4 One-Liners in Mom Debates I Could Live Without

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I love mom communities. Love them. I have learned so much from fellow mamas and my children will reap the benefits. However, what is unfortunately inevitable among the countless mom blogs and Facebook Pages are parents (and non-parents, ack!) who attempt to make you feel like a failure.  When what could be a healthy conversation with differing opinions turns into downright meanness. You’ve seen it; from diapering, to feeding, to birthing – no mom-topic is immune to the debacle that can begin when a mom or dad feels affronted with his or her parenting decisions.

I do my very best to stay away from these “debates.”  It’s just when I see an article titled something like “Homebirthers are Like Teenage Drunk Drivers” (real) it takes all my will power to step away from the keyboard.  When a mom is being a blatant bully it’s easy to justify jumping in and setting fact from fiction.  However, some cringe-worthy one-liners are harder to defend yourself against which make them even more maddening!  Take the following…

1. I did that and my children are “just fine.”

Honestly, that is great.  No sarcasm.  I am truly thankful.

However, when you use this one-liner with a look of rebuff as an argument to defend choices where some evidence suggests it may not have been the best one, you only make yourself look hard-hearted with the possible consequences of your actions.  As someone who suffers from Mom Guilt on a daily basis I personally find this argument reprehensible.  I have made several mistakes as a mom, and I would never justify them with this one-liner.

Why not feel comforted by the fact that you made the best decision with the information you had at the time?  I still want to beat my head against the wall thinking back to the unsympathetic doctor that poked and prodded and put a catheter in my four month old (FOR NO GOOD REASON), but I have to take in a big breath and think: “I was scared, uninformed, and made what I thought was the best decision in the moment.  I will learn from it and move on.”  But I would never, ever look at her and say casually, “eh, she’s just fine.”

2. If I hadn’t been in the hospital my baby or I would have died.

I recognize that mothers face real medical emergencies and not all home births end at home. All births are unique and some women and babies’ lives have been legitimately saved by medicine.

However, if you had given birth at home you and your baby had the same statistics of survival. What’s unfortunate is that medical interventions often have a domino effect for more interventions leading one to think, “how could I have done this at home?”  The following quote from The Business of Being Born illustrates my feelings on this:

“Step-by-step one intervention leads to a series of interventions, and the net result is the mother finally ends up with a Cesarean. And everyone says ‘Thank God we were able to do all of these interventions to save your baby.’  Fact of the matter is if they didn’t start the cascade of interventions none of it would have been necessary.” – Eugene Declerq, Ph.D. Professor, Maternal and Fetal Health, Boston University School of Public Health

What bugs me about this one-liner is that it perpetuates the fear of giving birth. When a mother goes into birth feeling afraid, she will have physiological and emotional responses to that fear. This will increase the likelihood of interventions and therefore increase her chance of having a traumatic birth…and the cycle continues.

3. I’m not trying to be Super Woman.

And, what, I am? It’s insulting because it insinuates I am doing something or making a decision that is not only unnecessarily burdensome but that I am trying to make a martyr of myself for doing so.

For example, I throw themed birthday parties, or try to at least. It’s not because I am trying to show off my mad mom skills and impress. It honestly makes me happy. It becomes a project and I get to use the right side of my brain. It makes my kiddos excited. It makes for great pictures. We all have different strengths, different things that tickle our happy place, and we weigh importance of different things differently. Can we please not make women feel that their strength, their happy, their attempt at selflessness for their children is an unnecessary burden you dubbed ridiculous?

4. More power to you.

Does it get more condescending? The speaker is acknowledging a difference of opinion but instead of saying: “I disagree with your choice that could be seen as superior to my choice, but really you are silly and doing something totally unnecessary and likely just making things more difficult than they need to be,” they opt for this gem. It is by far my least favorite one-liner. There is so much unsaid animosity behind this sentence it’s tangible.

I understand it has become an idiom and I’ve heard it said innocently enough. I’m sure I’ve said it too. I would suggest that maybe we think about what we really mean to say, and say that instead. This sentence can be easily interrupted as patronizing, even if you don’t mean it that way.

We all need to have thick skin in mothering, and for life in general. That is a fact. I get it. But just because I’ve grown a bullet proof vest doesn’t mean I like taking the bullet. And I certainly, especially, wholeheartedly don’t want to be the speaker shooting bullets at you. We need to teach ourselves and our children how to be thoughtful and kind in our speech.

What are some one-liners that bother you?


