Munchie Morgan Clement is a Delaware native and a graduate of Tatnall School and the University of Delaware. She lives in Bellefonte with her husband, Wes, their 3-year-old daughter, Amelia, a pit bull rescue named Lola and a tortoise named Molly.
When I first signed up for Facebook in 2009, I prided myself on being a habitual line-stepper. My first few years of posts consisted of musings about my daily life, potty-mouthed anecdotes from bartending and the occasional song lyric directed at a boy who would probably never see it. I wrote whatever came to mind and never worried about censoring myself or who I might offend.
In 2014, my world tilted on its axis. Seventeen days before my wedding, my little sister took her own life after years of battling drug addiction. My Facebook page became a platform to share her story, and within weeks I had received hundreds of messages from people thanking me for being honest about her struggle. It wasn’t all words of encouragement, though—one minute I’d be smile-sobbing because Sarah’s story saved a life, and the next I’d be in a blind rage because someone used a phrase like “Darwinism at its finest” to describe my loss.
I knew I’d open myself up to judgment by speaking publicly about a topic like addiction; every day I became more aware of the culture of entitlement surrounding social media, where people don’t think twice about saying whatever they want to a perfect stranger.
But I didn’t expect to face these same issues when sharing posts about parenting.
A couple of days after we announced my pregnancy, a friend added me to a Facebook group for local moms. My mind reeled after reading the page—newly pregnant, I was already questioning whether or not I was built to handle parenthood.
“Johnny has a 110 F fever and a rash all over his body. Should I take him to the ER?”
“A white van just pulled up next to me. DEFINITELY A SEX TRAFFICKER.”
“NO JUDGMENT PLEASE: is it okay that my daughter only eats corn flakes and hot dogs?” “WHY ARE THESE HELICOPTERS CIRCLING?!”
I kept scrolling, and my heart lifted. Post after post, moms came together to help a fellow mom in need. Invaluable advice was given to a new mother who felt like she was doing everything wrong. Words of encouragement were offered for someone dealing with postpartum depression.
Then there were the debates: breastfeeding versus formula, whether or not to vaccinate, private school or public, and on and on. Parenting choices attacked, simple questions met with condescending responses, people getting offended over every topic under the sun.
To say I was overwhelmed and confused by it all would be the understatement of the century.
Six months later, our daughter Amelia Sarah made her debut. We hadn’t been home a week before I endured my first Facebook mom-shaming. I had posted what I thought was a funny story, in which I mentioned that we’d given Amelia formula after she refused to nurse all night. One sentence out of the entire story, and it wasn’t even the main point. The next thing I knew, my inbox was flooded with messages from people telling me how breastfeeding is the only way to go and that formula is the devil.
It left me reeling.
A couple months later, we were forced to supplement with formula because my milk supply wasn’t sufficient. I was sitting on our couch sobbing hysterically, struggling to hold Amelia’s head while maneuvering a tiny tube from a formula bottle, along with my nipple, into her mouth in precisely the right position. All I could think about were the comments from all of the Karens of the social media world telling me that my child would be scarred forever if I gave up.
My rock of a husband sat down beside me and asked the only question that should ever be posed: “Forget everyone else—what’s the best decision for us?” I looked down at Amelia’s face, tuned out all the chatter from Karen and her merry band of hens, and told him I needed to switch to formula to save my sanity. At age 3, Amelia is brilliant, way ahead of the game developmentally and her growth is right on target.
And I’m still tuning out the hens.
Barring the extremes, there is no right or wrong way to parent. I question whether or not I’m built to be a mom every single day, and the last thing I need is someone telling me I’m doing it all wrong. We tell our kids to play nice, to think before they speak, to be the “helpers,” to build others up instead of breaking them down, to respect the beliefs and choices of others—so why shouldn’t we do the same for each other?
My advice about parent-shaming is simple: Don’t do it, unless you see me driving down the road, dangling my toddler out the window by her toe while smoking a cigarette and drinking a bottle of Jack. Or unless I ask for your opinion.
I’m just over here keeping it real with my daughter, teaching her kindness and cultivating her fierce little spirit into someone who understands the importance of the phrase “just keep scrolling.”
Because this isn’t some Barnum & Bailey show, and we do not get down with the clowns.
Words and photos by Munchie Clement. Published as “Smooth Scrolling” in the February 2020 issue of Delaware Today magazine. Keep up with our monthly parenting column by signing up for our FREE email newsletter here.