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


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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.

 

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New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

Thursday evenings are for music and outdoor adventure at the USNWC, and the River Jam Run is a great way to enjoy both. Kick off the evening with 1.5 mile, 3 mile, or 6 mile group run through our...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Race Director
Website »

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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

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The Engage Art Contest is a juried competition for original Visual Art, Music Video, Film and Performing Arts. The topic is the Spiritual Battle described in Ephesians 6:10-20 and related...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online
PO Box 78951
Charlotte, NC  28271
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Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
Website »

More information

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

It's time to play... TAKEOUT BINGO!!!  Take a screenshot or download the game board. Mark off the locations you visit. Share your progress on Facebook and Instagram using #CRTakeoutBingo. Send...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Crossroads Plaza
Crossroad Blvd
Suite 215
Cary, NC  27518
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Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
Telephone: 864-979-2291
Contact Name: Katie Earnhardt
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

Art Walk featuring local galleries and artist studios in historic downtown Hillsborough on the Last Friday of every month (no Art Walk in December).

Cost: FREE

Where:
Downtown Hillsborough (multiple locations)
102 N. Churton St.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Hillsborough Arts Council
Telephone: 919-643-2500
Contact Name: Torey Mishoe
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

More information

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The Engage Art Contest is a juried competition for original Visual Art, Music Video, Film and Performing Arts. The topic is the Spiritual Battle described in Ephesians 6:10-20 and related...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online
PO Box 78951
Charlotte, NC  28271
View map »


Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
Website »

More information

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
Website »

More information

PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

More information

PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
View map »


Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Join one of our talented Mid-South Fencers’ Club coaches for a one hour virtual lesson to the fast paced and exciting sport of Olympic Fencing! This will be a FREE ONLINE class. All you need is...

Cost: free

Where:
Mid-South Fencers' Club ONLINE
125 N. Gregson St.
DURHAM, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Mid-South Fencers' Club
Telephone: 919-286-3100
Contact Name: Jeff Kallio
Website »

More information

It's time to play... TAKEOUT BINGO!!!  Take a screenshot or download the game board. Mark off the locations you visit. Share your progress on Facebook and Instagram using #CRTakeoutBingo. Send...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Crossroads Plaza
Crossroad Blvd
Suite 215
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
Telephone: 864-979-2291
Contact Name: Katie Earnhardt
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

More information

Get your summer vibes going at the 1st Annual Hubb’s Beach Blast at Hubb’s Farm in Clinton, NC.  Hubb’s Beach Blast will feature two of beach music industry’s top groups, Jim Quick and...

Cost: 20-50

Where:
Hubb's Farm
10276 US HWY 421 N
Clinton, NC  28328
View map »


Sponsor: Hubb's Farm
Telephone: 910-564-6709
Contact Name: Tammy Peterson
Website »

More information

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