Have you ever been the victim of mom-shaming?
I’m sure we’ve all experienced it at some point since becoming moms – someone, usually another mom, criticizes you for the choices you make when it comes to your parenting skills.
This type of treatment, which is technically a form of bullying, is bound to leave you feeling judged, inadequate, and flawed.
Sadly, over 80% of women have experienced mom-shaming in one form or another.
Which seems totally unfair, since we give so much to our children and do our best to care for them and raise them to be amazing individuals.
And yet we are attacked by criticisms – from other moms! It’s a shame that mothers feel the need to put others down – and they usually do so to make themselves feel better.
Whatever the reasons for mom-shaming, it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Therefore, it’s important to understand how it can affect your mental health as well as how to avoid its negative effects:
What Does Mom Shaming Look Like?
Thanks to the popularity of social media, it’s easier now more than ever to lay shame on other moms.
This is in and of itself a shame since we could easily use technology to support each other and lift each other up!
- Breastfeeding. Everyone and their dog has an opinion about breastfeeding. You may hear that it’s inappropriate to do so in public or be told that choosing not to breastfeed is a selfish decision.
- Baby Milestones. You may get questioned as to why your little one isn’t walking/crawling/talking at a certain age.
- Working. Some moms will criticize other moms for choosing to go back to work or even deciding to stay at home with their children.
- Parenting Choices. You may face judgment from other moms when it comes to the way you choose to raise your child – whether it’s their diet, if they use a soother, if they sleep in the same bed as you, etc.
- Social Media Life. While this one may not seem implicit, some moms will attempt to shame others by portraying their “perfect” mom lives on their social media accounts. (Remember that behind every perfect picture is the chaotic reality of motherhood!)
- Body Shaming. Yes, moms will even criticize each other’s body shapes whether you have or haven’t lost the baby weight. Lost it all? You must be more focused on your physique than your child. Still hanging on to baby weight? You must be lazy and unmotivated. (Disclaimer: Neither of which are in any way true!)
- Birth Choices. Moms even face shaming when it comes to the way in which their baby is born – in hospital, with an epidural, at home, in a swimming pool, etc.
- Self Care. Some moms may pass judgment when other moms take time for themselves since they’re not spending that time with their child. Maybe you send your kid to daycare on your days off or maybe you go to the gym regularly.
Keep in mind that sometimes these judgments and criticisms are not made intentionally. Sometimes other moms genuinely feel they are helping you out by offering their unsolicited advice.
That doesn’t make it cool, though, which is why later in this article I’m going to go over how to deal with these moms and ensure that their behavior doesn’t affect your own mental health.
How Mom Shaming Affects Your Mental Health
Because of the rise in mom-shaming due to social media, and the increased pressure for mothers to be “perfect”, the expectations of motherhood have expanded significantly.
The intensity of these higher expectations can have a negative impact on a mother’s mental well-being – contributing strongly to anxiety and depression.
Therefore, there is definitely a connection between over-parenting and our mental health.
So not only do we have all of these expectations piled upon us as mothers, but we also have people telling us how we’re doing it wrong. This can cause moms to question their parenting skills and feel guilty for “doing it wrong”.
It sucks because science has shown that mom shame can affect our brain chemistry, making the feeling of shame stronger and emotionally deeper – especially when the cultural expectations of motherhood are so high.
However, the good news is that these effects are not guaranteed or everlasting.
For example, if you are a resilient individual, it’s likely that you can let unwanted comments roll off your back and continue on with your mom life. Yes, hearing how you’re “doing it wrong” sucks, but you don’t let it affect you.
Or, perhaps you do let it affect you. Thankfully, there are ways that you can keep mom-shaming from negatively affecting your mental health!
How to Avoid the Negative Effects of Mom-Shaming
1. Accept That You’re Not Alone
Remember how I said 80% of moms get shamed at some point in their lives? This means that you are not the only one feeling judged and criticized by others for your parenting skills.
Does that make it right? Absolutely not!
But it should reassure you that there is nothing particular about the way you raise your children that prompts these individuals to ask questions or make comments. If they do it to you, they likely do it to others too.
2. Have Some Empathy
Many mom-shamers are not passing judgment on you out of the goodness of their heart – mom-shaming is often a cover for someone’s own insecurities or guilt when it comes to regrets related to the way they raised their children.