12 thoughts on “4 One-Liners in Mom Debates I Could Live Without”

  1. In a classroom setting once several years ago, I was asked to share my experience with cloth diapering my kids. I explained my reasons for doing it and my method, and was met with “well *I* prefer to spend time with my children instead of their laundry”. I intentionally avoided framing my choices in a “you did it wrong if you didn’t use cloth” but some folks just can’t help feeling defensive. You aren’t responsible for their feelings, and you don’t have to make them feel better or defend yourself. 🙂

  2. “2. If I hadn’t been in the hospital my baby or I would have died.” When a mother is stating this, she isn’t trying to “perpetuate…the fear of giving birth”. She is most likely saying this because it honestly happened to her. This has obviously never happened to you or anyone close to you as it seems you have no sensitivity towards this subject.

    “If you had given birth at home you and your baby had the same statistics of survival.” The mother making this statement is not talking about statistics. She is talking about her personal experience. By discouraging her from telling her story, you invalidate her and deny her the right to tell her story. Even the wording of this statement comes across as a righteous attitude that “if you had only done the right things”.

    Before this happened to me, I honestly thought people were exaggerating that they or their baby almost died. I though if I just did the “right” things, no adverse birth outcome would happen to me. I had multiple perfect births with zero interventions. Well guess what? On my last birth, with no risk factors, interventions, or warning signs I suffered a complete placental abruption on the way to the hospital. We indeed almost both died. I am tired of having to explain to the natural birth community that it was a “true medical emergency”. And I don’t. It’s my own business. Heaven help the poor mother that had one intervention and then ending up with c-section or a medical emergency as she will forever be blamed for allowing that one intervention.

    “What bugs me about this one-liner…” This is exactly it. It bugs YOU. You are the problem, not the person telling their story. When something bugs us, we are the problem. We have a problem with patience, grace, judgement, tolerance, etc. We don’t need to change other people, just ourselves.

    Please understand that when people say they or their baby almost died, it is not a flippant statement. There is real trauma and horror behind that one line. And unfortunately there is little support and understanding to be found in the natural birth community when this happens.

    1. Anonymous, it’s important to remember these are “one-liners,” not “stories.” All mothers should share their stories – the good and the bad. And mothers who had traumatic births should be particularly heard and helped.
      Yes, it “bugs” me because I have a daughter. I don’t want her giving birth in the climate we are in now. Where women go into labor afraid and therefore put their trust into standard practices that are not evidence-based, practices that lead to a 33% national C-section rate.
      You are making in mistake by assuming I didn’t have a scary moment during birth – I did, or that I don’t have a close loved one who experienced a medical emergency in childbirth – I do. It is both lucky and unlucky that you didn’t experience this “one-liner” before your third birth, you don’t understand the sting and hurt it can cause for a woman who is trying to empower herself and plan for a birth that is outside of the hospital walls.
      When I heard this one-liner they were in response to sharing that I was planning a home birth. Is the speaker trying to warn me of the dangers? Scare me into changing my mind? Or using this as a defense as a way to tell me that she made the “right” choice and I’m making the “wrong” one. For me and others I know, it was the latter. Which is why it doesn’t belong in mom “debates.”

      1. As I said, when a mother gives a one-liner, there is usually a lot more behind the statement and that is why it is ONE LINE. It is traumatic to relive and the mother may not want to go over every detail of the birth story to everyone. It is a personal thing and it feels like the listener just wants to judge the situation for themselves. Does it matter that it was in response to your planning a homebirth? Does that make it untrue? Perhaps this person hasn’t even processed what happened and is just stating what happened.

        You said: “It is both lucky and unlucky that you didn’t experience this “one-liner”. Please re-read my comment. I also said “Before this happened to me, I honestly thought people were exaggerating…” when they gave this line. I have heard this line many times and I continue to hear it.

        Your blog states you had two home waterbirths. You have not been in this situation.

        So now you are clarifying that this line bugs you because of your daughter. You cannot ensure that no one in the whole world will scare her. You can only do what you can do and educate her yourself.

        I am sorry to hear you had a bad experience when planning your homebirths. I have just come to learn that for some people it is none of their business. I don’t need to engage with everyone and ask or even make a situation where they might comment on my life choices. When I began homeschooling, I didn’t even tell all of my “friends” and co-workers. Over the years of course they found out, but I don’t need everyone’s opinions. We do our own research and make decisions for ourselves that are right for us whether that be birthing or anything else.

