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How to tell if you’re a crappy mom in one easy step

Being a mom is exhausting.

Way to state the obvious, right? With around-the-clock care of tiny, needy human beings or worrying about rapidly changing teenagers who are running late for curfew, how could motherhood be anything but exhausting? The normal day-to-day of being a parent is a total energy suck, but that isn’t the hardest part.

It’s the never-ending crazy expectations, the blog posts filled with rules and “helpful tips” that all seem to conflict with each other in some way, and the comment section fighters who feel it is their duty to point out every single way you are failing as a mother that really wear me out.

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Some days I am grateful for being able to connect with other moms at a moment’s notice by hopping online or turning to Google with a quick question. But to be perfectly honest, most days I am exhausted by the barrage of information, of watching complete strangers judge one another for every little decision they make. Most days I wish I could simply turn off my phone, drop my laptop in a lake and turn off all the voices finding their way into my life through the computer screen.

After four short years of motherhood, every day I feel more certain of one thing: I can never truly win at this game.

No matter how hard I work or how much I try to research and make the right choice, someone somewhere on the internet is ready to tell me I am doing it all wrong.

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Here’s an example. From day one, my first daughter struggled to breastfeed, and my supply was just shy of enough. I found myself regularly visiting a lactation consultant, who shoved formula samples in my arms and prescribed me with a rigid pumping schedule on the way out door. While obediently pumping at 3 a.m. one night, I found myself reading online about how breast is best, that my low milk supply might be all in my imagination and that formula should only be used when medically necessary.

So I did what I think almost every new mom does: I got on Facebook and shared my breastfeeding woes with a bunch of moms who didn’t really have any more experience than I did at making breastfeeding work. It wasn’t long before I felt inadequate and ashamed and made my way to a milk donor crowdsourcing page so I could ditch “evil formula” for good. I found a supplemental nursing system that allowed me to supplement while still holding my daughter to the breast and thought all my problems were solved. Until I read one of the many articles condemning donor breast milk and felt I was totally back at square one. Do you see what I mean? Without a totally awesome milk supply and a perfectly latching daughter, I just couldn’t win at breastfeeding — at least not in the eyes of the internet.

I know I am not alone, and I know breastfeeding isn’t the only part of motherhood where it feels wholly impossible to please the holier-than-thou, anonymous masses who spend way too much of their time online.

For instance, this week I have watched in horror as a mom who should feel free to focus on caring for her injured preschooler has felt pressure to defend her parenting choices after a totally unexpected (and totally tragic) accident at her local zoo. I have watched her being called names, implicated as neglectful and accused of crimes by random strangers on the internet. Essentially this poor, scared mom is being raked over the coals for giving her child space to play and losing track of him, of being unable to prevent an accident no one would expect to happen.

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Here’s one of the many things that drive me mad about the sanctimonious response of just about everyone with a computer: I wouldn’t be surprised to find this exact same mob of commenters, critical bloggers and self-proclaimed parenting experts joining Bill Maher in a vulgar attack of moms who sit too close or parent too carefully.

Experts of the internet, please fill me in: Where is the perfect balance between lazy and negligent versus high-strung and overly protective?

I am beginning to believe it doesn’t exist.

The aforementioned examples barely scratch the surface. Summer is here, but conventional sunscreens might cause cancer, and natural sunscreens are the devil. Before you communicate with your child, you had better memorize the lists of things we are not supposed to be saying to our kids, eliminate “no” from your vocabulary, but be careful to not raise an entitled brat.

Surely I am not the only mom who is trying her hardest to do her best but feeling paralyzed by the endless, conflicting advice and criticism flooding our social media feeds. We are darned if we do and darned if we don’t, and enough is enough.

As a fellow mom, it isn’t really my business how you parent your child. Instead, I want to support you with a smile, an offer to help or a “good job!” when I see you are trying your hardest to make the right choices for your family. Let’s ignore the cruel, faceless voices of the internet and do our own thing, because ultimately we are the the only ones who can decide what our child needs to thrive.

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