Just before Christmas during a planned break from blogging, I happened to be checking my blog for something a client had asked for. As I logged in, I noticed a comment that required moderation on my little used review blog. It’s practically retired now, but it has a few hundred posts on it, mostly from 2010-2013. I wasn’t too excited to see the comment there, but nevertheless I went over to check it out. As I read, my heart started to race, I felt physically sick and the colour drained from my face.
It was every blogger’s worst nightmare, a troll and not even just an abusive troll, but one that was talking sexually about my young daughters. The comment was disgusting – needless to say, I won’t be repeating it here. The post was from 2011 when my twin girls were 4 years old and they were wearing swimwear. They were fully covered and there was nothing provocative about their poses but that was not enough to distract this person. I deleted the comment and the blog post and tried to forget it.
Roll forward a couple of weeks, and again I noticed there were comments to moderate. This time there were three of them, all on different posts featuring my girls. The girls were fully dressed in these posts and in two you could only see a tiny fraction of them, but it was enough to have sparked the imagination of this person. This time I showed my husband and we were dismayed to see that in the last comment the person had used the real name of one of our daughters (something I do not use on the blog).
This was of course a red flag to us and I called the police to report the abuse. Stupidly, I had been allowing anonymous comments on my Blogger blog and there was no way of tracking where the comments had come from. I quickly rectified this and installed software to track my visitors, and also tightened up the commenting system. Of course there have not been any more comments, as this person will not want to find themselves identified.
It’s hard to put this incident aside, though. The fact that this person knew our daughter’s name concerns us greatly and we have had to inform our community and local people so all of our children (and theirs) are watched more closely. We have many new rules and safeguards in place and we’ve talked to the girls again about stranger danger and being wary of trusting people that we do not know.
It’s so sad that we don’t live in a world where the girls can be completely free to explore the amazing environment they live within but it is imperative to find that balance between being safe and having some freedom and independence.
A knowledgeable friend assures me that it is unlikely to be a pedophile who wrote the comments as they tend to be very clever and secretive about their intentions and desires. It is more likely to be someone who knows me and has a gripe with me. I could send myself crazy trying to figure out who it is, so to be frank I have given up doing so and will place my trust in God to keep all my family safe.
For a week or so after discovering the comments, I just wanted to delete my blogs and run away and hide. But I realised that all the pictures I have ever placed on the web could have been downloaded, moved elsewhere or still be there cached. It was too late, my family and I were out there and I’d always known that someone, somewhere could have seen my children and had inappropriate thoughts, but until they came into my world it didn’t seem real or an issue.
I’ve decided that I will keep blogging, that I must keep blogging. I have a prominent voice and many messages that I feel tasked to spread. It would be wrong if someone sick could use their evil influence to undo all the good my blogs have done. All the women who have contacted me over the years saying they appreciate my honesty and my posts about miscarriage, overeating, imperfect parenting, bullying and so many other tough subjects would be left without the resource I have provided.
The outcome of this terrible incident has actually been that I’ve started a new blog, Progress Not Perfection where I will continue to be totally honest. It probably won’t become anywhere near as popular as my regular blog, and I don’t expect it to rank at number one like Mummy for the Heart does but that is OK as success can attract the kind of comments I never want to see again. Sadly Mummy from the Heart and my reviews blog Honest Mummy Reviews feel tainted and kind of dirty. They’ll still keep going as that is where I earn an income but much of the joy has disappeared.
At the moment I won’t be placing many more pictures of my children on my blogs but who knows, it might change with time. I’m still processing it all. I just felt compelled to share this sad tale with you as a reminder of what can happen online. Stay alert, be aware that not everyone is good, and protect your children with whatever safeguards are necessary. They are our number one priority after all.
Have you ever had any nasty experiences online? How do you safeguard yourself and your family in your online world?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Michelle Pannell of the United Kingdom. Photo credit to the author.
Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world.
Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank.
As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."
I don’t ever remember not feeling this way. I just know from an early age that I felt things a little deeper than my other friends or family. My feelings could be hurt so easily, and when I was little, I remember crying for days after my Grandma would leave from a visit because I missed her so much.
As I got older and went into high school, I still felt things very deeply, but didn’t want others to know if something bothered me. I would cover it up in front of others and cry when I would get home. Which sounds like most teen age girls, I know. But, this was a little different. I would try to cover up my feelings of inadequacy and then my feelings turned to anxiety over whether other people would know how sensitive I really was.
