Thanks for making me feel like a shitty mother.
It was 5 a.m. I had been up almost all night holding my baby. He wasn’t in pain; he just had gotten used to being held through the night during a previous bout of teething and was interested in keeping that ride going forever. After weeks of feeling like my life was just one long day, punctuated by a few brief naps, I’d had enough. I was at the end of my tether and needed someone to comfort me, for once.
So to where do I turn in the darkness? Toward the light of my smartphone, of course. My mommy group on Facebook, to be exact, which is filled with women I don’t personally know, always ready to dish out helpful advice to one another at odd hours of night. If it wasn’t for this group, I would never have gotten through the newborn sleepless nights, the breastfeeding issues, or the toddler tantrums. There is some comfort in knowing that no matter how bleak the outlook, you’re not alone. That some other mom out there, near you, is going through the same shit you are.
But every group has an asshole, especially the virtual kind.
After sending out a desperate missive at 5 a.m., listing the things I had already tried to get him to sleep on his own (including letting him cry it out), I received a few practical and helpful suggestions, and many messages just to say, “Sorry, I know this sucks but you’ll get through it”—just what a tired mom on the verge of losing it needs to hear. Every time a notification popped up on my phone, I’d hurriedly tap it to see what the latest helpful piece of advice was until I scrolled through and saw this:
“That poor baby, crying for an hour!”
Thanks? That’s exactly what I needed to hear. That I was doing something wrong, that I was a terrible mother for wanting some eventual sleep, that because I desperately tried a myriad of other solutions first, and finally felt like I had no choice but to let him work it out of his own, I was not fit to be a mother.
I’m not sure what you think I was doing, Asshole Mom. Did you think I was sitting in the living room by the fireplace, enjoying a glass of cognac while I gleefully listened to my child’s shrill cries coming though the monitor? Did you think I was passed out, glad to have made the decision to block my ears to the sounds of my baby crying for his mama? Perhaps I turned off the monitor and left the house for a Starbucks run?
I’ll tell you what I was doing. I was hiding under the covers, staring into the harsh light of the baby monitor, eyes red from lack of sleep, tears streaming down my face because I felt so bad letting my baby cry, my heart pained by the sound, feeling so helpless because I didn’t know what else to possibly do, but so mentally, physically, and emotionally spent that I could only wait for time to tick slowly by, each second weighing down on me.
I reached out and asked for help. You could have stayed silent in your disapproval, but you joined the conversation purely to shame me. Think about that for a moment. That’s fucking disgusting.
As new mothers, we spend every second of the day wondering if we are doing it right, arguing with partners about how to do it, and hearing from everyone else that they would do it differently. Out entire existence is filled with the fear of being an inadequate mother, of not being good enough. And instead of supporting your fellow mom through this constant state of insecurity, you exacerbate it?
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