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Tuesday
Jul032012

I'm a good mother because... (Think Before You Share)

The conversations in our society around who is a good mother and a bad mother are almost always horribly marginalizing.  People line up to point fingers, pass judgment and give unsolicited advice. The rejection of the Good Mother in some parenting circles is a positive one.

But sometimes people, in an attempt to laugh at themselves or take the heat off, simply forget to stop and think. An ecard that is being circulated on the Internet at the moment is an awful example of that.

Of course I'm a good mother. They're still alive, aren't they?

That is the text of the card. The card being passed around by mothers whose children are all still alive. The card being passed around by mothers whose own mothers were not abusive or neglectful. The card being passed around by those who didn't stop to think about how hurtful it could be before they clicked re-pin or re-tweet or share.

The card isn't funny.

It isn't funny because there are many, many AMAZING mothers out there whose children aren't still alive. One of those amazing moms is Kristine, whose daughter Cora died in her arms while she was breastfeeding her. Kristine, who has fueled her love and passion into ensuring that other parents do not have to lose a child unnecessarily to congenital heart defects. Kristine, who came across this card this week and was devastated by it. Kristine, who is one of many, many mothers who has suffered the loss of a child. Kristine, who is a good mother.

It also isn't funny because there are many, many children and adults who are still alive because they somehow managed to survive an awful childhood of abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents. Yes, they are alive, but I can imagine how devastated they would be to see their mothers waving this card around as a proclamation of the quality of their mothering.

And, it isn't funny because there are mothers out there who invest 110% every single day into parenting special needs children who they know will not outlive them. Those mothers, even once their child is gone, will be 10 times the mother that many others are.

As I've said before, there are a great many reasons that people get called bad mothers. But as far as I'm concerned, the only ones that deserve the label are those who are abusive and neglectful and don't care to try to change that.

Many ecards and inspirational quotes being passed around on the Internet have good intentions, but have sexist, racist, ableist or other undertones that serve to marginalize people. I've made mistakes before and it has opened my eyes and made me much more careful. Take the time to think before you click. If something isn't important enough to make that momentary investment of time, perhaps it wasn't all that important to begin with.

 
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Reader Comments (77)

I guess I'm not a "good mother"....with one child who has died...this is horrible to read and suggest that it is funny!!! I'm glad I didn't see this before I saw it in the context of your wonderfully supportive comments. Thank you for standing up for all of us.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Hamilton

I think Annie (second para of the post) and everyone else understands it is meant to be ironic. However, it doesn't stop its effect also being hurtful for many people.

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTamara in NZ

Thank you! Just...thank you! This card made me ill when I first saw it--because I'm friends with a lot of mom's who have lost their babies/children through no fault of their own. And because infant death has touched my family personally. And because I've known people who were abused as children but lived through it.
What a horrible card. Not funny at all!

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAuntie_M

Beautifully said, Annie. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a child and had to see that stupid e-card.

You know, I recently posted something on my personal FB page that stemmed from my exhaustion with seeing blatantly rude message posted on FB feeds. In election years this seems to happen more than most... I am fine with broadcasting your political views, but some people on my newsfeed were passing around things that were blatantly rude towards moms who do not work for a paycheck but rather mother full-time (obviously alluding to Ann Romney - I'm on the other team but I still found this incredibly offensive) and others which questioned people's intelligence if they didn't agree with one particular POV ("You're an idiot it..." began one such status update). The mom e-cards are a whole other can of worms, and this one takes the cake.

The thing is - I think we can all get overly sensitive, and of course no one is saying you should censor your opinions or leave no room for humor. But I do think we've forgotten about traits like empathy, graciousness, and professionalism with the advent of the e-world, and this is a prime example of what can happen as a result. It's not too much to ask for us to consider who we might be insulting or hurting with our status updates or shares, and there is a way to be funny and/or political without alienating or hurting those we consider "friends" (even if they are only e-friends...;) )

Not sure if any of you read the Momastery blog. It is so excellent; funny, strong, spiritual, etc. Anyway, she recently did one on bragging online and how painful it can for others. It ties right in with what many of you are saying here. Here it is, http://momastery.com/blog/2012/04/23/bragging-rights/

Enjoy!!

