Don’t be a Hater: What I Should’ve Said.

Via on Sep 26, 2013
Photo: micagoto
Photo: micagoto

I posted a blog entry here recently, and it got crazy popular.

My personal blog readership skyrocketed. I’ve received amazing comments from people I’ve never met. It’s been lovely and heart-filling, an affirmation that I’m finally doing the thing I love, and other people actually like it, too. 

But there’s one thing I wish I’d done differently. There was a section in the article that goes as follows:

“Be a hater. And those moms who appear to have it all together? The size six supermoms who appear perky and well-rested? The ones who haul big designer diaper bags brimming with healthy snacks and water and sunscreen and extra outfits and hand sanitizer? It is okay to wish them small misfortunes, like fecal incontinence or eye herpes.”

A handful of readers took issue on this. They stated that while they liked the article, they were quite bothered by this paragraph.

This morning, I was in the middle of a perfectly nice day, and while driving to an appointment, I saw a woman standing at a bus stop, her middle finger extended to everyone who drove by. And I thought, well that is a super shitty thing right in the middle of a perfectly fine day.

I get it. For some, that paragraph was a big middle finger in the middle of a perfectly fine day.

While the section was meant to be funny, and was mostly an excuse to use ‘eye herpes’ in a sentence, a teeny tiny voice told me to leave that part out when I posted it on the elephant journal.

I didn’t listen.

But I’m listening now.

You know how sometimes you have an argument with someone, and afterwards, you think of all the stuff you wish you had said? And so you say it again, silently and smugly, in the privacy of your own brain?

Well, one of the reasons I love writing is I can do that. Right here. Right now.

This is what I wish I had said:

You moms who look fantastic? Who never forget sunscreen or diapers or healthy, attractively presented snacks? I compare myself to you. I don’t mean to, but I do. I know your lives aren’t perfect, either.

I’m insecure.

I was insecure before I had children, and becoming a parent makes the stakes feel so impossibly high. While adding immense meaning and love and sweet little round faces to my life, having children has also intensified my perfectionism and anxiety.

When I see you looking like you know what you’re doing, I see myself reflected back. And it feels like I’m staring into one of those cosmetic mirrors, the ones that make your skin look like the surface of the moon, bulging with craters and scars.

What I see is that most of the time, I have no idea if I’m doing anything right, because being a parent is the hardest, most subjective experience of my life, by, like, 200 percent.

I know you have problems, because you are human and being human is hard. Being a human parent is really, really hard. I’m sure you doubt yourself at times. But damned if you don’t look great while you’re doing it. Damned if you don’t look just the opposite of what I feel like inside.

As the comments reminded me, we need to stick together as moms. It’s hard enough already. We—I need to be less judgey. Softer and more supportive.

We need more love, not hate. Not even jokey hate.

Thank you for the reminder.

Like elephant family on Facebook.

Ed: Cat Beekmans

About Lynn Shattuck

Lynn Shattuck lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and two young children. She blogs about parenting, imperfection, spirit and truth telling—you can connect with her through her website or find her on Facebook.

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18 Responses to “Don’t be a Hater: What I Should’ve Said.”

  1. I didn't read your other article yet, but I will now. I will say first though that it is so refreshing to see another person willing to say, "you know what, I don't know everything." Thanks for your openness to vulnerability. And I completely agree that we need to stick together as moms. Solidarity and compassion make us all stronger, more supported and valued, and help us harness our collective power. Moms are powerful!

  2. Lisa Kohlmorgan says:

    I am a newer member of your page and I love the way you put motherhood into perspective! So wonderfully written and very funny! Many of the articles hit home and I find myself going “Omg, that is so me!” a lot of the time! Keep up the good work! Btw, I think we all knew what you meant about the supermoms! I thought it was very well put the first time cause we are all guilty of thinking tue same thing!!

  3. Ali says:

    I remember relating to so much of the content in your original blog, but not necessarily to that part, so I found it funny that you made an addendum to it. Don’t be ashamed of your emotions, nor of communicating them. I wasn’t as proud of that portion of your work as I was of the others, but that’s how a person should feel who is actively engaged in someone else’s work, be it writing or any other form of creating: a little ambivalence. I’m not sure if any of that is making sense, but trying to omit that passage is a symptom of the same perfectionism that you were criticizing initially. We think ugly thoughts and feel anxious and imperfect at times because we are trying so hard to do what’s right. So much effort and thought applied to parenting is perfect parenting, in my eyes, regardless of how it looks outwardly and how others perceive it.

