On mothers, the Internet and the sea



Something funny happened to me this week. I wrote an article for What to Expect and it mutated into a monster. I wrote about toddlers – in particular my lovely, hilarious, maddening boy. I wrote about his eyes and his chatter, and a bad day he had once that was set off by a series of poor choices I made. And I wrote about how hard it is to watch toddlers flail their way into independence, and how this messy, necessary process ends in days when we just don’t like each other very much.

So far, so normal, eh? Amateur toddler psychology is the bread-and-chocolate-spread of this girl’s days – just look around here. I didn’t think it was remarkable. But then it all exploded: there are now hundreds upon hundreds of people saying horrific things about the two of us. It’s kind of breathtakingly vicious and I don’t really want to quote it or for you to read it, so please don’t. So many of these people are women and fellow mothers, and somehow I feel grosser about that than anything.

I’m not writing this for reassurance, as you’ve been kind enough to send a lot my way already (and thank you so much). I know posting anything on the internet comes with a risk of negative attention. But I’m not sure people who write comments like this ever stop to think about how it makes someone feel, so here’s my best shot at it. I feel like I’ve been making friends with this friendly Internet dog for years, oh, pat pat pat, aren’t you wonderful company, and suddenly it has bitten my hand off. And now it has rabies, and now all my skin’s going to fall off before I die, hey, thanks, Internet Dog. I feel bruised, and sick, and so, so embarrassed. I’ve spent far too much of the past 48 hours plotting all of the things I would say if I weren’t now avoiding that comment thread for the rest of eternity, such as – there is so much I left out of those 800 words. And do they remember what it was actually like, parenting their first toddler and terrified of getting it wrong? And I want to tell them about my boy – how he tried to get out of eating his lunch today by quoting Green Eggs and Ham, how he says ‘please may I have’ and ‘thank you very much’ and ‘oh mummy, you so pretty’. How every negative minute with him is twelve-times overwhelmed by his brilliance, and how I will never, ever forgive myself for taking him into a public arena to be stripped down and howled at by five hundred anonymous faces. I just wanted to be honest, but it was naive.

You know. Dramatic stuff like that.

This morning I seriously wondered whether writing about realistic parenting is a good or helpful thing to do. I tread a fine line, here, talking about my children while respecting their future feelings and without soft-blurring the picture. Perhaps it would be better, after all, to only talk about the good days. But then I came over a bit Braveheart, and put on a bad Scottish accent and hunted around for some blue face paint.

Because, NO. Heck. No. Aren’t we all in this together? Isn’t it a wondrous and frustrating thing, parenting a child? There are moments that soar like stars and moments that seethe with insecurity, and pretending it’s just one or the other isn’t helpful to anyone. When I wrote this article I pictured a mother who, like me, worries that one tantrum will make her child a horrible person forever. And who, like me, falls so short of the Mary Poppins marker she sets herself that sometimes she thinks it might be better to pack it all in and go to sea. I wanted to tell that mother: you’re normal. You’re doing your best.  It’s ok to feel how you feel, whatever that feeling is. Look, here am I, shambling along beside you and feeling the same way. The sea hasn’t got anything on the vistas we survey here. I wanted her to feel less alone, so she could stand up, fix her make up and sally on out to try again.

I will be honest here, and I will be kind. And if you will too, we can tell each other funny, horrific stories with snot in our hair. Then stand up, with our best Braveheart faces, and go and get this crap done.

Normal service resumes tomorrow.

21 thoughts on “On mothers, the Internet and the sea

  1. I just think you are wonderful because you are so honest, what you write is so real and entertaining and you and the boys are blessed in each other AND your lovely husband too, all of you! I am thin-skinned and hurt for you for any rejection you are experiencing, so you just ignore it and hold your head up high because you are doing a great job! That is what comes through.

  2. What you are ‘normal’?

    Welcome to Real Mummy Club.

    Whatever some anyone else has to say about what you are writing/doing/saying if they don’t like it they can just go away.

    If you like you can send them my way and i can tell them how i failed big time as a mother and a parent and some days how i feel i have failed at being human.

    Children need to be loved, taught respect, honesty and how to work hard for what they need let alone what they want. I have no idea who said what and i don’t need to know because it was obviously someone else who was having a bad day and decided to share it. i wouldn’t let it bother you for too long.

    • Thanks Bev! You are definitely not a failure as a human being, or anything else 🙂

      That’s the great thing about the internet – if we don’t like something, there’s always lots of other things to read! Kindness online is the most important thing, I think.