        I think it is a mistake to think not every mother has experienced unsupportiveness at some point or that we are alone in that. EVERY decision is going to elicit comments from someone. Someone is going to disagree with every decision we make. “Your baby should be in your bed longer.” “You should not have your baby in your bed.” You can’t win if you are going by public opinion so we need to be confident in our own choices.

  3. The one I hate, particularly when lobbed at women asking for advice on things like medical issues, is “just trust your mama gut.” When it comes to things like shots, my “mama gut” says to take my baby and head for the border, but my mama brain says that it’s important for the welfare of my baby! More importantly, the experts I ask tell me it’s importantbdor the welfare of my baby!

  4. I had a c section to save my sons life. After a series of text book interventions that were 100% unnecessary but used to speed up the process and free a bed. I agree with this entire post. Thank you.

  5. I’d like to add…”stop and think about what you want to say”…um….stop, I can do…think? Are you kidding me? I’ve definitely said “more power to you” b/c I can’t think of anything nicer to say, because I’m an exhausted Mom. A bunch of tired cranky bored ladies running around judging each other online…that’s just not a good mix. Let’s heal the tribe and support each other when we can, eventually we can help each other up, hold each other up, and then stand up together!

    1. In response to “More power to you”:
      I hear that all of the time and it doesn’t bother me a bit. To me, it’s a kind way of saying “I wouldn’t/don’t do it like that, but I support that you do”.

      I think with all of these “one-liners” it’s really HOW it’s said.

      But generally I avoid debating stupidly over personal choices, unless someone asked my opinion. I homebirth, homeschool, love my kids dearly and don’t do a whole lot of things that our fast paced, over-teched-out world demands. And also, with all of my personal choices for my own family, I know that what works for me, may not be a possibility for another family. And sometimes its not an option. But just the other day I slipped up talking about breastfeeding. I was cornered into some awkward small talk about breastfeeding at a kids birthday party and a friend overheard me say “to me, formula smells like metal.” I really didn’t want to be talking about it at all. I know breastfeeding is naturally better than formula but I rarely would share my opinion about that. My friend who heard me say it had had an awful time trying to breastfeed. She bleed every time she did it and she did it for a year. She supplimented with formula because sometimes it was too painful and she didn’t want formula feed at all. Anyway, I totally hurt her feelings and I really don’t give a damn that she gave her baby formula because he was being feed. Hell, I really don’t like breastfeeding and I would give my babys a bottle every now and again if they would take it.
      Anyway, whatever the debate is: working or not working, hospital birth (I’ve had 2) or homebirth (I’ve had 1), public school or home school, whatever debate it is, IT IS PERSONAL AND I KNOW THAT ALL OF YOU LADIES WANT YOUR PERSONAL CHOICES TO STAY THAT WAY. If someone else makes the personal choice to do something differently than you, respect that and patiently watch from a distance to see if it works for them.
      I hope my actions and my family’s natural behavior will speak for our way of life. If that appeals to someone else, then great.
      “To each his own”

    2. And I didn’t mean to personally respond to your comment, Jordan. I don’t usually leave comments on these types of things so I don’t really know what I’m doing.
      I just hope that I can be the type of person that even though I might do things differently, I can still show respect for other folks’ choices.

  6. I think these are all ok in most contexts. Sometimes one liners are used to shut people down but they are also used to quickly convey a point of view to open up discussions about a different point of view. It’s difficult to judge the purpose online, in person these one liners typically convey the message that you have a different point of view, you don’t want to be preachy, and you are willing to share the reasons if asked to. Online people seem to be too sensitive and too ready to take offense.

    There are certain points in an online discussion where so much has been said that brief responses to show which belief you lean towards is more polite. There are also certain discussion boards where giving longer responses will get you picked apart by hardliners, especially in birth and vaccine discussions.

    That doesn’t mean the person using the one line response hasn’t gone through a lot of literature, discussion, and reflection when it comes to raising children and it doesn’t mean they are creating fear about birth, it just means they are briefly sharing an opinion based on their experiences.

  7. I did that and my kids are fine… ….it’s true.
    LOL
    I think it’s worse to be judged for your so called “mistakes” I did so many crazy things as I had my kids young and was pretty free of fear and close to my instincts. All I can do is laugh at some of my judgements because my kids are awesome and healthy 🙂 my pet peeve is when mom’s talk to your kids in front of you to passive agressivly tell you something.

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