    • lynnola says:

      Thanks, Ali. Good call on the perfectionism. That's why I didn't revise the piece, but just posted this as a sort of addendum. I love your thoughts on "perfect parenting." Great wisdom there.

  4. Roxann says:

    I loved that paragraph it was soo funny and the eye herpes was hilarious!! Not to mention that was a part that I could really relate to as I'm not a supermom type. You can't please everyone and the article really wasn't like the lady giving the finger at least I don't think. It's all about perspective some people might have been having a crap day and seeing that lady do that might have made them laugh and smile at the ridiculousness of it the same way your paragraph did for me! Some people sometimes just don't have a sense of humor about this stuff but you can't please everyone right. I loved your article and thank you for that paragraph.

  5. Gloria Lemay says:

    Agree with Lisa Kohlmorgan (above). . . it was perfect as it was. You nailed it. Everyone needs to lighten up. . . shock value is part of comedy and, of course, you're not really wanting to inflict harm on the perfect presenters. 67 people shared the original article when I posted it on my FB page—a LOT of women related to all of it.

  6. Beth Stewart says:

    Being socially correct is not one of my gifts, and I really appreciated your ability to use "eye herpes" in a sentence. It's hard to draw the line between being quirky and funny and being mean spirited, but because I know you I knew you were not being mean spirited. Publication does involve a wider audience so your clarification was well done. Big hugs!

  7. Maggie Nighswander says:

    I too loved that paragraph, mostly because it's so universal and rarely talked about in a public setting like this. Nobody thinks that they are "the hated" mom because all moms are insecure about SOMETHING. The woman I'm "hating" (actually just jealous of because I can't find the mascara and fit my pre-baby clothes 2.5 years later) is comparing herself to someone else (probably not me due to the not-cloth diaper falling out of my back pocket, but I'm cool with that). I guess yes we need to be sensitive to everyone, but you hit the nail on the head that part of figuring it out is wondering why others seem to have it together or be closer to how we imagined/hoped it would be for us, and early parenthood really highlights these insecurities.

    • lynnola says:

      Yes! And thank goodness for other moms with the disposables hanging out of our pockets. I am right there with you! Sisterhood of the so very imperfect.

  8. Christelle Maugiron says:

    Dear Lynn, I absolutely loved the article and recognised myself in every bit you described. I found the particular paragraph in question hilarious! But I do understand in might have upset some. I have personally comeacross somany women who like you said, seem to get it all right and irritate me for appearing so perfect in every way. Again, I agree this is only a poor reflection of how low my self esteem was at the time, because I didn't know what I was doing and was doubting myself most of the time. Now on baby no.2, things are very different. I still come across those women and deep down, it makes me laugh because i remember how I used to feel before. Rather than being irritated, I now have a gentle smile on my face because I am more confidenta nd I know that the outer appearance is innoway representative of what's really happening behind closed doors. Motherhood is difficult and challenging in its own right, and I love the way you write about it. Please continue this lovely work of yours! Best, Christelle x

    • lynnola says:

      Oh, thank you Christelle! I love your reflections and can so identify with them. And I agree, the second time around with parenting is a whole different ball park. The learning curve was sooo steep with my first, and very different and more relaxed with my second. Best to you!

  9. elephantjournal says:

    I dunno. I'm pretty into jokey hate. Making fun of our own projections, and others' seeming perfection, is great–as long as we don't take our own projections and hateryness seriously.

    If you or I or any writer or doer of anything listens to everyone who would have us sand the edge off of everything, there would be a PC world of…no open, fresh air, and no sense of humor.

    In the words of the emperor, let the hate burn through you. ;)

    • lynnola says:

      Good point. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I'm a people pleaser for suresies, and I probably would've softened that paragraph from the get to if I had any idea how many people would be seeing it. At the same time, pretty psyched to have squeezed eye herpes and fecal incontinence into a sentence together…

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