Interview with Elizabeth Flora Ross: The Mom Pledge

We’ve all seen it happen. Sometimes it takes place in the comments section of a blog post, other times in a message board, on Facebook or even in private emails. Online mom bullying. Fight the temptation to roll your eyes. Cyber bullying isn’t just for tweens any more.

No one can deny that the Internet revolutionized motherhood. Blogs made it possible for women to walk a mile in each other’s flats, share struggles, and find community. With the spreading of ideas and opinions, dissent is inevitable and discourse, a natural byproduct of emotionally charged discussions. What many have noticed though is that the atmosphere between online mothers has grown an ugly underbelly.

Some blame it on the competition that so often exists as an undertone to female relationships while others turn to boredom and insecurity as the cause for caustic interactions between moms online. Whatever the cause may be, there are victims both known and unknown.

Did you know that a site exists just to unleash insults on Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman blogger turned Food Network host? For every blogger who is publicly mocked, there are hundreds who face private written insults and threats. I experienced a bout with this last year when a blogger who felt as if our domain names were too similar tried to have me excluded from an event in my city after I wouldn’t relinquish my URL.

The stories of women hurling personal insults and ganging up on bloggers are plentiful and growing: just ask mother & writer Elizabeth Flora Ross, founder of The Mom Pledge. Through her online movement to bring awareness to the growing problem of online mom to mom bullying, Elizabeth has done more than just create a website, she’s spurned a counter culture of kindness, transparency, and accountability.

I had the honor of speaking with Elizabeth and am amazed at the level of maturity and thoughtfulness she’s bringing to such a heated social issue. If you’re interested in learning more about her project, read the Q & A below.

What is The Mom Pledge?

Elizabeth: The Mom Pledge is a set of principles women commit to following in all their online activities. At its core, it is about treating others with respect. The Mom Pledge asserts there is no one “right” way to be a good mom.

The women who have committed to our principles make up The Mom Pledge Community. Together we are working to speak out and stand up against mom-to-mom cyber bullying.

What inspired you to create it?

Elizabeth: It wasn’t long after I became a mom blogger that I was exposed to the ugliness that exists between moms online. I didn’t care for it. And while I was never personally a target, I saw it everywhere. I wanted to try to do something about it.

Why do you think the Mom Pledge is more important now than ever?

Elizabeth: There is a lot of focus right now on bullying among our children and youth. And there should be. But I don’t believe we will ever be successful in addressing that problem until we look at ADULT attitudes and behaviors. The example set by parents has shown to be a key causative factor in bullying among children.

There seems to be a pervasive attitude among some in our society that it is acceptable, even commendable, to bully those who do not share your beliefs. In the case of moms, it has gotten to the point where every parenting decision a woman makes leaves her open to attack. The Mom Pledge is spreading the message that is not OK, and adult cyber bullying hurts people.

Have you seen progress in terms of online mom conflict?

Elizabeth: I think we have made great progress in terms of building awareness. Which is an essential first step. People have to realize there IS a problem before they become willing to address it.

I will admit I had no idea how big this issue was before I began The Mom Pledge. I have been shocked and saddened to learn what a serious, widespread problem it is. And I continue to be exposed to more each and every day.

As far as reducing the conflict is concerned, one cyber bullying expert I work with very closely recently told me she believes things will get much worse before they start to get better. Based on what I have seen so far this year, I’m afraid she is right.

But I have noticed as it gets worse, and more people are exposed to it, they are standing up and saying, “Hey, this is NOT OK. And it needs to stop.” Which has been great for our movement.

What is your long-term goal with The Mom Pledge?

Elizabeth: I hope to affect positive change in the way moms interact with one another. Create an culture of acceptance and understanding. We are never going to agree on every issue. That is not a reasonable expectation. But we should be able to discuss issues in a respectful and open-minded manner. And learn to accept the choices others make, as well as their right to make them.

We need to focus more on the things we have in common. The Internet offers an unprecedented opportunity for us to connect. What we should be doing is celebrating the joys of motherhood together and supporting one another through the challenges. That is the environment The Mom Pledge is working to create.

The members of The Mom Pledge Community are all moms. They love their children and are trying to do what is best for their families. It is really that simple. Motherhood is an incredible journey. We should work together to build each other up, not try to tear one another down.

How can moms take part?

Elizabeth: Well, the first step would be to read The Mom Pledge. Decide if you believe in its principles and can commit to following them. If so, join our Community and work with us to build a more positive online environment for moms.

