Mean Moms: When to Ignore, Confront and How to Avoid Becoming One


Published:

Shutterstock photo

This sentence in a comment on Facebook brought my mindless scrolling to a full stop: “I could not let some woman in daycare raise my child.” I had posted a link to a story about a working mom who was frustrated with the homework her 6-year-old had brought home from school. The homework included a worksheet that had blanks for her daughter to fill in with the “correct” words after reading a story that implied that the whole family was unhappy and neglected because Mom had gone back to work. And yet one of my connections on Facebook, who knows I am a full-time working mother with a young child in daycare, felt it appropriate to unleash some not-so-subtle shade in the comments. I counted to 10 — the same tactic I encourage my 3-year-old to use when she’s angry — and started typing out a response. When I hit “post” six minutes later, I felt pretty good about what I’d come up with:
 
Totally respect your choice to stay home with your child. Personally, I don’t consider the teachers at my daughter’s school to be raising her instead of me — just like I won’t think that about her kindergarten teacher when she starts elementary school. It takes a village to raise a child, and her teachers are part of mine. Plus, she gets awesome socialization, friendships and help from a group of women who adore her (and are much better teachers than I am, to boot). For me, this story is sad most of all because it implies there is only one correct choice. And that is just not the case. Most of us parents are out there doing the best we can every single day, and I try really hard not to judge. (Some days I succeed. Other days … not so much.)
 
The commenter’s reaction to my response, however, surprised me. I had expected more snark, but what I got was one sentence: “You sound like a terrific mom, and that’s what’s important.” I had attempted to take the high road (well, mostly) — and it worked.

 

Owning Your Reaction

Every parent has a story about being the target of a judgmental comment from another parent. Frank or subtle, in person or online, we’ve all taken heat from other parents — sometimes even complete strangers — about our parenting choices. But why is spouting off our default setting? When did we stop thinking about the consequences of our words? And why don’t we hold back when we know those words might be hurtful? Kate Paquin, a therapist and coach with Apex-based A Family Coach, thinks it doesn’t really matter anyway.

“Just because a ball is thrown doesn’t mean you have to swing at the pitch,” Paquin says. “I’m not saying it’s not offensive, but [the commenter’s] motive doesn’t matter.”

These “mean moms,” she says, thrive because we care. Our feelings get hurt. We feel compelled to defend ourselves. But the most important thing, Paquin says, is to realize there’s only one thing you can control in any of these scenarios: How you react. “You own your feelings,” she says.

I asked Paquin to take me through some real “mean mom” scenarios I gathered from fellow parents. Here’s her advice on when to ignore, when to respond and why you might want to consider your own motivation if you realize you’ve been an offender.


Scenario: A mom posts a photo on Facebook of her child sitting in her new car seat — in the middle of her kitchen. A commenter pipes up to note that the child should be rear-facing. “In fairness,” the mom who posted the photo says, “I was not aware of car seat-in-the-kitchen regulations.”

What to do: If you posted the photo, respond in an unemotional way or ignore the comment. “I think part of [the motivation for this comment] might be, ‘See what I know?’” Paquin says. “OK is the best answer you can give. Or ‘I’m sorry you feel that way.’” Sometimes these types of comments reveal a commenter who feels isolated, she says. “A lot of moms feel disconnected, so when they can chime in or make a difference — even if it wasn’t asked for — they dive in.”


Scenario: A mom likes to dress her child in gender-neutral clothing. When the mom gently corrects strangers who comment on her child’s appearance, she frequently gets negative comments about how she should dress her child. Another mom reports similar comments about her twin daughters’ unpierced ears.

What to do: Respond without emotion and move on. “I wouldn’t correct [strangers who assume a girl is a boy] because it just doesn’t matter,” Paquin says. “My daughter didn’t have hair for a really long time, and I had a woman ask me, ‘Oh, is she sick?’” Paquin laughs. “I said, ‘No, but thank you so much for caring.’ It was inappropriate, but her intent wasn’t to be a jerk. She was really trying to provide empathy.”

