Chances are you will experience a subtle or not-so-subtle version of mom-shaming. Heck, you have statistically most likely mom-shamed someone yourself whether intentionally or not. A friend tells you she’s been co-sleeping; you see your tired sister hand her toddler an iPad loaded with Paw Patrol; a co-worker is still breastfeeding her kid! You might not have said any of these opinions aloud, but the voice inside your head whispering “they’re doing it wrong, and I’m doing it right” is hard to avoid.
Let’s be real, the main reason any of us thinks these thoughts is because of insecurities. There is an overwhelming amount of information available for new parents to absorb that professes the perfect, and the perfectly wrong, approaches to parenting. Are we’re worried that we’re going to screw everything up. Social media doesn’t make it any easier to dodge drive-by comments from friends, family and even strangers. Thought that photo of your daughter was cute? Now you have someone telling you all the dangers of baby’s wearing socks. Pic of your baby boy all swaddled up? Now someone is grilling you about his hip development.
In fact, most of the negative feedback or snide comments women experience are from their own family, particularly their own mom. A University of Michigan study found that 61% of women surveyed have experienced mom-shaming at some point, and 36% of those shammers were their own parents. Several reasons for this are simply the advent of new approaches and best practices for different topics, which can make you mom feel like how things worked in her day weren’t good enough. She also most likely just wants to feel involved in her new grandbaby’s life. Co-parents and in-laws are the next common voices to offer unsolicited advice, often for the same reasons. Particularly fathers who feel pushed out of the parenting conversation for one reason or another can find themselves at odds with mom when opinions clash.
We want to make sure moms feel supported, so here are some tips from Psychology Today on how to combat the feeling of being shamed:
1. Accept and expect that it will happen to you at some point so you’re not caught off guard
2. Understand they’re probably trying to make themselves feel better or involved in parenting
3. Some people are just know-it-alls and want to show off
4. They could be covering for their own insecurities and wish they could have a do-over
5. Spend more time with people who do support you
6. Know that some days you’ll feel like you messed up, but know that parenting is a complex and multifaceted thing and there are plenty more days ahead
7. Keep up a sense of humor and use it to deflect the negativity
8. Don’t be influenced by friend’s and family’s perfect online representation of parenting; it’s probably a smokescreen
9. Their judgement might actually be ignorance
10. You know your kid better than anyone, so be confident in your skills!
As women, and as new moms, is this really how we should be treating each other? It’s more important than ever that we support each other instead of tearing one another down. Having a conversation about all the different approaches to parenting doesn’t have to shift to personal attacks, and can even be enlightening when you hear about a new way to get your 1 year old to keep from throwing their plate of food across the kitchen. And listening to another mom about why she chose to bottle feed because of latching issues and postpartum depression can help destigmatize another woman’s suffering.
When it comes to pregnancy and parenting, women already lack the bodily autonomy that men take for granted. Strangers touch you while pregnant, and then tell you what to do when a sudden tantrum breaks out at the grocery store. As a community we can use our strength to support each other through these moments even when it feels like the world is judging us.