Updated: May 7
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For some reason being mom-shamed feels like a right of passage into motherhood because almost every mother experiences it at some point. Which sucks. And is totally unnecessary.
Whether it be a snide comment from a lady at the grocery store to your own mother-in-law berating you for your parenting, it's extremely hurtful and it's something we mothers carry with us for a really long time.
In today's episode, I dive into:
1. What mom-shaming is
2. Different circumstances it appears
3. How to handle it
4. How we can offer our opinion to other moms without shaming them.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, motherhood is a shit show but mom-shaming makes it that much harder.
How about we all just make a little promise, right here right now, to speak from a place of love when talking to other moms. To lift each other up. And to really support.
Let's cut the mom-shaming!
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Honestly, it really pains me that this is even a topic I have to talk about because it’s just so unnecessary but it’s real and it happens everywhere.
Mom shaming takes place in ALL circumstances: the internet, whether that be amongst people you know messaging you, on mommy fb groups, or on your own social media accounts, it takes place in person with family and friends, and in person with complete strangers.
It's literally everywhere and its awful.
But what exactly is mom shaming and how does it look?
Since my experiences are limited to myself I wanted to do a bit of research to collect data (I seriously feel like a scientist when I say that). But I did ask around to see what moms consider to be mom-shaming and any experiences they have had of their own and this is what I found:
The general consensus of what mom-shaming is is that it is basically bullying.
Bullying other moms (or dads) for the choices they make in regards to their parenting.
It tends to occur when a mom sees another mom doing something that they don’t agree with.
As one mom said “it’s basically a difference of opinions” but the delivery of the opinions comes in the form of bullying or berating the other mom for her choice.
Now the interesting part about this is bullying tends to be very obvious but mom-shaming is not always that obvious. It can come in the form of subtle, off-handed comments or it can be very straight forward.
Here are some examples of mom-shaming that women told me about + examples I have personally experienced or seen on social media:
1. You’re a new mom, your baby is 2 weeks old, you have no idea what the hell you're doing, you’re exhausted, your body is broken, your hormones are all over the place. Your friend comes over and they see you bottle feeding your baby.
And they go “you know you should breastfeed your baby, right?”
Your stomach drops, your heart sinks, you feel like crying, you feel like a failure. Already.
2. Or you’re out at the grocery store with your 3 kids and your oldest is throwing a tantrum in the middle of the aisle. They're laying on the ground, kicking, screaming, crying all because they want an ice cream but you won’t give it to them.
You bend down to comfort your child, let them work through their emotions, and explain that having an ice cream is for special occasions and today is not one of those.
An older woman walks by, glaring at you, and finally says “why don’t you just give him the damn ice cream?”
Your stomach drops, your heart sinks, you feel like crying, you feel like a failure. Again.
3. Some other examples are phrases like this:
"I don't understand how a mom could ever want to be away from her child"
"It really irritates me when I see a crib without a sheet. That's disgusting"
"You should really put your phone down when you're feeding your baby"
"I can't believe you let your toddler have screen time"
"Breastfeeding should always be the first choice"
And eye roll or smirk when you say or do something
These are just a few examples of mom shaming but the examples are endless
So, why do moms do this?
I’m even really sure to be honest.
I imagine it’s a mix of moms thinking their way really is the best way and then imparting that on people but doing it in a rude, mean way.
I do believe a lot of times moms say things with good intentions but it really comes across as rude and hurtful. And then there are the people who are just intentionally, downright rude.
And let’s clarify something here, you are so entitled to your opinion. Yes, you can truly think deep down inside that how you are raising your kids is the best way possible. And that’s ok. There is nothing wrong with that.
But we need to remember that what works for us and our kids, may not necessarily work for others. And there will be times where we see other moms doing something and we may not understand or agree, but we have to remember that we probably don’t know the whole circumstance and that is what works for that family.
So, why is mom-shaming so bad?
I mean, this part is kinda self explanatory but let’s just go through it anyways.
Mom-shaming has several negative affects on the mom and basically zero positive effects.
- It makes mothers feel inadequate and flawed
- It can be carried for many years
- And can ingrain abnormal brain chemistry
- It makes mothers feel unsure about their parenting choices
- And can drive them away from the person shaming them (family and friends)
So, how do we handle mom-shamers and how do we go about giving people our opinion in a way that doesn’t come across as mom shaming?
This is just my advice and quite honestly, you’ll have to decide what works best for you based on the situation. I'm certainly not going to mom-shame you for how you handle this!
For mom-shaming that takes place on social media – generally speaking, I think the best way to handle this is to not engage and leave the situation alone.