July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

This needed to be said, Annie.

Thank you for thinking.

I agree with your thoughts about that card 100%.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

You people don't go to comedy shows or laugh when someone farts do you? No life is too serious for some far left or far right people. Learn to laugh at sarcasm because if you are all as smart as you sound then stop raising your children politically correct because we don't eat rainbows or poop butterflies. Everyone wont be happy at everyone's opinions on everything so the next time someone says something you don't like remember this is America say what you want to and if the others don't like it they are so smart they can change the channel,turn the page, or walk away.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

Gosh David, I don't at all see the difference between farts and dead children and that must surely be due to my extreme political views and not at all my desire to be a kind, compassionate human.

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Amen, I second that!

July 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly Muench

The problem with Samantha was that she "judged" as well by telling others to get over it. Had she just admitted that she lost a child & still found humor she probably wouldn't have gotten the responses she did receive. She turned into one of "those people" who tell others to get over it. THAT is what left the bad taste in my mouth.

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

‎Kristine Brite McCormick is my friend and I appreciate that this was written in response to her response. For those who think bereft mothers are being too sensitive, I think the issue is not that people who shared this card were bad, cruel, or mean. I think it is that they didn't stop for a second and remember that there are people out there whose children have died.

Infant and child mortality is so taboo, and many women who lose a child feel invisible and unrecognized. I think that is especially true for those who've miscarried because often their loss is unknown even amongst their friends.

I think it's not so much a slap on the wrist or a slap to the face of those who are "insensitive," but a call for inclusion. That they are still here, among us. Just like us, but changed for their loss. When the world moves on forgetting what was lost, the sting of that is very painful. It's not political correctness it's personal hell and agony. I don't think there is anything wrong with asking people who aren't suffering that to take a second to appreciate it and be a little more human.

I'm all for laughter, but there are so many better jokes out there that don't come at the expense of people suffering in silence. I've not had a miscarriage, and though my son has nearly died twice, he's still with me. I travel close to that borderland of loss, and there but for the grace of god (or the deity or capricious chaos of your choice) go we all. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging another person's truth. It does not diminish your own, only enhances your blessings. When you look at it like that it is less chastisement and more celebration of what you do have and honoring what was lost.

We are all human beings, and we should respect each other for that alone.

July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Rose Adams

Absolutely beautiful response, Amanda.

This is not about dead children. It clearly is a joke about all the pressure to be a good mother. The expression 'nobody died' is not one that's going to go away. I understand that some people are going to be upset by it just the way I am when people make jokes about killing themselves but seeing this as something targeting the mothers of dead children is a complete overreaction.

July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRona

Me too... I move so fast, I'm not sure I would have slowed down to think about it and I did have a nasty abusive childhood but am so far past it that, reading the ecard, my childhood didn't occur to me... I never thought about mother's who have lost a child... I can't even imagine :-( I did, however, have a very hard time on Mother's Day when the entire world wants you to shout out to your wonderful mother... thanks for the post. A good reminder for people and me as well.

July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Thank you. This needed to be said.

The idea expressed by the card is similar to what people often say about new standards for children's safety: "We all did X, and we're still alive!" Well, yes, by definition, the children who died for lack of those standards are not among the people present. I always had felt annoyed by such comments but didn't realize how hurtful they can be until my son was 1 year old and a lady at church offered us a ride home and I refused because she had no car seat. She said, "Oh, everyone my age rode without car seats, and we're still alive!" Another lady of the same age stepped in and said, "Yeah, I was one of nine kids who rode without seat belts in the back of the station wagon. Now I am one of eight who have to live with the memory of seeing our sister's brain on the asphalt."