Something would happen during the day and it would stay with me for days afterward. I would think about it over and over and then the anxiety led to feelings of such sadness and it seemed like a pit I could never get out of. My parents noticed that I was sad a lot, and they did talk to me. I know they cared, but it was like nothing could take away the anxiety and sadness. They thought I was just a teenage girl with overactive hormones.
In college, I studied hard and tried to be the “good girl”. I knew I wasn’t perfect, and I tried so hard to cover up my imperfections. By this point, I was really good at covering up my true feelings of how I felt inside. I worried obsessively about almost everything and doubted myself in the process. I could go for days without eating because my stomach was in knots. Exam time was the worst. I would go over and over in my head what I put for answers. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and that obsessive worrying led to such sadness that it was hard to even get out of bed some days.
I remember my first job out of college and coming home so exhausted that it was all I could do to wash my face and roll into bed at night.
I remember looking in the mirror and wondering what people would think of me if they saw me just like I was…red eyes, bags underneath them, my complexion broken out…would people really want to see the real me…or the “me” I show to them everyday.
I worried so much about everything being perfect in my classroom that some evenings, I would have to force myself to go home because I probably could have stayed all night to make everything just right. Right about that time, a new song came out on the radio by P!ink called “Don’t Let me Get Me”. I remember some of the lyrics to that song, “Don’t let me get me…I’m my own worst enemy.” I had never heard a song describe so perfectly how I had always been feeling inside.
Why was I so critical of myself? Why could I never cut myself a break?
At about the same time, I remember talking with my mother on the phone and pouring my heart out to her. She suggested that I should go and talk to someone and maybe I would feel better about things.
I did go ahead and talk with someone and discovered that I did suffer and probably had been suffering from anxiety and depression for most of my life. I remember feeling so ashamed of hearing her tell me that. Wasn’t that a sign of weakness if I couldn’t just will myself to be happy?
To make a VERY long story a bit shorter, I fought the idea that I had anything wrong with me for a few years until one day when my husband came home from work, I just cried in his arms for almost an hour and I could see in his eyes he didn’t know what to do. I knew it was time for me to really try to take control of this thing that seemed to be taking control of me. After coming to that point, I decided that it was time to face what I had been running away from for so long. With some help, I learned how I could manage my anxiety better which also helped with my depression.
When I stayed home with my children and stopped teaching, I poured my all into being a mother. I was and still am so very happy that I was able to become a mother to two amazing human beings. But, it is still a struggle with myself each and everyday to keep my nagging anxious thoughts at bay and not let them overwhelm my mind. Now that I know what it is, it is so much easier to face it.
Then, a few weeks ago, my seven year old daughter came home from school and we were talking about her day and she told me that she thought she hadn’t done well on a test at school. I asked her why and then she started to cry and told me it was because she wasn’t as smart as the other children in her class. I told her that of course she was just as smart or smarter than those other students and that she should know that.
She said, “No, I don’t. I always feel like I am not as good as them.”
OUCH!!!! That struck a chord with me. How had this happened? I was supposed to be the “good” mom. I had never once told my daughter that she wasn’t good enough. In fact, we had done just the opposite. My husband and I have actually always been both her and my son’s personal cheerleaders. Where did this come from? I gave her a big hug and told her not to worry about her test and that it would all be fine. She had her snack and went to change her clothes. As she walked away, I got tears in my eyes. I know part of growing up is having feelings of not being good enough, but I also know how it feels to carry that feeling with you your whole life. That was not what I wanted for my daughter.
That night after the kids went to bed, I told my husband what she had said and other things I had noticed that made me worry that she was feeling low about herself. He said, “Have you looked in the mirror? She is a little you.” My husband has always been my cheerleader, and can always see the good in me even if I don’t see it. And, I know he always tells me the truth even when I may not be ready to hear it.
Over the next few days, I thought about what he had said and how I had felt growing up. I was determined that I would do everything in my power to help my daughter to not feel that way. When I was young, no one really ever talked about feelings of depression or anxiety. It was just attributed to people being too soft or high spirited.
Today, even though it isn’t always openly talked about, we can now talk about anxiety and depression without as much stigma being attached to it. My hope is that my daughter and my son do not have to struggle for years because people are too embarrassed to talk about it. I hope that my children do not have to go through what I went through.
I know this post may be a little too personal for some, but I am hoping that we, as mothers, take notice of our children if we think they are exhibiting signs of increased anxiety or depression. It can start young or later on and maybe not all for some. But, if your child had a heart condition or broke a limb, you would do whatever you could to help your child. Talking about depression or any other mental illness needs to be the same thing.