Overall, think about the words you use when interacting with other moms online. Strive to be a positive example. If you find yourself in the midst of an ugly situation, follow this advice.

The Mom Pledge is really about “the golden rule” your own mom taught you. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. The best way to share this philosophy with your children is to live it.

Well said.

Bunmi Laditan

About Bunmi Laditan

Bunmi is a mother, writer, and social media entrepreneur living in Montréal, Canada (by way of California). She has two girls ages 6 and almost 2.

7 thoughts on “Interview with Elizabeth Flora Ross: The Mom Pledge”

  1. Thank you so much, Bunmi, for sharing our important message with the community! The honor was all mine. Proud to have you be part of our movement!

  2. Thank you for writing this- it is so needed. Last week I witnessed a cyber lynch mob destroy a photographer who, in their opinion, had put newborns in poses that may have been dangerous. There were 600 comments on this photograph, the majority of which were attacking her character, her skill, and coming very close to accusing her of child abuse. When confronted those women insisted they were justified because they were “standing up for the babies.” I wonder how many babies they saved by cursing and hurling insults at a woman who made the same mistake that many new photographers make. I wonder if the number of babies saved was proportionate to the vast number of insults hurled at this woman. It would seem that way. No babies were harmed but that isn’t the point apparently. They could have been harmed, maybe. Of course no one was there to witness the actual shoot so none of them actually knew what safety precautions were taken. In the end, even some of the mothers of those babies chimed in and attacked the photographer. My guess is that her business was destroyed that day and she will have a hard time holding her head high in public ever again. It was shameful and inexcusable. The cruelty shocked me, and even more shocking was watching the women defend themselves with self righteous indignant attitudes that harbor the belief that when a person makes a mistake they MUST be destroyed for it and the destruction must be as cruel as a mob of women can muster. I will take your pledge and spread the word. Thank you.

  3. I was victim to this type of bullying on a Mothering community forum for simply asking questions about what people thought were appropriate methods for helping to encourage a 2.5 year old child to wean. Ratehr than receiving support for having nursed my child for so long, I was attacked and the moderator actually rejected my post. I even went so far as to try to have a conversation with her to clarify my good intent and was still treated like a second class citizen. I haven’t been on the Mothering boards since. It was absolutely heartbreaking. I’m so glad someone is taking on this issue. On the other hand, I hope this doesn’t mean that people will stop speaking up about certain issues. We shouldn’t avoid talking about how a 1 in 4 c-section rate is WAY too high for fear of offending everyone who has had one — the fault doesn’t lie with the mothers, it’s with the system, and we need to all work together to change it. Likewise, I don’t think we should look the other way about parenting methods we consider to be immoral and even illegal. We should try to help show our fellow moms other possibilities for how to help babies sleep or ‘discipline’ our kids. It’s a matter of treating people with respect and dignity; and being open to the idea that your not always right.

  4. I’m so sorry you had that experience. It can be extremely hurtful when you go to a group seeking support or advice and are rejected or attacked. One thing that amazes me is how women who supposedly believe in the same things will attack each other. It’s not just different groups bullying one another, it’s individuals within the SAME group. It’s sad.

    The Mom Pledge strongly advocates discussion on important issues. The intention is definitely not to shut discourse down. But, we need to be respectful of one another and have those discussions in an open minded, civil manner. Sadly, that doesn’t happen very often. Instead, this does:

    It doesn’t even have to be a so-called “controversial” issue. Pretty much every post I see on FB, for example, that is parenting related turns into moms judging and condemning one another.

    As you said, it’s a matter of treating people with respect and dignity. Absolutely!

  5. This is a scenario I see all.the.time. Women often bully in groups. It is very much a mob mentality, and it is scary to watch. And the cruelty is shocking, even to someone like me who is exposed to it regularly. Thank you for taking The Mom Pledge and helping spread our message that this kind of behavior is not OK.

  6. Bravo, Elizabeth. I lead an educational initiative called Nourishing Our Children. While I am not a parent, I have served as a live-in nanny, a live-out nanny for a number of years caring for children from infancy to adolescents, worked as a Marriage Family Therapy and Art Therapy intern on the pediatric ward of San Francisco General Hospital, served in the same capacity at Sutro Elementary School, worked as a teacher both in the classroom and in private practice, and as an educational therapist for a decade

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