They may be offering unwanted advice as a sort of “do-over” for their own parenting skills.
If this is the case, question their advice. Ask them: “Oh, did this work for little Johnny while he was going up?”
Should they tell you that they didn’t follow that particular piece of advice while raising their own children, you have two choices:
- Shove their hypocrisy back in the face. (not recommended)
- Praise the way their child has turned out.
Perhaps giving them some praise and support will fulfill their need for validation when it comes to the way they raised their own children.
3. Look Who It’s Coming From
It’s funny that mom-shaming doesn’t even have to address your parenting skills or come from other moms.
For instance, I’ve seen non-moms make comments around moms such as, “Oh, see, that’s why I don’t want to have children!”
It sucks but it helps to know that this is coming from someone who has absolutely no cards in the mom game – basically, their opinion is moot. It would be like me giving batting tips to a baseball player – meaningless and useless.
Or, perhaps, you’re hearing a plethora of criticisms from a family member – it’s likely that they are doing this to be involved in your motherhood journey and because they truly love and care for you.
While knowing who the shaming is coming from certainly doesn’t excuse it, it gives you an opportunity to filter through what you’re hearing.
The non-mom? Let it fly over your head – she has no idea what she’s talking about.
Your mom? Okay, she probably means well but maybe her delivery of advice needs to be addressed.
Which leads me to my next point:
4. Know How to Respond
The ideal response to mom-shamers would be to establish your boundaries and clearly state that you don’t appreciate their commentary on your parenting skills.
However, we tend to be a bit more sensitive than that. Actually, most of us won’t say anything at all because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
The key to shutting down mom-shamers is knowing how to respond. The way you address, say, a Facebook friend is going to be different than the way you confront your own mothers.
Random acquaintances, for example, can easily be blocked from your social media. Closer individuals, however, may need to understand why their comments make you feel shame.
That non-mom friend, for instance, may need to be told that her “anti-children” comments are hurtful and make you question your decision to have children. Maybe she’s just trying to convince herself she doesn’t want kids and has no idea how her statements are affecting you.
Your mom may need to understand that you want to experience the joys and surprises of parenthood on your own without being told how to raise your children. Or perhaps she needs to be reassured that she is an important aspect of your life and the life of her grandchildren.
Whoever you are dealing with, you have a right to express how shaming makes you feel. If the person really cares about you, they’ll understand and stop.
5. You Know Your Children Better Than Anyone
Ultimately, you know your children better than anyone who thinks they know how to raise them better.
Case in point: There are so many moms on social media that love to chime in about how they never let their kids have too much screen time. My daughter lives on YouTube because, as a single mom of an only child, I need a break to maintain my sanity.
At the end of the day, I know she’s watching kid-friendly content and she incorporates a lot of what she sees into her play. Some of our most fun moments are spent making our own videos where her imagination just flourishes!
Another example: A friend of mine let her two-year-old have a soother. Can you imagine the shaming she received over that? One day her daughter’s soother broke. When she pointed this out, her little one immediately tossed it into the trash and hasn’t used one since.
She knew that her daughter would stop using one when she was ready.
The point is that you understand your child’s needs and personality, so when you do things that are not “socially acceptable”, you either have a very good reason or know that you can control the situation to the point where your child is not going to be harmed or damaged over it.
6. Don’t Ask if You Don’t Want to Hear It
There, I said it. The reason is that so many moms ask for advice from individuals who are going to shame them.
You are going to need advice on parenting – we all do! Just make sure you are asking for help from people who are going to support you and not put you down.
Avoiding the negative effects of mom-shaming means finding a support circle of other moms who don’t take themselves too seriously and will offer advice from their hearts in order to lift you up.
7. Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Moms
Sometimes we end up shaming ourselves as moms because we are comparing ourselves to mothers who are “perfect”.
Guess what? They are not and no Instagram photo can hide that truth.
Behind every perfect mom story is the reality of chaos.
So turn away from comparison and start embracing gratitude. Look at your own children and your own life and let yourself see just how awesome they really are.
You Got This, Mama!
Shamers gonna shame, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it affect how you feel as a mother.
You are doing awesome! And there’s no amount of judgment or criticism that can change how fundamentally amazing you are as a mother.
Have a mom-shaming story to share? Or advice on letting the mom-shamers slide? Let us know in the comments below!