Why is the internet so hard on moms?- Dr. Charlynn Ruan

Every modern mom dreads the day someone will whip out a smart phone to capture your not-so-stellar parenting moments and make you the next internet target of mom-ridicule. In the internet-age, we are all at risk of becoming this week’s “tan mom,” “airport phone talking mom,” or “spray tan breastfeeding mom.”

Why people are so quick to pile criticism on mothers? It makes all of us more anxious about public scrutiny. And for parents of children with developmental delays, autism, or ADHD, it can make public outings incredibly hard.

So, why does society love to hate on moms? 

1. We want to believe good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad (or stupid) people. We psychologists call this “The Just World Bias.” Hard news, the world isn’t fair. But, this is a tough pill to swallow because it challenges our need to believe we are in control of our world and our actions dictate our outcomes.

This false belief leads to victim blaming. And, sadly, moms are hardest hit, even from psychologists. Doctors used to blame "refrigerator mothers" for autism and “schizophrenogenic mothers” for schizophrenia. I like to think we’ve outgrown this as a society, but when I have had to give a tough diagnoses to parents, 9 times out of ten the mother asks, “Is this my fault? What did I do wrong?”

Sometimes bad or hard things happen to children with good moms. Period.

2. Anxious moms make good customers. Just like the beauty and diet industry profits from our insecurity, so does the parenting product industry. Unattainable standards of beauty and motherhood both make their subconscious mark on how we judge ourselves and others. As long as there are products to sell, the ideal will always be unattainable.


3. Sexism. Yup, that old thing again. When dad takes kiddo to the doctor, he’s a hero. When mom does it, its expected. We need to raise the bar for dads and start giving moms kudos for all the things we take for granted.

The internet has memes about dads, too. But their mistakes are laughed at. In our post-Homer Simpson era, dads are seen as incompetent, given a free pass and a wink.

We aren’t serving men with this double standard. It’s insulting to all the amazing dads out there to assume men can’t dress or feed their own child.


4. Judging others makes us feel better about ourselves. We get to take a break from our self-criticism and tell ourselves, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as her!” This is why self-critical people can be the harshest critics of others. If someone has compassion for their own flaws, they are more likely to do the same for others.


So, let’s all agree to cut each other some slack. This culture of busy bodies and internet trolling is toxic and self-perpetuating. People who take pictures of children without their parents’ permission should be called out for severely overstepping boundaries. If a child is genuinely being put in harm’s way, step in. Otherwise, unless you do someone a kind act, let’s all mind our own business. To adapt that adage, “Be kind. For every [mom] you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”