When Picture Perfect Gets Provocative

One of the most common things I see on social media mom groups is “Should I tell her she’s doing it wrong?”

My answer is nearly always no. You should not.

Don’t get me wrong. I get that 90% of the time, this question is rooted in good intentions-moms wanting to “help out” other moms that may or may not know that some action isn’t following a recommendation by a manufacturer, instruction manual, doctor, book, etc. 

I understand why I’m probably in the minority but here’s my reasoning: would you walk up to a stranger in a park and tell her she’s parenting the wrong way? Would you poke your head in a stranger’s car and ask to inspect her car seat installation job or proper strap placement? Would you ask a twin mom to explain the logistics in meeting any of her babies’ needs at the same time and then tell her that the methods that work are dangerous? Have you ever told someone it seems she can’t handle things so she should *just* hire someone to help? 

Did you EVER see your mother’s generation do that kind of thing? Probably not.

We continually have a discussion amongst our team members about the protective shield that social media affords us. There seems to be something about a keyboard that allows us to sling opinions without affording the receiving party any benefit of the doubt. Ok, great, but here’s the thing: we can’t all be perfect parents all the time. Not everyone is afforded the luxury of having every aspect their life together. These are real people on your screen. People with emotions and feelings. People that make mistakes, have bad days, get stressed. I’ll give you a few examples.

Example #1

Here’s an Instagram photo I posted of us feeding the girls a few months ago. Names blocked to protect private accounts.

Instagram with comments

Now, do you really think I was out of arm’s reach at any time? I got the recall email too, which is why I don’t walk away from them like I did with my first kid. If you actually read the recall, it was due to people walking away, and the babies coming out and falling off of elevated surfaces. I choose to use my judgment and not walk away from my kids as I feed them in a manner that works for us. Her comment was from a good place. It was. BUT, I also know she’s never faced the logistics of trying to feed two babies the same age at one time alone, while also getting a toddler to eat a meal within a reasonable amount of time. If I fed all of them on the floor, I’d potentially get some comment about how there’s a scientific fact that families who all eat a table together are more bonded, blah, blah. Darned if I do, darned if I don’t.

Example #2

A friend took her boys to the park to watch their big brother play soccer. She left the baby in the carrier, but loosened his straps so he could breathe a little easier while they enjoyed the nice weather. They were on a blanket, and there was clearly a field and some trees in the background. The comments came. “I hope you fixed his straps before you put him back in the car.” “I’m concerned – that’s my big anxiety trigger – you know it should be tight and over his chest, right?” Seriously? Whatever happened to “Hey, look at those adorable kids on that beautiful day where they are all happy after they’ve been having a rough patch of life. I’m glad they’re finally having a good day.”

I realize that there ARE clueless people out there that need guidance, and some that appreciate the feedback. I won’t necessarily go so far as to say “mind your own darned business,” but if you truly feel compelled to comment, may I suggest doing it privately, so as not to make that person feel publicly shamed and turn the photo into a debate forum?

Sad G

Do YOU stop and inspect every photo you take for possible parenting infractions that will be scrutinized by anyone that sees the photo? I would guess not. You probably think, “Hey, look at this funny or cute thing my kid did. Aunt Susie would love to see this.” 

Don’t you think that’s all most people are doing when they share photos?

My point is this – if you see a parent “doing it wrong” in a picture they’ve shared on the internet, try to take a minute and give that mama some grace. Has she gone four days without sleep? Did her toddler push down his chest strap in protest? Has that mom exhausted every other option, only to find that the thing that works isn’t exactly orthodox? Is she doing everything alone? Did she have trouble adjusting the straps on her carrier so the carry is a bit off? I can go on forever. Haven’t we all had off days?

We’re all real mamas here. Let’s do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

 

Lindsay
Lindsay is a native New Orleanian, displaced only by her years at Mississippi State, where she earned a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries and a minor in English. She came home shortly after Katrina, to work as a zookeeper and be a part of the rebuilding of her beloved city. She dragged her husband Drake, a Tennessee native, along with her. Their son Bennett joined the family in 2010, and in 2014 they welcomed identical twin girls, Genevieve and Kellen Clair. She now works full time as an Environmental Scientist and part-time as NOM’s resident Jill of All Trades. Powered by espresso, cake, and craft beer, her happy place is on a beach or in the woods. Need to identify a plant, tree, or animal? Lindsay’s a wealth of random knowledge. She loves to cook and sprinkle a little glitter on everything.

5 COMMENTS

    • Thank you for reading! I have to make those kinds of choices all the time. We have to parent the way we deem is safest and works best for our own children.

  1. Guilty. Well, kind of. I totally did this the other day. It was the same situation – a picture of a kid in a bumbo on the table. One of my dearest friends (an ER doc in fact) was literally standing RIGHT THERE when her son ripped off the counter top and fractured his skull. He’s fine but three years later, she still can’t talk about it without crying. So when I saw a pic of a different friend’s baby in a bumbo on a table, I private messaged her (while publicly liking the picture and commenting about how cute her kids are). I started my message with “I’ve been going back and forth about writing to you all day…I know it’s not my place to say anything…please don’t feel bad or shamed…” And then I told her my other friend’s story. She responded graciously but until I heard back from her, I had so much anxiety about hurting her feelings or making myself sound like the self-imposed safety captain or something. Anyways, good post. Important issue. I agree that many of us feel overly bold behind our screens and that any advice should be given privately if at all.

  2. I’m a very new mom to a 10-day young little girl. I posted a picture to Facebook of her sleeping in her crib. We placed her on her back but she continually rolls to her side (which was her position in the photo). I was so afraid of what other parents and non-parents might say that when someone commented how cute she was laying on her side like a little adult (which was a compliment), I immediately backfired defending myself and parenting with the following comment, “Disclaimer: She does this own her own. We put her on her back but she always rolls.” Thank you for writing this article and making other people stop and think before they type! You are saving new moms like me!

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