There’s no doubt parenting is full of heart-gripping highs, and spirit-squashing lows. For my first official blog entry, I had a hard time deciding which end of the spectrum to focus on. Since most of my readers are women, I eventually settled on a topic to which many moms can undoubtedly relate, often making it’s way onto that all too dreadful list of lows. I’m talking specifically about “Mom Shaming”. If you’re familiar with the term, you know it can be a crushing blow to any mom’s ego. It seems we’ve forgotten that if we can’t say anything nice, we shouldn’t say anything at all. Sure, this is not the first mommy blog to tackle this subject. However, I feel my perspective is unique in that I’ve found myself on both the giving and receiving ends in the past.
So what is Mom Shaming exactly? Well, it’s sort of an umbrella term encompassing a wide range of ugly tactics we moms like to use to attack other moms for their parenting choices. If you’re a new mom, you likely belong to one or more mommy groups, whether on Facebook or be it a pregnancy-specific website like “What To Expect” or “The Bump”. It’s in these groups that mom-shaming often rears its ugly little head, and trust me when I say, mommies really know how to twist the knife where it hurts.
In the past, mom-shaming certainly existed. With the growing popularity of internet groups, the problem has escalated to an all-time high. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end, it can seem like you’re back in high school dealing with the “Mean Girls” of mom groups. Let me tell you, it is most certainly not “fetch”. While some types of mom-shaming have outright malicious intentions, others are inadvertent.
So what are some examples of mom-shaming you ask? Here are a few maybe not so obvious examples:
Mom Shaming – “The Clueless Caroline”
Mom: “Hey ladies, did you see the Muppet Movie last night?”
Mom Shamer: “No, we try not to keep our kids up past 7.” Or, “No, we don’t let our kids watch TV.”
Well, whoopty doo! If my kid went to bed at 7, I likely started his bedtime routine right after lunch. Not to mention, he’d be up by 5 AM every morning. How am I expected to fill all those waking hours if not for the advent of television!?
Mom: “Did you guys go Trick-or-Treating last night?”
Mom Shamer: “No, we try not to let our kids have that much sugar.”
Okay, I do get the whole sugar thing, but this is a bit over the top. Like most two-year-olds, mine is bursting at the seams with energy, he really doesn’t need the extra sugar; he’s far sweet enough already. Joking aside, it’s Halloween! I really don’t think a few treat-filled evenings a year are going to have lasting detrimental effects. Raising kids is all about teaching them moderation so that they can make healthy decisions for themselves one day. Sometimes, the over-restricting can have the exact opposite effect. So, loosen the reigns a bit, because the only thing scarier than Halloween is these moms’ aversion to fun.
Mom: “We had kind of a long weekend, we just started potty-training.”
Mom Shamer: “Oh I remember that. Both of my kids were fully potty-trained by the time they were 2. How old is Jameson again?”
Well, kudos to you! This one usually warrants a good old-fashioned eye-rolling. Sure, we all brag about our kids from time to time, it’s a normal proud mama thing to do. Potty training, like walking and talking, is one of the milestones that when accomplished ahead of the game, we moms take a lot of pride. Let’s not forget though, kids progress at different rates. Strengths for one kid might not develop until later for another, and vice versa. Jameson learned his ABCs by 18 months. Here we are at almost 2 and a half and he still can’t figure out how to drink out of a cup without choking or spilling. Potty training is no exception. So, for all the moms out there who’ve ever been potty-shamed, don’t get discouraged. Just let that shit go (pun most certainly intended).
Mom: “I’m a stay at home mom.”
Mom Shamer: “Oh it must be nice to stay home all day. I think it would get pretty boring though.”
This one hits home for me, and I often find myself defending my stay-at-home-status. I think it stings the most because I was raised in a family where my mom was the breadwinner. Her work ethic definitely rubbed off on me. I’ve always worked really hard to be self-sufficient. When I tell people I’m a stay-at-home mom, it’s as if I can feel the weight of their judgment come over me like a smothering blanket. I just want to curl up under it and die. I think to myself, “They must think we’re rich, or that I’m lazy”. What’s worse is that I’ve even thought this when other moms tell me they don’t work! I mean, how twisted is that?
In my wildest fantasy, I respond right back. “I think I’d feel pretty guilty letting someone else raise my kids.” Instead, I refrain. This only makes the situation that much more uncomfortable. Also, it discounts the fact that I do realize how fortunate I am to be able to spend so much time with my kids. Besides, I know first hand being a stay-at-home mom is no picnic in the park. Moms who say things like this are often coming from a place of jealousy. I understand how hard it is juggling work and home life with so few hours in the day.
More often than not though, most moms don’t even realize they’re being condescending with statements like these. So, it makes it that much easier to sweep them under the rug and move on. Perhaps worse than not realizing you’re being insulting, is purposely being insulting and playing it off like you’re trying to help.