My hope is that by writing about this, it will help keep the dialogue going that seems to be starting to rumble in recent years about mental health. People who are suffering from mental illness are truly suffering inside and they need to know that is okay to reach out to someone without feeling embarrassed or scared.
These days, I have a new favorite song by Mary Lambert entitled “Secrets”. It is such a liberating song (but don’t listen to it around your kids…it does have a little bad language). It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, I have become a friend to myself. I am seeing that it is okay to be kind and give myself a break. I am consciously choosing to be positive to myself and in the process, I am finding out I am really not so bad.
My hope is that my own positive outlook and self talk will emanate to my daughter. When she looks in her own mirror, I want her to see someone who is strong, beautiful and good. And, if we need to get a little extra help along the way, then so be it. Life is a journey and we are all a work in progress.
Have you or your children struggled with anxiety or depression? How have you handled it?
This is an original post to world Moms Blog by Meredith. you can check out her adventures as living as an expat in Nigeria and her transition back on her blog at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.
The photo in this post has a creative commons attribute license.
Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.
In the spirit of new beginnings and resolutions, I have decided that my 2016 should be summed in these three words. Eat, Pray, Love.
I am not particularly big on experimenting with my food, but this year, I am going all out. I want to have a great relationship with food. I have decided that I will keep healthy, but I will not be hesitant to indulge my taste buds and my heart in some really fantastic food from around the world. And while I eat great food and take my taste buds on a wild adventure, I will do well to remember to learn how to cook these foods, too. I want to be a fantastic cook.
I often look at food in pictures and wonder how it is possible that people make just good looking food. What sorcery! Well, not anymore, I am on a mission. If you can’t find me anywhere, I will be in the kitchen, cooking and eating, HEALTHY, well, mostly ( Life is too short). So dear world moms, do share with a sister all those recipes you have!
Spiritual Connection to source and meditation is high on my agenda. As mothers, we know all too well, how important it is to often release, reconnect and rejuvenate.
We give so much and forget to give ourselves as much as we give others and everything else.
I want to pray everyday, often, all the time and meditate, and truly live in positivity. Often I slip and complain, mope and forget to stop and smell the proverbial ‘roses’.
I also want to do a lot more yoga and a lot more meditation. Through this entire space, I would like to bring my family with me. A family who yogas together…..? That’s right, we will meditate, sync and positively power through 2016.
My 2016 is to be in love, love and surrounded by love. For myself, my family, my community and my country.
I want to fill myself up, that I will fill others up till the cup runneth over. It all begins and ends with love. Every morning of every day will begin with a loving prayer of gratitude to a smile and a deep breath. I intend for these to carry me and sustain me through my days this year, and reflect in my home and through my work. I hope that it radiates through all that I touch and everywhere I go.
As I write, I am taking a deep breath and exhaling gratitude, I am smiling, loving and about to have a beautiful dinner.
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Nancy Sumari in Tanzania.
As a single mom, Christmas has become bitter-sweet. This year I had to say goodbye to my children at 10.30am on the 25th and I won’t be seeing them again until early January. They are home for a few days and then they leave for another 10 days or so.
I’ve always loved Christmas time. As well as the anticipation of gifts and an extravagance of food, for us in New Zealand, it coincides with the start of our long summer holidays. The whole year seems to build to these weeks of swimming, beach walks, late nights and relaxation, time with friends and time with extended family. The time to make memories.
Now I am separated, my kids make many of their summer memories without me.
It’s hard enough to say goodbye to ones children on Christmas Day but, like many solo-parents, I also had to send them off to a situation which is often emotionally fraught and where the dynamics of the extended family are erratic and often volatile. On the other hand, their Dad loves them and they will have plenty of opportunities for fun and adventure, and they will (mostly) look out for one another.
I swing in my emotions around them parenting one another. I would much rather they didn’t have to do so but siblings have looked out for each other for generations, and were possibly closer and more mature for those experiences. I have seen these changes in my boys after other stretches of time away. Not what I would choose but not all bad.
My eldest is not quite 14 and my middle son is 10.5 years-old, like most siblings, they can be pretty awful to one another at home or the best of friends. These two have high emotional-intelligence and with them I have spent weeks, on and off, discussing strategies for managing different scenarios. They can Skype me whenever they want to and have safe people and safe places they can get themselves to, if the dynamics become overwhelming or feel unsafe for them. So, although I would rather they didn’t have to manage without me, I know that they can.
But my baby is only six. He just wants his Mum with him and, if unpleasant situations arise, he is too young to make sense of what is happening. I was with the older boys over previous summer breaks and could decipher situations for them. There were times when they were simply misinterpreting adult conversations, like all children do sometimes. Other times I needed to protect them from vitriol; explain mean jokes; counteract misogynistic or racist comments; or balance out blatant favoritism. I’m not there to do that for him and that is very hard on my heart.
