Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Just Be Nice!

Being a stay-at-home-mom is really, really great. I feel more than a little bit of pity every morning when Martin leaves the house for his office. It would be miserable to have to drive through snow, sleet and rain to spend my day in an office where temperature is controlled by an outside source, sitting in a chair that isn't a comfy couch, typing on a computer for hours and hours until my eyeballs caught on fire. That sounds awful. Instead, while he is off “writing policies” (for what?! I don't even know!) and making phone calls to people about important, yet painfully boring things, I get to read storybooks and slice strawberries and sing loudly and sometimes dance through my kitchen. I get to hop with small people standing on my feet and try not to fall down. I do A LOT of painting and drawing and playing “Bird Bingo.” (I also have to do First and Second Grade math, but I try to only think about that during our 20 minute math lesson every day.) This semester I have learned and re-learned Greek Myths, and the lives of various famous artists like Monet and Leonardo Di Vinci. We recite poetry and write short stories, poems and songs. We play Pirates and Baby Seals. (Baby Seals is really funny, it's when the girls are all the baby seals and I am their mama and we bark at each other and they fall off couch cushions onto the floor and I have to “save them.” Sounds dumb, but it supplies us with up to thirty-five minutes of solid entertainment.) In short, I got the long stick in the Life Draw when Martin and I were discussing care options in the beginnings of our parenthood journey. He clearly lost.

(Okay, if we're telling the truth, there was no discussion... I was still in college and dropped out when I found out we were expecting Anja! He's the only one of us who has ever had a real job!)

Where was I even going with this?

Oh yeah. So, as rad as the Stay-At-Home-Mom life is, it can also get a bit... tiresome. Lonely. Difficult. Boring in a weird way where you actually have so much to do you end the day in a state of exhaustion such as you never knew was possible, but very few items on To Do List rise above “mind numbing” on the Awesome Scale. Stay-At-Home-Moms do a ton of work. But it's work like matching socks and washing endlessly dirty mirrors, and cutting food into teeny-tiny bite-sized pieces. (And then watching all those tiny pieces be thrown onto the floor for the dog and having to start over.)

Outings are good, and play dates are good, but they are often few and far between. Contact with other adults is often limited, leaving the Stay-At-Home-Mom turning to the Land of Social Media for community, support and solidarity.

Socialmedialand! Where you once were a Stay-At-Home-Mom, you now are a cool acronym! YOU'RE A SAHM! The SAHM people are very similar to Stay-At-Home-Moms. They have all the same concerns about carseats and when you introduce solid foods to babies, they worry over rashes and too much screen time and Kindergarten Readiness. They are generally a friendly people, who are there to help when you feel like just a Stay-At-Home-Mom with no one to turn to. Jump online, into your SAHM suit, and you become one of them and have a whole planet full of women in the same stage of life as you, to whom you can turn for advice.

Yes, SAHMs of Socialmedialand are not all that different from their real life (RL) identities, except that they have a mean side. They have a catty side. They have a side that isn't afraid to jump down your throat when you say something they don't agree with, because they are conveniently shielded from you (and real life—I mean, RL) by a glowing glass screen. It's the magic of this screen that makes people behave horribly to each other. It's the screen that allows all the SAHMs of the world to have access to so many different worries, views, opinions, memes, bogus scientific articles, and general information that make them feel justified in their hurtful arguments and right in their cutting backlash. Here's a totally made up (but exactly what you would see on a social media post between SAHMs) example:

OP (this means “original poster,” I swear it took me six months to figure that one out.) : My baby has a fever and rash [insert picture of rash-ridden baby] do you think I should take her to the ped? (she means pediatrician. NO ONE uses whole words on the internet.)

@mom_knows_all: I would monitor her for a few days and if the rash doesn't clear up, you can call your ped's nurse for advice. Try alternating Motrin and Tylenol for the fever. Does the rash itch? Obv, (obviously) take her to the ER if you see any scary signs or if the fever gets too high and won't come down. Good luck! So scary when our LO s (Littles Ones! Can you believe it, this is really one they use!) are sick!