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter'Becca

So glad I saw this posted. I always comment when people post ecards like this. I think society has a strange way of viewing things these days

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha

I agree with Debbie and Samantha. Every joke in the entire world can be read in the wrong way (in a sense that it was not even meant) and seem hurtful. If I am in a sensitive hurting phase in my life, I stay off the internet and leave the TV and radio off. Even a dog food commercial can make me cry.

July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

[...] you’re one of those holdouts who prefers their humor without inflicting pain on people who have already suffered more than anyone should, of [...]

[...] stunningly beautiful post about how mother and child are linked at the cellular level.http://www.phdinparenting.com/2012/07/03/im-a-good-mother-because-think-before-you-share/Because a little thought can go a long way I am vegan and Lush aren’t a 100% vegan but I [...]

I haven't lost a child, could not imagine it and have great sympathy for parents who have lost a child under any circumstance. I am sure that I have used this comment before to make light of the overwhelming pressure I feel raising my two cheurbs. I did not intend to insult or hurt anyone else, it was about me, my personal life & what I am experiencing. Sometime we can't think about every possible person that we might hurt when we speak & I feel sad that in this blog we are being judged badly for it. It doesn't mean that I don't care. At some point we have to accept that we can try to filter, sensitize & wrap up in cotton woolbut as we can see the views on this particular quote are mixed & all views should be respected. And remember no-one who uttered those words ever thought by saying them would hurt someelse by doing so and ghat is what is important.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJandra

Thanks for posting this. Sometimes it's hard to conceptualize the different, veiled meanings in a lot of those e-cards/bluntcards that go around. Some of them are funny, some of them are crude, and some of them are just straight up awful. My heart goes out to Kristine and many others who have been devastated by the loss of a child or experienced abusive parents themselves.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobbin

Thank you so much for posting this. I can relate to this in many ways, I have lost an infant, she passed away, while I was nursing, and I grew up in an abusive home. I also have made my share of mistakes and my oldest 2 children were actually adopted through foster care. I now have an amazing relationship with my daughter's adoptive mother, in addition to having 2 more children, changing my life completely and I now work with other pregnant woman and mothers who suffer from substance use disorder and are in recovery. I know from these woman and myself, that sometimes a woman that might "look" like the vision of a "bad" mother, can in fact turn out to be an amazing, strong, loving mother. I won't say "good" mother, because "Good" mother's are just a myth, we are all moms, who love our children, maybe some have less skills or resources but at the end of the day we are all equals as woman. Thoughtless statements like that can do so much damage, thanks for pointing it out!

~Erica

September 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErica

thanks for saying this. I am a mother who lost a teenaged daughter to a murderer who will never be caught, and am a survivor of such horrible parental abuse I have been in therapy for twenty years. I love my son, born to me when I was 12, [father violently raped me], and I love my daughters, all equally. Motherhood is more than the act of birthing, it is your heart.

December 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGinny Auldridge

I am a mother of five living sons, a sixth son who died in his sleep at 3 months old, and 2 babies miscarried in the second trimester. This card has made my stomach turn and a lump form in my throat over and over these last few weeks. I was not brave enough to say anything to the friends who had posted it without any guile, but I felt I should Thank you for speaking out on our behlaf.

December 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

I don't believe human suffering is a joke and I think that we as a society have let our guard down and erased that fine line between what is right and wrong simply to amuse ourselves. My own parents were very neglectful and as a result I ended up in fostercare and now have no family.

We always need to be sensitive to our neighbor and this was a well-written post about a very sensitive subject.

December 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCrack You Whip

I do understand how it can be viewed as insensitive. But at the same time: IT IS MEANT AS A JOKE. If it offends you, don't re-post/re-tweet it. If it makes you laugh, go ahead and laugh at it. I did, and I'm a mother myself! But that's just me and my personal opinion.

March 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJillian

oh god, I saw this in my newsfeed on facebook and wanted to die. I am still so new at this grieving parent thing that I can actually remember a time in my life that I wouldn't have given this a second thought..but now, not now, not since August..not ever again... thank you for writing about this, I've seen it many times now and just never know if I should say anything to the person posting. How they may be inadvertently hurting someone.

December 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlyson

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