, breastfeeding advocates, political pundits, parents, doctors—and just about everyone else—have been talking about breastfeeding, and whether or not America and other countries are doing enough to support it.

The presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians say the controversy at the World Health Assembly reveals that mothers need more support when it comes to breastfeeding, while others, including The Council on Foreign Relations, suggest the national conversation needs more nuance, and less focus on the "breast is best" rhetoric.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that parents need more support when it comes to infant feeding, and in that respect, the controversy over the World Health Assembly resolution may be a good thing.

In their joint letter to the editor published in the New York Times this week, the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians, Dr. Colleen Kraft and Dr. Lisa Hollier urge "the United States and every country to protect, promote and support breast-feeding for the health of all women, children and families."

The doctors go on to describe how breastfeeding "provides protection against newborn, infant and child infections, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and sudden infant death syndrome," and note the health benefits to mothers, including reduced risks for "breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

"Helping mothers to breastfeed takes a multifaceted approach, including advancing public policies like paid family leave, access to quality child care, break time and a location other than a bathroom for expressing milk," say Kraft and Hollier.

Certainly such policies would support breastfeeding mothers (and all mothers) in America, but some critics say framing the discussion around domestic policy is a mistake, because the World Health Assembly resolution is a global matter and women and babies in other parts of the world face very different feeding challenges than we do here at home.

In an op-ed published by CNN, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations suggests the laudable goal of breastfeeding promotion can backfire when mothers in conflict-riddled areas can't access formula due to well-meaning policy. Lemmon points to a 2017 statement by Doctors Without Borders calling for fewer barriers to formula distribution in war-torn areas.

"International organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) promote breastfeeding ... and provide infant formula, but only by prescription. We believe that distributing infant formula in a conflict situation like Iraq is the only way to avoid children having to be hospitalized for malnutrition," Manuel Lannaud, the head of Doctors Without Borders Iraq mission wrote.

The various viewpoints presented this week prove that infant feeding is not a black and white issue, and policy debates should not be framed as formula versus breast milk—there is more nuance than that.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found opting to supplement with formula after first breastfeeding improves outcomes for infants and results in higher rates of breastfeeding afterward, and while the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, they are sometimes overstated. Another recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found breastfeeding has no impact on a child's overall neurocognitive function by the time they are 16. Basically, parents should not be shamed for supplementing or choosing to use formula.

This, according to Department of Health and Human Services says national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley is why the HHS opposed the original draft of the breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly (although critics and the initial NYT report suggest the United States delegation were acting in the interests of infant formula manufacturers).

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies," Oakley said in a statement.

That's true, but so is everything the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians presented in their op-ed, and that's why the U.S. should support breastfeeding policy.

Here's another truth: This is an issue with many perspectives and many voices. And we need to hear them all, because all parents need support in feeding their babies, whether it's with a breast, a bottle or both—and we're not getting it yet.

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