Be confident and unflappable about your choices — and when someone comments on clothing, hairstyles, pierced ears or any other notes on appearance, be frank. “My approach is to always steer into the skid,” Paquin says. “Say, ‘No I haven’t [pierced their ears] because I’m their mother and that’s my choice.’ Answer without emotion.”


Scenario: A mom who recently quit her job to stay home with her child goes to visit her husband at a tradeshow near their home. Since she doesn’t have cash, he gives her $5 to get lunch. His coworker, a woman, remarks: “Is that your allowance?”

What to do: Take the sting out of these comments — for or against working outside the home — by assuming the motivation is “I could never do that.”

“To feel superior, a lot of us are taught to make others feel inferior,” Paquin says. “Again, steer into it. Say: ‘I know, it was a great sacrifice. I’m really glad I did it.’ If you go into the situation thinking you’re going to change someone’s mind, you’ve lost already,” she says. If you’re the offender, offer a supportive comeback: “Yeah, I understand. It’s really hard.”


Scenario: A sports parent implies that a mom isn’t doing everything she can to make her kids happy and successful because she hasn’t hired a pitching coach for her son or paid for her daughter to play on a travel softball team.

What to do: Don’t let the commenter get away with this one. “We have to make a decision as parents,” Paquin says. “Are we going to let others’ words convict us? There’s turning the other cheek, and then there are times you should stand up for yourself.”

Paquin classifies this comment — which calls the parent’s character and parenting skills into question — as the latter. “Say, ‘I appreciate your input, but you have no idea how my family dynamic works, and I wouldn’t make that judgment about your family,’” Paquin says. “Make it clear that they’re judging you and you need them to step back.”

Instead of addressing the issue, which can lead to a debate, this approach allows you to steer the conversation into a warning that the other person has crossed a line.

Are You the Mean Mom?

If you’ve recognized yourself in some of these scenarios, you’re not alone. But if you’ve been guilty of shaming instead of supporting, and you’d like to flip the script, therapist and family coach Kate Paquin with A Family Coach offers a few tips.

1. Realize there are many ways to parent. “The best way to support other moms is to stop thinking there is one right way,” Paquin says. “Support by seeing, sharing and moving on. Don’t see, overshare and try to convince.” If you feel compelled to react, walk away.

2. Recognize that the “mean mom” reaction comes not from your personal nature but from feeling out of balance. “No one tries to push down a person who’s behind them in a race, but we sometimes want to push down those we perceive to be ahead,” Paquin says.

3. Consider what you’re putting out into the world, and make a conscious effort to be more positive. “If you give off judgment, you will receive judgment,” Paquin says. “The law of attraction works everywhere. What are you attracting?”

4. Find your “buttons.” Realizing the issues and situations that light you up can help you better respond when they pop up, advises Paquin, who recognizes that her extroverted personality can cause her to perceive slights that don’t exist.

“Someone I didn’t know was giving me the cold shoulder and I decided to be as mean to her as she was to me,” Paquin says. “Fast forward four years: I found out six months before that encounter she had lost her younger daughter to a cardiac condition. I didn’t know, and she had no reason to tell me. I was the mean mom.”

5. Be careful how you comment on social media. With the popularity of the internet and social media, it’s easier than ever to quickly react without consideration for how your words could be received.

“Facebook’s whole purpose is to get likes and comments and shares — and then we wonder why everyone feels they can comment on everything,” Paquin says.

But, she adds, it’s also important to not look for reasons to be offended. “People aren’t necessarily being mean to you. Just because you perceive it doesn’t mean it’s happening.”


Aleigh Acerni is a writer and editor whose daughter loves daycare. Find her online at aleighacerni.com.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Tech Gifts for People Who Truly Need Them

Not all children have easy, early access to the digital world.

New 'Seedlings' Exhibit Opens at Marbles Kids Museum

This imaginative greenhouse exhibit invites kids to get hands-on with planting.

Fun Things to Do in the Triangle This Weekend, Nov. 24-26

This weekend, practice thankfulness at a park in Raleigh, create with with fun materials in Durham, get a scientific perspective on an old favorite movie in Raleigh, and tour a historical park in Durham.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

November 2017

Step back in time with a 19th-century costumed interpreter and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Registration encouraged online. Tickets available at the...

