In Defense Of: Responding to 3 Common Justifications of Toxic Mommy Cultures (Part 2 of 3)
Updated: Sep 9, 2022
In this post, I'm going to continue the discussion of toxic mommy cultures and highlight 3 of the top lines others will use to defend them.
Posts for this 3-part series:
In Defense Of: Responding to 3 Common Justifications of Toxic Mommy Cultures (THIS ONE!)
Want to listen instead?
Defense #1: Lighten up, it's just a joke!
We've all seen the memes and we chuckle because raising kids in today's world IS challenging and finding the humor can be necessary. There are hard days and moments in every single family... I assure you we all have them.
BUT let me describe what's happening in a different light...
Imagine an older co-worker making fun of and degrading a younger co-worker in an established chat thread among the older employees. They snap photos of misdoings and publicly shame-post them saying "Wow, check out the new guy's mistake. Guess I will swoop in and save the day... again." or "Ugh. Do I seriously have to deal with this?!" or "Must be nice to do whatever you want. Jerk."
How would you describe this older coworker?
You know what I would call them... a bully.
Humiliating, intimidating, degrading people, especially at the expense of those who cannot defend themselves - those who are more vulnerable - is bullying. I HOPE most parents would agree that bullying isn't funny and isn't acceptable.
And yet, parents have no problem bullying their kids all the time. ESPECIALLY now that it is commonplace and can be labeled as "humor" (vs. what? physical bullying?)
What's more... moms around doing it to themselves as well, especially with the "hot mess" rhetoric.
As I remind my kiddo, just because everyone else is doing it doesn't make it okay.
How can you gut check yourself?
Ask yourself these questions:
Would I post these things if my child could read them?
Would I read these posts to my child 10-15 years down the road and feel ok about them?
Would I say these things to my children or spouse if they were in the room?
Would I be proud for people to read what I'm sharing?
Would I speak to a friend the way I speak to myself?
There's a fine line, right? When you are in-person, you can read the room and feel/see when someone is getting upset. I've 100% been in situations that were funny to begin with that slowly go down a slippery slope of "ok, this is not funny anymore, I need you to stop." It happens with self-deprecating humor too.
Sharing and poking fun online, well, we've lost that ability to read the room. The vulnerable are usually not there to defend themselves.
And we have to remember that our children are people. Just because they are younger and more vulnerable (and hey, same goes for the elderly, special needs, less fortunate, etc) does NOT mean we treat them with less respect.
Defense #2: Moms need to vent.
Venting, oh venting... expressing strong emotions in an open and forceful way (thanks, Webster).
When you hear the phrase "No offense, but..." do you feel like something helpful or hurtful is going to come next? Uh huh.
Here's the thing: Language matters. It is so impactful.
AND feeling seen, heard and validated matters... which is what I believe is the main driver behind the mothers' venting of today.
Moms desperately want to be seen and heard and validated.
Due to the lack of acknowledgment, the drama and toxic language has gotten louder and more out of control.
Let's evaluate the same situation with two different types of language (I pulled this from an online mommy group)
Need to pack school lunches for a kid who has a limited range of foods they like
Toxic Mom Language:
Help SOS! I always joked my daughter was picky, but now that we are back to school, OMG she's so picky. I'm beyond frustrated. She says she will only eat ( x, y z ) and won't eat the school lunch because "ew, I hate that." I tried to look on Pinterest and they are just not realistic at all. Ugh. She is driving me crazy and we are only 2 weeks into the school year. Sharing a pic of my daughter.
Helpful Mom Language:
Now that we are back to school, I need some inspiration for my daughter's lunch. She has a limited palate right now (her favorites are x, y, z). Hoping I can get some realistic ideas from other moms, I'm feeling a little stuck. Thanks!
Do you feel the difference there? They are both asking for the same thing: inspiration for their daughter's lunch.
The comments were flooded with "my son is ridiculously picky too..." and "hang in there, mama, I'm in the same boat" The mom got lots of validation and affirmation about having a "picky eater," which is what I believe she was truly seeking in the first place (and perhaps the "permission" to just feed her child food she will actually eat every day, even if it's the same).
The likes, hearts, friends egging you on... it may give you a hit of dopamine, which feels positive in the moment, but is it really? (This goes for in-person convos, too!)
My point in this example: the mom can ask for lunch ideas without tearing down her daughter or "venting" about it.
Many of these mom groups are flooded with posts and comments of moms tearing down their children (or spouses or themselves) in order to build themselves up... all in the name of "venting."
Here's going to be something that may be hard to hear: the problem is not the need to vent, the problem is a need to heal the mom's heart.
We all get to decide how we feel. WE ARE in charge of our emotions.
Remember, you are NOT a victim of motherhood. The need to vent, complain, bully is not an indication of your circumstances, but an indication of what is happening on the inside.
You do NOT have to be a martyr. Your life does NOT have to revolve around children's activities. A "good mom" doesn't have to sacrifice herself in the name of her children. These messages are the toxic subcultures keeping you stuck in their mentalities.
All moms are different and in different scenarios. There are moms with harder situations than you that are more righteous, which I do not point out to make you feel badly, I point out to encourage you that it is NOT your circumstances that dictate your outlook. Your attitude IS something you can control <3
BUT YES! YOU NEED SUPPORT. YOU NEED ENCOURAGEMENT. Being transparent and vulnerable is wonderful AND language matters. How you speak matters. And how you speak paints the picture of what's really happening on the inside.
Defense #3: Don't be so judgemental.
Here's the thing. I'm not judging, I'm truly sympathizing.
I was this mom that was overly dramatic, needing to "vent" all the time, and really felt like I was a victim of my circumstances and motherhood. And guess what? The more I believed this, the longer I stayed in my exact situation.
I really felt hopeless, alone, and scared. I felt powerless and lacked confidence in my mothering abilities.
I'm not judging because I know how awful it feels to mother from that place and I know the frustration comes out in harsh venting sessions, guilt, and shame/blame.
I'm not judging individual moms, I'm really judging this toxic mom culture we've allowed to shape our realities. I'm judging this society that has stripped moms of their true power and made them into victims.
Our culture has painted a picture of motherhood, and by continuing to speak or post in certain ways, YOU, ME, "WE" are contributing to the messages. Everyone who shares anything publicly (or privately) has a responsibility here.
MOMS ARE NOT VICTIMS.
We are not weak.
We are incredible.
We are powerful.
We are enough.
I truly believe moms are ACTUALLY looking for support, connection, and encouragement through these toxic mom subcultures. I believe they've been sucked in to this toxic culture and just need help getting out of it.
In the last post of this series, I am going to share how I got myself out of toxic mom culture and found a much more enjoyable path of motherhood!
3 Key Takeaways:
Using "humor" to degrade, humiliate, or shame the vulnerable (including self) is bullying.
Everyone, including moms, need to be seen, heard, and validated. Encouraging support is important for the mothering and parenting journey.
Harsh, hurtful venting is a reflection of how the person venting feels inside. It's more of a heart issue than a circumstance issue.
If you are interested in hearing more about this topic (and other important topics related to motherhood), check out the "Motherhood Grace Guide: Journal of Inspiration + Encouragement for Moms" Entries 15 + 17 dive deeper into the Perfect Mom Myth + Intensive Mothering.