If the first rule of the internet is "don't read the comments," the second rule of the internet is quickly becoming "don't post a picture of your child in their car seat." Pop star Pink is the latest mother to take some serious heat for the abominable crime of... imperfectly positioned car seat straps.
The internet horror began when Pink shared a selfie she took with her daughter, Willow, on Instagram:
If all you see is an adorable picture of a mother and daughter, and you didn't immediately notice the positioning of Willow's car seat straps, you're obviously a newbie. The comments on Pink's post immediately lit up with parents encouraging her to move the chest clip higher and graciously offering car seat safety advice and statistics.
Of course, the car seat safety brigade is technically correct. Willow is 4 years old and is properly seated in a five-point harness car seat that converts to a booster seat. However, her chest clip is down around her stomach instead of up around her arm pits where it belongs. Car seat clips need to be up around a child's chest to prevent serious internal injuries from occurring during a car accident.
The problem with the internet's obsession with car seat safety isn't that it's inaccurate; it's that it's out of line. Pink snapped the picture when the car wasn't moving, and no one knows whether she adjusted her daughter's chest clip before they hit the road. Rather than trusting that Pink knows how to mother her own child, the internet at large thinks she needs them to do it for her. And that's not just overbearing, it perpetuates a culture of pitting mothers against each other.
Contrary to what comments on the internet suggest, all mothers are capable of making their own parenting decisions — even when they aren't perfect. No one needs the internet to pick out every mistake they make or even to offer up an endless stream of opinions, advice or safety tips without being asked. Mothers don't magically become perfect just because someone on the internet pointed out all of their flaws. What happens instead is we learn to question our own judgement, internalize all of that criticism and become fearful, instead of empowered.
The Mommy Wars we keep hearing about come from mothers who are so convinced that they are right that they worry more about spreading their righteousness than supporting each other. If your goal is to keep children safe, you should start by helping their parents feel confident and secure in themselves and their parenting abilities — not proving your own parenting worth at their expense. Every parent makes mistakes, and all of them involve a child's safety at least some of the time. Until and unless a child is being abused, there is no one "safety issue" that trumps all niceties and respect for each other as mothers.
Pink may not care about how the internet feels about her car seat choices, but many other mothers take online criticism to heart. Next time someone posts a picture of a child in a car seat, and the belts aren't perfectly positioned, the car seat safety brigade should pause, take a deep breath and remember all of their own parenting mistakes instead. We're all figuring it out as we go along, and there's nothing to be gained by turning motherhood into a competition.
Take heart, "bad moms" of the world! We have high-fructose corn syrup, food dyes of every shade and hue, less-than-perfectly positioned car seat straps and a lot less stress.
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