The older boys will do what they can to help him but they are still not fully grown themselves and, quite frankly, there will be times that they don’t want to. On their return, I can talk him through things, be firm around any learned behaviors I am not happy with, and I can hug most of his broken pieces back into place. I can be his safe-place. It’s not ideal but it’s okay.
Big picture – we work better as a family with two homes. My heart hurts but the bigger part of me knows it’s the best situation overall. The reality is, I need this time to rest and be alone; I am a much better parent and person for these breaks. The boys are loved, and they will be having fun and lots of wonderful experiences. But the Mommy – guilt is big all the same and – I miss my kids.
Have you had times of Mommy-guilt? How did you manage it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our writer and mother of three boys in New Zealand, Karyn Van Der Zwet.
(Photo: European Commission DG ECHO/Flickr/Creative Commons)
The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa officially over this past week. The Ebola epidemic that swept through Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and into Nigeria last year highlighted the importance of rapid response, and strong health infrastructure. Credited for halting the spread of the virus more widely in Nigeria was the Polio tracking system and stations already put in place by GAVI (Global Vaccine Alliance). Unlike the surrounding countries, Nigeria was able to use that already existing health care network and alert system to quickly track down possible exposures. Also highlighted by the outbreak was the importance of nutrition in preventing disease to begin with. Well-nourished children have much stronger immune systems than malnourished children, and are more resilient to bounce back when they do get sick. Sustainable Development Goal number two is zero hunger, a global priority since WHO estimates that malnutrition is the underlying cause in half of child deaths world wide.
I knew that malnutrition made immune systems vulnerable, but working with a local non-profit specializing in the treatment and prevention of child malnutrition on a global level has given me new insight into just how critical proper nutrition is for the individual, and the world as a whole. You might be surprised to learn that the second largest producer in the world of a nutritionally fortified peanut paste used to treat malnutrition called Plumpy’Nut is located in the smallest state in the USA. Edesia is a non-profit that partners with organizations on the ground such as World Food Program, UNICEF and USAID to offer treatment and malnutrition prevention solutions to those who need it most. Countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia had been receiving shipments of Edesia’s products long before the Ebola outbreak, where malnutrition was already an issue for many children before the virus hit. In the countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone the compounded crisis of child malnutrition was both a contributing factor, and then a cruel aftereffect of the Ebola epidemic.
Rhode Island infectious disease specialist Dr. Tim Flanigan, who traveled to Liberia in August of 2014 stated that
“More people were dying from malnutrition and other medical illnesses than from Ebola.” even at the height of the outbreak. “ So many infectious diseases are intertwined with malnutrition to begin with.”
The communities impacted the hardest were already fragile when the virus hit.
Dr. Flanigan explained, that the countries impacted by Ebola were some of the poorest countries on the continent. After years of civil wars, the destruction of the infrastructure had already made it a challenge for people to get enough to eat. Hunger, malnutrition, and starvation were already common realities in these vulnerable populations. All efforts and resources available then went to tackle Ebola when it hit, leaving any of the already challenged social services in place, like school meals or vaccine clinics, to flounder. When 20-day quarantines of people in homes with no running water, or electricity, (meaning no refrigeration for food), were instituted in some households, malnutrition rates were bound to soar.
Children are often the most vulnerable population in crisis scenarios, they are at much higher risk of disease when malnourished, even if they escape succumbing to any number of viral threats malnutrition puts them at risk of never growing to their full potential. The products produced in Rhode Island at Edesia, such as Plumpy’Nut and Plumpy’Sup, can literally save the lives of these children. In just 6 weeks on average a child suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition, or SAM, can get back to their full healthy weight when treated with Plumpy’Nut. Last year Edesia reached nearly a million children. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimate is that nearly 795 million people (out of the 7.3 billion world population), so 1 in 9 people, suffered from malnutrition during 2014-2016. The goal at Edesia is to reach as many children as possible to help them thrive, and that means being prepared to react when the need arises. One of the essential building blocks to good health is proper nutrition, and a healthy community is a more resilient community. We saw how effective it was in the case of Nigeria and the Polio network to have systems in place when disaster strikes. The investment in global nutrition not only can help to prevent future outbreaks of disease, but ensure that all children have the opportunity to grow into healthy, productive adults.
What are some of the other lessons that this outbreak Highlighted?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Elizabeth Atalay who also writes at documama and is the Digital and Social Media Specialist at Edesia.
Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.