@mama_mama_mama_mama_mama: I always say better safe than sorry, but usually rashes are nothing to worry about. There's one kind that is a medical emergency, I forget what it's called, you can find it through a Google search. Good luck, mama. {{{hugs}}}


@greenmamaluv: Um, @YouAreATerribleMother, I think your handle is a self-referral. You need some meditation, I have a great online link in my bio. @OP, I hope it clears up, hunnie! Let us know how it all turns out!!

And after that exchange with however many other nice or not-nice SAHMs, the OP (remember, that's Original Poster) will likely feel a little more at ease, make sure she's stocked up on Tylenol and Motrin, check on her baby's fever and rash, and then promptly cry herself to sleep fretting over the meanness of @YouAreATerribleMother and any other unkindness she was shown in the thread. This the danger of SAHM life. It used to be, in Stay-At-Home-Mom lives of olde that you just kind of figured the other moms were talking about you behind your back, but you didn't have proof, so you let it slide. (Kind of like junior high school. You know how people accuse men of never growing up? Girls don't really grow up either.) They don't like your attachment parenting? No biggie. You'll still bring them a dinner after they give birth, just as they will for you. You think they let their kids watch too much Daniel Tiger? Who cares, really. obviously they get at least some outside time, since you meet at the park every Thursday. But with the internet, it's a lot crazier. The lines between cruel and constructive criticism are very fuzzy and people take full advantage of that when they don't face any actual consequence for crossing the line. If they have a negative opinion about you, you will hear it, guaranteed. And the people like that never really seem to care.

Of course, this doesn't happen all the time, or nobody would be on the internet anymore. I mean, people (especially hormonally charged mama bears) can only take so much verbal abuse before saying to heck with it and going back to the every-now-and-then play date. But it happens a lot. Why does everybody love internet arguing so much? Even in good fun, people can't just happily agree, nor can they cheerfully agree to disagree. Heck, they don't even begrudgingly agree to disagree very often. They just fight.

The real world is full of people who are not like you. But humans are pack animals and we naturally find our “tribe” and gravitate toward them, and live relatively peacefully within our social circle. And tribes don't usually outwardly reject people, but neither do they often attract people with terribly opposing views. So, it's interesting that the Internet is open to everyone, a free-for-all when it comes to jumping into conversations and crashing well-intentioned forum posts or shared articles. In this age of open social circles, I think we all could benefit from putting a leash on our emotions. Of course we all see articles that get our goat. We see posts on social media that are downright offensive to our beliefs and core values. OF COURSE we see these things, because on the internet, you can see EVERYTHING. That doesn't mean we need to argue every single offensive thing that comes into our view. We can actually choose to not let it get to us. Especially the little annoying things that don't feel like a slap in the face against your religious beliefs or something. I see this so often in parenting articles. There are so many different styles of parenting, so many differing views on discipline, co-sleeping, vaccinations, breastfeeding... and the internet has become a big cyclone of these opinions whipping against each other repeatedly. Nobody can just give it a rest. I think if we stopped to ask ourselves, “How does her decision on how to feed her baby affect me?” We might realize the truth: It doesn't. And maybe then we can let it go peacefully without feeling the need to bring our opinion into the forum light.

I mean, wouldn't we all be happier if we could just chill out?

This is not to say that I haven't jumped into stupid online arguments plenty of times. I don't just keep it to the screen either—just ask Martin. I become an arm-flailing, voice raising hot mess when I get really fired up about subjects I'm passionate about. For what, though? To frighten my little daughters? To let my husband have a good laugh at how riled up I get over small, meaningless things; over other people's opinions that can't be changed? It's really pretty ridiculous.

Let's all just try to be nice to each other. Of course we have fervent feelings about certain things. But even if you DO feel a moral obligation to let your opinion be known (because you are right!) we can all try to do it with the level of niceness kicked up a few notches. Because niceness never hurts. 

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