Cyberbullying not just for kids: moms get bullied too

Posted by Saraline , Wednesday, May 12, 2010 5:05 PM

Motherhood is supposed to be like apple pie and a warm hug. Wholesome. Dependable.

But online, it can be anything but. Right next to support groups on diaper rash and the terrible twos are mean girls, all grown up.

It's mom on mom cyberbullying and as the popularity of mommy blogging rises, so do the often stinging criticisms. [...]

Norie said Ally went through psychological bullying throughout school. It made Norie want to speak out to other mothers to prevent that humiliation from happening to their daughters. But going public triggered a wave of mommy bullying that shocked her even more.

"A lot of mothers called Ally a slut and a whore," she said. "It was a lack of parenting and we should have taught her morals and we should have taught her self-respect. Basically that I was a horrible parent and it devastated me because they know where to get you. Mothers go after your mothering."
-from the article Grown up mean girls: Mom on mom cyberbullies by Anna Wild

I see a lot of this in the parenting communities that I'm in. Back in January, a mother made a post in parenting101 asking for advice about her sick child:

My 14 month old is sick.

2 days ago he barely ate any food at daycare or at home for dinner. Was cranky. Put him to bed with boob. He vomitted HUGE. (Mind you - this kid never spit up even as an infant. Piles of unused burp cloths!)
Slept a little restless but ok. Boob at 6am, vomit again. Fever of 101. Stays home from daycare. Barely eats except crackers. Barely wants boob, water, cows milk. Goes to bed ok. This morning, boob at 6am. Off to daycare and barfs in car 24 hours after last barf. He barely ate food at daycare. Only ate a little dinner. Put to bed with boob tonight but then he wakes up and is nuts. Crying, head banging, jumping on bed. Refusing boob. Tried all normal tricks (patting, hugging, motrin) and he stayed up for an extra 3 hours! Finally going down with boob now.

Slight runny nose.

What is this? Is it a molar thing? Stomach bug?


The first few comments were helpful, but then somebody asked her why she would send her kid to daycare when he was sick, and she offered this response:

Daycare is an hour away at daddy's office. Daddy was the one that checked him in at daycare after he puked. I didn't hear about it til the end of the day. I don't think that he told daycare that kiddo puked.

Today I asked Daddy if he could stay home in the morning while I have an interview and he can't. They just laid off a bunch of people so he is worried about his job.

Here's where I am selfish: Unfortunately I have interviews all this week. I'm a PhD candidate and these are interviews to be an assistant professor -- scheduling them is a pain (a time that works with 6 people's teaching schedules? Next to impossible) and academia is not family friendly at all. Mentioning that I have a child would be an unwise move, for better or worse.

It sucks, but sending the kid to daycare sick just happens sometimes. I feel bad about it, but there is nothing that I can do about it.

That's when the bullying started. Heaven forbid that a woman focus on her academic career when she has a small child!

The other moms said that she was selfish for sending her kid to daycare where other kids could catch the stomach bug. When she said that she'd been working on her PhD for five years and that this was her one chance at getting a job for the year, she was told that she should just get another job for the year; choosing the interviews over staying home with her sick child was selfish. They said that if her career really wasn't child friendly, then maybe she should have chosen a different career or chosen not to have children. Many people were angry with her for creating a situation where other children would get sick because her son went to daycare that day. She should have known that this was going to happen and had a back-up sick-care nanny available just in case.

A few people pointed out that it was the father who took him to daycare, but it was the mother who was bearing the brunt of all the anger.

After a landslide of angry comments, the mother said that since there had been a lot of lay-offs at her partner's office, her son was the only child in his classroom at daycare. Now the people who had been upset about other kids getting sick and the people who had told her that she should have made previous arrangements with a sick-care nanny were asking her, "Well, what about the daycare workers? What if they get sick now?"

How many people does this woman have to sacrifice five years of PhD work for in order to not be called selfish? A friend of mine said something to me that I think is very fitting here:

A woman can never, never, never win. If she devotes herself entirely to her kids, she has no identity. If she tries to have a career at any point when her child also needs her, she's selfish. If her husband leaves her for someone prettier and younger, it's her fault for "letting herself go." If she takes time away from her family to exercise or go to school, she's cold. If she doesn't, she's lazy and eats bon bons all day.

We. Can't. Win.

The mother in the story that I've outlined today must have been under an incredible amount of pressure; her academic career was hanging in the balance with her interviews, her child was sick, she was worried about the possibility that her partner might be laid off from his job, and after a long and busy day she found out her son had gone to daycare after he had vomited in the car. She was already feeling guilty about being selfish; when she explained her situation with the interviews, she said that she thought that she was selfish. Did she really need a gang of cyberbullies playing on her insecurities about her parenting choices?

Where is the solidarity between mothers? Why do we feel the need to attack the choices of other moms? We all have a heavy workload. We have all made sacrifices even if the sacrifices that we've made are not the same. Wouldn't motherhood be more fun if we supported one another when we're going through rough times?

5 Response to "Cyberbullying not just for kids: moms get bullied too"

Pale Says:

I have been fired before because my kids were sick and could not attend daycare. They all got Norwalk, and Kaboom. (The boss specifically said I was not "reliable" enough, and I had only missed the days the kids were too sick to go)

Happens every day to many people, and there is nadda you can do about it.
You cannot win. Many women like myself would totally understand. It is a tough economy as it is, and jobs are too hard to come by.
Maybe she wasn't totally in the right, but basic survival does take precedence sometimes.
And the bully moms that used to make me nuts were some of the pro-nursing ones. Just mean.

Saraline Says:

Pale, it must have been really frustrating for you to get fired because of that.

I agree that survival takes precedence sometimes. For this woman, the issue wasn't even taking a sick day from her job; she was going to an interview so she could get a job. Some of the other moms were saying that she should have explained her situation to the people who were meeting with her, but how many people, in any type of career, are going to hire somebody who asks to reschedule their job interview because their child is sick? They would probably say the same thing that your boss did, that the person wasn't reliable.

Pale Says:

Mention the kids needs in an Interview? KISS OF DEATH. :)

And most women know it.

the regina mom Says:

I haven't looked recently, but there used to be (in the 90s) an online group, Women Halting Online Abuse, which dealt with online abuse against women. Not sure if it's applicable in this case or not, but seems like it should be.

Jane Says:

What a horrible experience. And it's so true that women just can't win. It doesn't get much easier when the child grows older either. I left a fulltime job and went freelance because I was fed up with the macho working hours. Having to bed for an afternoon off to take my daughter to the dentist or go to a school play. Now that I work from home I realise just how much presenteeism pressure there is. And yet when one of the dads at work wanted to go see his kid in a swimming gala he was treated like a hero dad!

I'm never going to apologise for having a career though - it makes me feel like me and a better mother to boot.