Generally, keyboard warriors will always win because no matter how hard you push your point and no matter how much you are right, they will always come back again and again to tear you down. It's best to not engage and walk away.
For mom-shaming that takes place in person by a stranger – so think someone at the grocery store making comments: you can either chose not to engage here as well, maybe smile or literally ignore them or you can say thank you for the advice.
I would opt not to go further than that because they're a stranger and its literally just not worth your time or stress to engage more.
For mom-shaming that comes from a someone you know but aren't close with – maybe a great aunt or a coworker: I would follow the same rules as the stranger in the store – smile, ignore, or just say thanks.
For mom-shaming that comes from a trusted source – family or friends: you can definitely follow the same advice as above but if you notice its becoming a pattern, you may want to talk to them.
This is where all my communication tips from Episode 3 come in handy.
- You should try to talk to them in person but if not possible, over the phone.
- Do it at a time where you are calm and can focus on the conversation
- Have examples already prepared
- And in a kind, calm manner, explain to the person that when they say X it makes you feel like X
So it could be to a friend “Joanne, I know you want the best for us and I am so thankful to have you in my life but I just wanted to share that when you make comments about my parenting, such as when you say “I cant believe you let John have screen time, he's only 2” it makes me feel like a bad parent and question my abilities. I am always open to hearing what you have to say but it would be more beneficial for me if it came from a place of education and love, rather than shaming.”
Hopefully this will help the other person see how their words are impacting you and they’ll be understanding and going forward will rephrase their comments.
If it does continue, then you may need to decide if having this person in your life in this capacity is a good thing or if you need to distance yourself.
Now, on the flip side, how do we offer our opinion in a way that’s helpful rather than harmful?
I wanted to cover this topic because our opinions are valuable in certain circumstances and there is nothing wrong with having an open discussion where we voice our opinions.
As my sister recently said, we should be able to have a conversation with varying opinions, disagree on things, and walk away still friends and no one feels hurt
So, how do we do that?
For starters, if you want to be on the safe side, avoid giving your opinion through the internet. It's really hard to get your exact tone across through text which means things can easily be misconstrued and misunderstood.
If you are giving your opinion on the internet, try to do so only when asked. So when a mom is asking on a mommy Facebook group or her Instagram. And then make sure to really drive home that this is just your opinion and this is what works for you, and you totally understand that it won’t work for everyone and that’s ok.
Avoid saying things like “you're wrong” you're doing it wrong, that’s going to mess your kid up, your kid is going to get hurt or die, they’ll have issues later in life and so forth.
In terms of giving your opinion to strangers in public – just avoid in general. Honestly, opinions generally come when shit is going down and moms don’t want to hear it then. It just adds to the frustration and stress of the situation.
If you want to be helpful, say something kind to the mother. Even a quick “you're doing amazing” can give the mom a boost of confidence.
In terms of friends and family, this is where it may get tricky.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid giving your opinion on a situation unless the mom has brought the topic up herself.
So if you notice little Sally is watching a lot of tv, don’t say anything unless mom says “I feel bad that Sally is watching tv so much but its my only chance to clean the house”
From there, you can respond and respond in love and with encouragement and say "I totally get that and you're doing an awesome job. I have some things that work for me if you're interested in hearing them?”
This opens the door for more communication but it also gives the other mom the power to decide whether they want to hear it or not.
If they say yes, then move forward. If they say no, then leave it at that.
But always give your information in a loving way, without criticism or judgment.
And if you feel that you have inadvertently or even openly mom shamed someone: apologize.
Lift that weight off their shoulders. Let them know you were a dick and you're going to do better in the future. And they are doing a fantastic job.
Apologizing does wonders (refer to Episode 3 again)
It really does
The reality is, being a mom is a shit show and quite frankly, no one really knows what they're doing. I cant count the number of times I have found my groove with Esmé and then she decides she wants to change it up on me so I feel lost all over again (And from what I'm told, that goes on forever).
So if we are all on this journey together, alone but together, the least we can do is be supportive and remind ourselves and one another that at the end of the day we are all trying our best.
We truly are.
Sometimes that looks like home cooked meals and reading and sometimes that looks like tv on the ipad at McDonalds. Sometimes that looks like a clean home and laundry all done and sometimes that looks like a tornado ripped through the house.
Sometimes that looks like you loosing your shit and yelling at your kid and sometimes that looks like walking away and counting to 10.
No parent is perfect.
No parent has it figured out.
No parent has the answers.
But were all just trying our damn best and that’s all we can do.
So, I really hope this gives you some insight into why mom-shaming sucks, why it needs to stop and why we really need to band together and support one another.
We cant teach our kids that bullying is wrong but then turn around and do the same thing. We have to set the example for them, by lifting one another up and being supportive.