"I hope you don't think I am a bad mother for asking this...."
"Please be kind in your responses"
"This will sound stupid but..."
Sound familiar? They will appear as a disclaimer on most potentially dividing social media posts from various parenting or mothering pages and forums.
I always cringe when the page moderator starts a post with a call for members to be kind with a warning that nasty comments will be deleted. "Here we go", I think to myself and I can't help having a little look.
I can't help wondering why, when these pages have been set up to encourage and help women who are struggling or who need advice, they have become the very place that can kick you while you are down.
Social media is no stranger to the troll or keyboard warrior. They are everywhere and unfortunately; they are in the motherhood groups too.
The mothers who frown and think "I would never allow that" in the supermarket when your kid is having a meltdown; or give a disapproving look when they see a mum feeding her toddler processed food or bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding, now have a computer screen to hide behind and free rein to spread their venom.
In an ideal world, those who disagreed would simply scroll on by and keep their opinions to themselves.
We all know that doesn't happen though and there is a certain entertainment value from watching a particularly judgemental woman have a rant and then see others weigh in.
In truth, if all commenters on the thread simply ignored the nasty comment and cushioned it in words of encouragement and praise, there would be no fuel for the fire.
The way ignoring a child having a tantrum shows them that they won't get their own way if they behave badly.
In the interest of helping these super knowledgeable women (insert sarcasm here), I came up with a handy guideline on some appropriate responses they can use as an alternative:
I am thinking of offering my baby a bottle, I feel guilty, but breastfeeding has been really hard and we are both cranky and exhausted.
Helpful - I totally get it, breastfeeding can be so hard. You do whatever is best for you and your baby. Your happiness and mental health matters.
Not helpful - Have you really tried everything to give your child the nutrients and bonding they need and deserve? Don't give up just because it's hard, your baby deserves the best.
I am returning to work soon and I feel so guilty about leaving my child in day care. Will she forget me? I will miss her so much.
Helpful - I understand the guilt, everyone feels that to a degree. It is ok to feel that way, but your child will love to be around other children and you will feel great having the time for yourself. Try it for a while and see how you go.
Not helpful - I chose to stay home with my children, they are only young once and I would hate to look back on this time and see how much I missed.
I am xx weeks pregnant and I am really missing my morning coffee. Did anyone drink coffee during pregnancy?
Helpful - I have heard it is fine in small amounts, but everyone feels differently. You can always ask your GP or obstetrician if you are worried.
Not helpful - For me it really wasn't worth the risk to my baby. Even if a doctor says it's ok, I would rather go without for a while than cause my baby harm.
I could go on and on, but I think the message is clear. It is like I always say to my children "If you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all."
- Christy Kidner is a trained newborn care specialist and mother of two. Visit Christy's blog: www.motheringme.com.au