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Celebrate the wonderful world of exotic animals and reptiles. Enjoy live specimens, presentations, raffles, vendors and much more. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: $12 ages 13 and older, $5 ages 5-12.

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Kicks off the holiday season with local art, music, food, and family activities at various locations in Durham’s historic downtown district. Presented by the Durham Arts Council with support...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Downtown Durham
120 Morris St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2719
Contact Name: Susan Tierney
Website »

More information

Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Celebrate the natural world and where favorite Thanksgiving foods come from. Make a craft. All ages with adult. Register online.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Search the preserve for hidden holiday-themed clues and learn about native wild turkeys. Make a turkey decoration. Ages 5 and older with parent. Register online. Choose course code...

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
2900 Horse Shoe Farm Rd.
Wake Forest, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Search for salamanders, owls and more. Ages 10-13. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Park West Village hosts Winter Wonderland in the District. This year’s event will take place the weekend of November 17th. Take the family to enjoy train rides, magical winter lights, live...

Cost: Free; $5 donation for sledding

Where:
Park West Village
3400 Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Telephone: 919-234-6710
Contact Name: Conner Dixon
Website »

More information

See ponies, hunters and jumpers compete in an event that benefits Duke Children's Hospital. Visit the website for hours and fees.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Make crafts celebrating turkeys. All ages with adult. Meet at the Cardinal Shelter. Registration not required. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn what it was like to be a kid at the first Thanksgiving. Play games and make a food collage. Choose either the 10:30-noon and 2-3:30 p.m. session. Ages 7 and older. Register online.

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Explore the woods and shoreline for signs of nature and collect treasures to make a craft. Take a full water bottle, snack and a bag lunch. Ages 6-11. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Advance...

Cost: $16/child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Jackie Trickel
Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Listen for the sound of silver bells and climb aboard in your pajamas for a first-class journey on the Polar Express. Come early to meet Santa and enjoy kid-friendly activities and a traditional...

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Athletes improve their flexibility, balance, joint mobility, as well as body and breath awareness. Special attention will be paid to core strength and posture and its importance in performance and...

Cost: Call for fees

Where:
Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue, Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Little Guru Kids Yoga
Telephone: 919-345-5873
Contact Name: Jen Bluestone
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate what you're thankful for. Play a game and make a pine cone turkey craft. All ages with adult. Drop-in program. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Shop more than 20 local vendors offering amazing gifts this holiday season. Enjoy daily raffles with proceeds benefiting local animal rescue Paws in the City. Kids can enjoy crafts...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Crossroads
333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

Read the story by Karma Wilson and make a Thanksgiving-themed craft. All ages. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

See a contemporary re-imagination of Tchaikovky's timeless music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See a contemporary re-imagination of Tchaikovky's timeless music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Fit & Able Productions presents the Turkey Chase trail festival at Umstead Park. Take part in a 5K, 10K or 20K. After the race, enjoy fruit, brownies and other...

Cost: $25-$45

Where:
Umstead Park
8801 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Fit and Able Productions
Telephone: 919-673-4689
Contact Name: Travis
Website »

More information

Celebrate what you're thankful for. Play a game and make a pine cone turkey craft. All ages with adult. Drop-in program. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Shop more than 20 local vendors offering amazing gifts this holiday season. Enjoy daily raffles with proceeds benefiting local animal rescue Paws in the City. Kids can enjoy crafts...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Crossroads
333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

The Raleigh Boychoir makes an appearance before its big Christmas concert.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a 30-minute tour to view the main power drive and milling machinery. Tickets available inside the park's visitor center. Online registration encouraged.

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Explore the historic nature of Leigh Farm Park with a friendly guide. Venture inside the historic farmhouse while being captivated by tales about life at Leigh Farm throughout the years.

Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-1116
Contact Name: Natalya Buckel
Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our debut Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2017 Readers' Favorites are.
Edit ModuleShow Tags