Let’s Talk About Parent Shaming

It seems inevitable. Every time something awful happens to a kid, there is immediately a social media mob with their torches and pitchforks ready to hunt down… the child’s parents. Sometimes the mob even forgets the person who actually caused the harm to the child! There is a constant stream of parent-shaming happening, and it’s really frustrating. We take the tiny tidbit of information we get from social media and decide that we know every detail of the situation.

Today I came across an article that described an individual who committed criminal sexual misconduct with a young girl in a library. The individual offered classes at the library, and the mother of the ten year old assumed it was safe. She saw other parents drop off their kids and leave so she did the same. Unfortunately, she was wrong, and her daughter was victimized.

The comments on this article were horrendous. “Who in their right mind would leave their child with a complete stranger?” “The mother needs help… probably dropped her innocent daughter off at ‘an acting class’, so she could go romp in bed with her boyfriend.., and make more babies.” “Throw the mother in with him.” “The mother needs to be charged as well.” “Free baby sitting .. lazy parents assuming it was safe cause it’s a library” “Call child protection on YOURSELF you shouldn’t be a MOTHER OR A FATHER.”

Why do we do this? Why do we react with such vitriol toward the parents? Who are we to make such assumptions about someone else’s life, thoughts, actions? Stop. Just stop it.

Reading all this hate made my face hot. I felt so much shame and anger because I know the person who committed this crime, and I have left my young daughter alone with him many times. Why? Because he worked at my daughter’s daycare and I trusted them to create a safe space for my child and hire good people. What the mob doesn’t know is that he didn’t have a criminal record. He presents as a quiet, well-mannered young man, and my daughter adored him. I can’t say I ever thought much of him, but since women’s intuition apparently equals paranoia, I trusted that my kid was safe at daycare.

Parents are human. We aren’t perfect, and we make mistakes. We can’t be with our kids 24/7. I’ve looked at postings at the library. I’ve signed my kid up for community ed. I’ve left my kid at school, at daycare, at Sunday school. These are supposed to be safe places for our children! That mother will feel enough guilt and shame for herself. I know this because I feel guilt for every time I left my kid there not feeling fully settled. We don’t need to pile onto her pain. The person who deserves our anger is the person who committed this crime.

We are a community. We should be lifting each other up, supporting, helping, and loving one another, not constantly judging and tearing each other down. Parenting is really hard sometimes, and I believe that most parents are doing the very best that we can! We need to stop assuming that we know what’s going on in someone else’s family. If you feel you are in a place to make judgements, then maybe you should step in and lend a helping hand or an encouraging word instead.

The Dreaded Question

Two and a half years ago, my then four year old asked me how her auntie would get her baby out of her tummy. Luckily for me, her cousin was born via C-section so it was easy enough to answer. Fast forward two years, and she asks how ELSE do babies come out? I was very matter of fact when I answered that the mom pushes the baby out and she seemed satisfied with that answer. Until the other day as we were sitting down for a perfectly good lunch and she asked where does a mom push the baby out from.

WHAT?! It was so out of the blue, and I was completely unprepared to have this conversation! Panic set in. I felt like she already knew the answer but she really wanted to hear me say it. I was able to stall for a moment so I could frantically text my mother and scramble to search Google for suggestions. I found a post written by a childhood educator who said she simply took a turtleneck from her closet and pushed a doll through the… WAIT, WHAT?! Is that how it’s done now?? I am not doing that!!

I had to think. How did my parents talk to me about this? They either didn’t or I just blocked it out. Come to think of it, my dad apparently gave me “the talk” when my older sister first got her period. I guess he figured two birds, one stone, right? I was pretty young though, and I don’t remember that conversation or any future conversations on the subject. Maybe that’s why I’m so awkward and uncomfortable right now. OMG there’s no time to analyze that!! She’s looking at me!

Okay, so honesty is the best policy. I believe that one hundred percent. Putting it off just leads to confusion which brings more questions that I am not ready to answer. Ok, I can do this. Just get it over with. Rip the band aid off. I calmly sat back down and looked into those big inquisitive eyes and said, “the mom pushes the baby through her vagina.”

She gave me a pained look and said, “blah… Hey Mom, what does circumstance mean? Like what is a circumstance?”

WHAT?! So here I am, band aid torn off, pieces of awkward flesh stuck to it, exposing a big gaping wound of anxiety, and she’s over it? She just wants me to define a word now?? That’s all it took. The crisis is just over? That’s what I got so worked up over? Oh boy..

Abuse, the Church, and #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear

Just a heads up: I will be discussing abuse in this post.

I’m sure that by now you have heard of #thingsonlychristianwomenhear.

I strongly encourage you to read through these tweets because they are very eye opening to the sexism that women face every day in the church. I also recommend #thingsonlyblackchristianwomenhear highlighting the sexism AND racism that black women deal with in the church. We need to do better.

Reading these tweets and the reactions to them made me think back to a time when I sought refuge in the church only to be told that “abuse is not a biblical justification for divorce.”

I would like you to think for a moment about the implications of that statement.

“Abuse is not a biblical justification for divorce.”

Let me explain to you what was communicated to me through those words during the most difficult and tumultuous time in my life. In that one sentence, the church told me that it was okay for my husband to treat me like the piece of garbage that he constantly told me that I was. It was okay for him to berate me, to humiliate me, to use me. It was okay for him to treat me like my body was his property. It was okay for him to tell me that I needed to be a good wife or I could never be a good mother. It was okay for him to tell me that I couldn’t keep the life growing inside of me because I wasn’t obedient enough. The church told me that I have no worth other than what my husband placed on me, and that was good in the eyes of God.

Our words have an impact. They matter.

If I didn’t have the knowledge of the Bible and of who Jesus really is, I would have turned my back and never returned to the church or to my faith, or I would have stayed in the abusive relationship thinking it was my responsibility. How many people are being kept in abusive situations because they believe that it is God’s will? The sad thing is, I ultimately chose to leave my marriage because I knew I could not raise my daughter in that environment. She deserved better. It was not until years later that I accepted that God placed that same worth on me, too.

I recently attended a popular Christian marriage conference. During one of the segments, they played slow motion pictures of children with the biggest, saddest eyes you have ever seen. They said, “divorce permanently damages children.” There was no mention of abuse during the entire conference.

Please consider this: any form of abuse is not a symptom of a bad relationship. It is an issue of the heart of the abuser. No amount of work on the relationship will heal that.

Christians: we are here to be Jesus to each other. To love on everyone of all different backgrounds with self-sacrificial, unconditional love. We are supposed to use the Bible to lift each other up, not to oppress each other. Our experiences are important and need to be shared. Please take the time to read, ask questions, and LISTEN to each other. We can do better.