On White Fragility, Nonpologies and Mommy Culture
Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with being autistic or having autistic kids.
Second Disclaimer: I looked everywhere for this blog/article. I was sure I had seen it, but no one has any clue what I’m talking about. But everyone I mentioned the supposed article to thought it made sense. As I doubted myself, it was suggested I write it. However, if you have seen an original, please let me know and I will link it.
If you’ve spent time in a mommy group, you’ve seen it. “I’m the worst mom ever!” And then the story comes, that their kid burned themselves, or that their baby rolled off the bed, or they accidentally pinched baby’s chin in their carseat clip. It has happened, it will happen. But then the responses come.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“It was an honest mistake.”
“It happens to everyone.”
“You are not the worst mom ever.”
It’s likely true, the mom is not the worst mom ever, probably. She’s likely freaking out because she *gasp* made a mistake. It feels terrible to make mistakes. It’s terrible for your child to get hurt because you made a mistake.
But here’s the thing. This Mommy Culture practice doesn’t extend to just making mistakes with your children. It starts to apply to other things. “Oh. I really messed up. I hurt my friend’s feelings.” Suddenly, the sympathy turns into enabling white fragility. “Everyone makes mistakes. Be gentle with yourself.” It’s true, everyone makes mistakes, but this really diminishes hurt to the friend and doesn’t address what was the mom did in the first place. It centers how the one who made the mistake feels about making the mistake.
Mommy Culture, especially through peaceful and gentle parenting practices, takes extraordinary effort to center feelings. Even in the way we are meant to apologize to our children, rather than owning mistakes or decisions, the phrasing expected to be used is “I’m sorry you’re unhappy.” This is meant to help identify your children’s feelings for them. What we’re reinforcing is that we should be sorry about how we made someone feel, and not sorry for our own actions. These reinforce the language of nonpologies. It creates an environment where you reduce your own discomfort (white fragility) and focuses on the discomfort of others.
When you combine these two, the tendency is to reduce your own discomfort. After all, you need to be gentle with yourself, yes? You need to recognize the feelings of others, yes? Your mistake wasn’t done maliciously and you didn’t mean to hurt their feelings. But what do you do with that is what creates the nonpologies.
“I’m sorry your feelings were hurt.”
“I’m sorry you got confused.”
“I’m sorry you misunderstood.”
But as Daniel Tiger taught us (video only available in the US, I believe), saying you’re sorry is just the first step. But the most important part is to correct your mistake. Finding a way to help correct your mistake, even if it’s not tangible in the moment, is the next step. What are ways that you correct your mistake? Sometimes it’s looking at things from someone else’s perspectie. Sometimes it’s continuing to check in with yourself to understand your own privilege. And sometimes it’s just editing your words so they can’t continue to hurt others.