An Olathe mom is making fans around the world with a Facebook post encouraging moms to stop judging one another – after it happened to her.
Karen Johnson, 37, a former high school English teacher, writes about her life as a stay-at-home mother of three for several national websites – including Babble, a lifestyle website for moms.
She’s built a healthy following on her Facebook page, “The 21st Century SAHM,” where late last month she wrote about the chaotic day she dubbed “mail-mageddon.”
“My kids went outside to the mail, they had a fight at the mailbox, mail went everywhere, lunch burned on the stove, and I came home and poured myself a beer because this is motherhood,” she says.
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The story made the rounds online. People laughed because, many commented, they could see themselves in the story. But tucked among the praise was snark like this dropped on her personal Facebook page:
“Nothing like making a parental mistake and then fixing it by drinking alcohol around the noon hour.”
First, she blocked the person – it was a man – who made that comment.
Then, last week, she wrote a Facebook essay, shared more than 500,000 times, imploring parents to stop passing judgment on one another.
She called out the “sanctimommies.”
“Girlfriends, I got to get something off my chest,” she wrote.
“My house is never clean. Like ever. I have friends (with kids) whose houses are spotless. Are they better mothers than me? Nope. Am I a better mother than them? Nope.
“I work out every day. I have mom friends who don’t exercise. (I mean other than running around like crazy people after their kids). Does that make either of us a better mom? Nope.
“I have a friend who gave birth in a pool in her living room. I pushed mine out in a hospital bed after receiving a gift from the epidural fairy. Both of us are good moms.
“I drink a beer or glass of wine (sometimes in front of my kids!) on occasion. I’m a good mom. My neighbor and good friend doesn’t drink. Also a good mom.”
Her Facebook following blew up in a matter of days after she posted her Declaration of Don’t Judge Me, growing from about 32,000 fans to more than 140,000.
“I think people just needed to hear it because this is something we’re all dealing with, the judgment,” says Johnson, who included with the post a photo of herself with a bag of her kids’ popsicles.
“And even on this post, the amount of people who came on my page and judged me for giving my kids those popsicles and for working out instead of cleaning my house ...
“It’s like, you’re not even understanding what I’m saying ... we’re already plagued with enough self-doubt. Parenthood is so scary. ‘What if you screw up your kids?’ So you’re trying so hard to do your best and then to have people put you down because you do something differently than they do, it really hurts. I’m not wrong or bad, I’m just different from the way you do it and it needs to be OK.
“I think it was very refreshing for people to hear (that) you’re still a good mom as long as you love your kids. I think it’s just highlighting a struggle that we all face.”
Johnson, who grew up in Connecticut, and her lawyer husband moved to the Kansas City area from Milwaukee about eight years ago. Their sons are 8 and 4, and her daughter is 6.
She’s been writing about parenthood for about six years, including for KC Parent magazine and the parenting website “Sammiches and Psych Meds.” She stays connected with parents on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Though in the blogging world the No. 1 rule is “don’t feed the trolls,” she says, that man’s comment about her having a beer after the mailbox fiasco sort of pushed her over the edge.
I’m just going to get out there and say this, she told herself before she collected the thoughts she wanted to share on Facebook.
“I’m a Christian. My friend and neighbor is Muslim. Another friend practices no religion at all. WE ARE ALL GOOD MOTHERS,” she wrote in her viral post.
“My other friend is gay. Her kids have TWO mothers. They are both good moms.
“I breastfed. My kids barely had any formula. Am I better than moms who give their kids formula? NO.
“So how about this? Can we all climb down off judgmental mountain for a second? And just support one another? And just say, Hey, motherhood is hard. You’re doing a good job. Raising kids can knock the wind out of a person. You got this.
“How awesome would that be? Just a thought.”
She sees the upside and downside of having so many moms sharing their stories online now. “It’s good because we all want to be heard and we all deserve to be heard,” she says. “I think we can learn from each other, but we have to listen to each other.
“We are going going to parent differently, and it needs to be OK. It doesn’t help and it doesn’t work if we’re just going to go out there and spew judgment. That’s the problem.”