Here are a couple of examples of more passive-aggressive mom-shaming:
Mom Shaming – “The Two-Faced Tammy”
Mom: “Hey ladies, I’m looking for the best type of organic food to feed my baby. Which brands do you recommend?”
Mom Shamer: “Have you tried making your own? It’s super easy, you just boil the food and blend it in the Magic Bullet. I’ve read packaged foods have all sorts of heavy metals and toxins in them anyway.“
Ugh, thanks for the unsolicited advice. Many moms who ask this question already make homemade food for their babies and are just looking for quick and easy alternatives for busy nights, vacations, or on-the-go snacks. Plain and simple though, if a mom wants to use jarred or packaged food, it’s none of our business! Why is it that we moms so easily assume others are lazy or down-right oblivious?
Mom: “Hey guys, can you tell me which type of formula is best for babies?”
Mom Shamer: “Have you considered breastfeeding? Studies show breast milk is the utmost best nutrition you can give your baby. Don’t give up if she can’t latch or doesn’t get it after a few weeks, you can always try pumping.”
This sounds innocent enough, right? Wrong! These types of statements are extremely judgmental and often coated in sugar to sound non-deliberate or even encouraging. Bleh. If I wanted the authority on breastfeeding I’d hit up my local La Leche League. The choice to breastfeed is a personal one. It’s never safe to assume a mom hasn’t explored all her options. So, let’s “nip” this formula-shaming in the bud and mind our own business; “expressing” unwelcome opinions can be a real “let down.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Lastly, there are the moms who are just plain ruthless. I’ve got to hand it to these moms, it takes a lot of tits to be so blatant.
Here are a couple of examples of some no-holds-barred mom-shaming:
Mom Shaming – “The Cutthroat Cathy”
Mom: “We’ve been co-sleeping since 4 months, she just won’t sleep in her own bed. “
Mom Shamer: “Co-sleeping is so dangerous. The risk of SIDS almost doubles. Why would you even chance it? I would never intentionally put my baby in harm’s way like that.”
These moms fail to consider that 10,000 years ago babies didn’t have cribs. Like most of the animal kingdom, moms slept with their babies. It’s human nature to co-sleep, and in a lot of other countries, it’s customary. Secondly, co-sleeping moms more often than not know the risks of co-sleeping. Many go to extreme measures to ensure their baby’s safety, including not sleeping themselves so that their babies can.
Lastly, some babies just don’t sleep! Our firstborn Jameson was the easiest baby. We never had to sleep train. For the most part, he slept through the night with minimal intervention from day one. Charlee, our second, is the complete opposite. If she’s not in our bed, she’s not sleeping. Trust me when I say we’ve tried everything. When it started going on weeks of nobody sleeping, and screaming loud enough to wake the neighbors, it was either the bed or the dumpster!
Mom: “We started sleep training last week using the Ferber Method. It’s day four and she finally fell asleep on her own!” (Applause and cheering in head).
Mom Shamer: “I’ve read you can really damage a child letting them cry it out like that. Kids who cry it out show obvious changes in brain chemistry and can grow up to be loaners and serial-killers.”
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but you get the point. Clearly the mom-shaming is intentional. It’s perhaps the worst kind because it often leads to feelings of guilt, remorse, and failure. As if parenting isn’t already hard enough (Read more about mom guilt here). So then why do we do it, and where do we go from here?
I think I can speak for most moms when I say you learn a lot from having children. From true multitasking, to what it really means to be patient. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned on my own parenting journey is that I don’t know everything. What I thought I knew, I really had no idea. I think a lot of mom-shaming comes from the realization that we don’t know everything. When we think we have the answer to something, we overstep, to feel like we’ve at least got that one thing down. This is just us moms being insecure, and that’s okay, none of us are perfect!
“Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion on, but the hardest thing in the world to do.”-Matt Walsh
Another reason I think mom-shaming is so prevalent is that parenting is just plain hard! Remember that list of lows we talked about? Well, turns out, misery really does love company. Lastly, when it comes to being a mom, we just want to do right by our kids. So, we join the mom groups and read the parenting books because raising children doesn’t come with an instruction manual. We need all the help we can get.
We have to remember though that the information in these groups is not necessarily the end all be all. What works for one mom, might not work for another; so let’s all try to be a little more accepting of each other’s choices. Sure, most of us are sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and spread too thin. If we just treated one another with respect though, and realize we share the common task of raising the future generation, together we all really could be super moms!
Have you ever been mom-shamed? Share your experience in the comments below. Cheers!
Related to “Mom Shaming”:
Anxiety: When To Worry About Worrying
Mom Guilt: Why You Should Cut Yourself Some Slack
Stress-Relief For Moms: 5 Tips To Keep A Level Head
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