      • I always try to honest in what i write but my life is not the same as anyone else’s even my sisters or my daughters, but if i read something i do not agree with and cannot come up with something positive to say i use the old adage of ‘saying nothing at all’. 🙂

  3. I love you!! 🙂 You are brilliant and the people that missed that well, they have and will continue to miss out. As I read this post I was picturing tonight’s dinner time – one of the most horrific one I’ve had to deal with in a long time. Wailing, whining, angry and exhausted 4 year old – all over a teeny slice of lasagna. Whilst trying to get the 6 year old and 2 year old to eat the apparent awfulness of the meal I had lovingly prepared. I’m so grateful for your honesty and humour. It really makes me feel like I am not alone in the horrific and joyful blessing of motherhood.

  4. Hi Rachel! I am a new reader of your blog. I’ve been following the blog for about a month, And I greatly appreciate you candid honesty about parenting. It’s sad when we can’t all be kind in our words whether online or in person. I hope you can continue to focus on the good and know that I too am one of those moms you described today. I have four sweet angels with another on the way and I am still figuring out how to be a better mom, still afraid I’m going to mess them up permanently! I hope you can feel you reached and lifted one today, because you encouraged me and helped me feel ok, good even, about the mom I am and the mom I’m striving to be! Many happy regards from across the pond -Rachel O, Oregon, USA

    • How absolutely lovely to hear from you – thank you so much! Four with another on the way, my goodness. You sound like a superwoman to me, even though I’m sure you don’t feel like it! So glad we can be here for each other.

  5. Hey Rachel,

    I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years now. (I discovered you via an article you wrote for Segullah.) You’re a wonderful person and a kind, dedicated mother and wife. Your cute little boys are blessed to have you in their lives.

    How do I know this?

    It is impossible to hide who you really are – what you believe, how you deal with life, what your overall mental state is – when you write as often for as you (or I) have. No matter how hard a blogger might try to hold themselves back from the world, their true self eventually comes leaking through their words. It finds its way around the photos, the post titles, and the text formatting until it has spread throughout the paragraphs. The true self can be found in a blogger’s template, the header, and even the name they gave their Internet home.

    The true self of a long-term blogger can’t be hidden any more than drops of food coloring can be disguised by pouring them into a clear jar full of water.

    When I come into a blog written by someone like you – a truly good woman – I want to stretch out in a comfortable chair, grab a package of Oreos, and announce to anyone who may (or may not) be listening that they shouldn’t bother me for awhile because, “I’m going to be uplifted-amused-inspired by something I’m about to read.”

    And then I put the blog in my RSS Reader so that I can be uplifted-amused-inspired in the future.

    You are one of the few bloggers who keeps making it through my periodic I-simply-must-clean-out-my-RSS-Reader-today-because-I-can’t-possibly-keep-up-with-all-of-this episodes. You make it because no matter what your topic is about, you always manage to make me smile a little.



    (Rozanne Paxman)

    P.S. Please don’t let the Internet Big Bad Wolves that haunt certain blogs scare you away, Rachel. You have lots of friends that are glad you’re here with us.

    P.P.S. I’ll end by quoting someone much wiser than myself.

    “It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It all works out in the end. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers.”
    ― Gordon B. Hinckley

    • Ro, what a beautiful comment! Thank you so much – I will mark it to read it again. So very grateful to count you as a reader.
      PS, I miss Gordon B Hinckley. A wonderful quote that should be on my wall.

  6. I don’t have a toddler yet. I’m still in the land of children who can’t answer back or say no but I thought your article was brilliant and so refreshingly honest. The community of online mothers should be a supportive one and it’s so easy to make someone feel bad or like a failure by what you say online. I hope this hasn’t put you off writing about real life motherhood.

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  8. I have a toddling stinker, and a 10-month-old, with an 11-year-old to round things off. I read your article on What to Expect out loud to my sister with a newborn and a toddler and we are so in love with your story. You spoke our everyday.

    I know my little comment can’t crack the 900 spank-or-not-to-spank ridiculousness that sprouted on that site. But I couldn’t help saying that my sister and I – who’ve asked ourselves repeatedly if there is something seriously wrong with us – soaked up your tantruming 2-yr-old story and shook a whole lot of hope out of it. We are the moms in the trench you were imagining and just want to say, keep singing it sista!

    • Laurieann, thank you so much for this! I’m so glad you both enjoyed it. Despite the negative comments, it’s been so lovely to find and connect with people in the same situation as me! It makes me feel like I might not be insane, after all 🙂

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