What is Mom-Shaming and How to Stop It
As I was washing the dishes a few days ago, I had a lot on my mind. I was pondering why people judge others… I try not to do it myself, and sometimes my mind even forgets how harsh people can be.
Someone in my mom’s group recently posted a video. I wasn’t even going to post the video here, but I decided that it’s worth it for you to listen to it. Check out the video HERE.
In summary, the woman in the video complains about new parents who are asking for specific recipes on specific dates for their meal train. She says that people have “Lost their every-lovin’ minds”, and goes on to say that it’s not okay for new parents to ask for this. She calls them many names and says how she thinks people should do it different.
I thought the mom in my group who posted this video was asking if other mothers shared the same opinion as the woman in the video, so I shared my opinion. But one mother shut down all of our opinions with four words:
“This woman is toxic.”
What is Mom-Shaming?
Simply, mom-shaming is the act of putting other women down based on her choices regarding her children.
Some common topics of disagreement for mom-shaming are:
- you had a c-section? Are you too posh to push?
- you delivered vaginally? Ew, did you poop on your newborn baby?
- breast (milk) is best.
- ew, don’t breastfeed in public.
- don’t ask for help, that’s not socially appropriate.
- don’t dress like a slut, you’re a role-model for your children.
- don’t dress so prudish, you’re a role-model for your children.
- the Cry-It-Out method is child-abuse.
- co-sleeping is dangerous.
- sticking your kid in a crib is going to mess them up. They need their parents.
- not cuddling your baby every second of the day will turn them into sociopaths.
- you haven’t lost the baby weight yet?
- you didn’t put on 25 pounds with your pregnancy? You’re too skinny to be pregnant. Eat a hamburger.
- you’re sending your kids to public school? They won’t learn anything.
- you’re sending your kids to private school? They’re going to be spoiled, entitled brats.
- you’re homeschooling your kids? They’re going to be socially awkward, weird kids with no skills.
- your baby watches TV? They’re too young.
- your kid doesn’t watch TV? Oh, that’s weird.
- you’re not religious? Your kid is going to worship the devil.
- you let your boy play with dolls? He’s probably gay.
- you let your boy watch Frozen? He should be watching superhero movies like a man.
- you let your girl get her hair cut short? What a tomboy. Put her in a dress once in a while.
- you still give your older children money? You’re teaching them to always come to you for money and they’re never going to get any on their own.
I’m sure there’s about 50 more that I missed.
Hopefully you’re starting to see the mom-shaming in the video above. Indeed, the woman spewing her hatred for this other couple is toxic, and she’s participating in mom-shaming.
Who Mom-Shames the Most?
With ever more hatred coursing through the world today, it seems that women get the brunt of it, and a lot of times, it comes from other women.
We see headlines of celebrities and everyday women alike being verbally attacked for breastfeeding in public, for not breastfeeding, for choosing to not have children, for choosing to put our career on hold to have kids, for not covering up enough, for covering up too much… it doesn’t seem to matter what the issue actually is, people will criticize you for it.
It’s not just mothers who are shaming and judging each other. It’s mothers shaming non-mothers, and non-mothers shaming mothers.
Ladies, we need to stop judging each other.
Why People Judge Others
The judgment and hatred the woman in video spewed about someone that she, presumably, didn’t know very well is quite astounding when you listen to it with judgment in mind. In our daily lives, hatred and judgment are normal and unsurprising to us. But perhaps they should be surprising.
Through school, life and societal culture train us to listen to an argument and form an opinion. We listen to the message and use our experience, prior knowledge, training, and background to put ourselves somewhere on the spectrum of opinion.
The Things a Person Judges Show Their Insecurities and Fears
Opinions are informed by experience, and at their core, experiences are shaped by emotion. Think about this quote:
Two of the most moving and powerful emotions that we experience are love and fear.
But people don’t form opinions based on love.
If you love your neighbor, you don’t bother to judge them! (This is called unconditional love.)
But if you have a fear or insecurity about a subject, you bet your ass you have an opinion on it.
Here are some examples
One of my biggest fears in life is being a burden on people. Because *I* don’t want to be a burden on others, I have a tendency to judge others who don’t have that fear and feel free to ask others for specific things.
My very first reaction when I listened to the video above was that I agreed with her to an extent, but I perhaps wasn’t being quite as harsh.
If I was the new mother asking for specific foods or meals at specific times, I would have felt overwhelmed with guilt. I would have stopped myself from being a burden on others and would have NOT asked for a meal train this specific.
Here’s some more examples.
In my experience, people who are very pro-guns and fight against gun control have very overwhelming fears about protecting and providing for their families and people in their lives.
People who believe that breastfeeding is best may be worried about nutrition and immunity because of their past with illnesses. They may also be concerned about giving their child the kind of love and support that their tiny brains need because they themselves didn’t get enough loving touch when they were children.
In the video above, the woman (like me) probably was taught that it’s unacceptable to ask for what you want. You are supposed to express gratitude for whatever gifts people want to receive, and that’s that. This woman didn’t even consider the possibility that in other families, asking for exactly what you need is a sign of healthy relationships and a healthy self-esteem.
How Mom-Shaming is Anti-Feminist
In my 20s, I was hell-bent on becoming a successful and well-known choral director in my community. I slaved at work for hours past my duty day, demanding excellence, building a network and collaborating, continuing my education and professionally developing my career.
Although I never said anything, the women around me who chose to leave their careers for their kids always bothered me. I felt they were giving up their power!
How could they do that?! How dare them?!
I never saw myself letting go of my work to raise my kids. I could TOTALLY do it all!
Now that I am in my 30s, I understand that my power as a woman or a person has little to nothing to do with my zeal toward my career, and I have (GASP!) become a stay at home mom!
Do I still think I can do it all? Hell yeah! If I wanted to, I totally could.
The point is that I am choosing not to. I want to focus on what I find most important in my life RIGHT NOW. I’m finding my priorities and aligning my life to them.
It’s HEALTHY to make choices and focus on what we need to, for ourselves.
Is it okay that people have different priorities and choose to focus on different things in their lives?
This is what feminism is all about.
Feminism is about a women’s right to choose. To choose her path to motherhood or not motherhood, or short hair or long hair, or body hair or no body hair, or children or no children, or breast or bottle, without being ridiculed and berated from others for her choices.
Our society has been so ingrained with the concept of ownership over women that even women often feel like they have the ownership and the right to tell other women what to do.
It’s time to STOP.
4 Steps to Recognize and Stop Mom-Shaming
1. Listen to understand, not to reply
When other women talk about their children or their life choices and you start to feel a little fire start in your gut because you don’t agree with her, recognize that little fire.
Oftentimes, when we hear something we disagree with, we immediately stop listening and try to find a place that we can interrupt.
You can let the feeling be there, but don’t interject. Don’t interrupt the other woman.
Continue to listen.
Listen to understand.
Everyone deserves compassion. Are you going to be tearing another woman down, or are going to try to understand her?
2. Stop before you speak: Is it mom-shaming?
There have been posts on facebook from friends of mine that I cringed at reading. But I stopped myself before I commented. I don’t ever want to be someone to tear another woman down.
The healthy steps before commenting are: 1.) see if a woman is receptive to a conversation about the subject, then 2.) if she is receptive, provide information with scientific sources about said topic without making her feel guilty. Then back off and let her mull over the subject on her own.
If you don’t know how to successful do that,
keep your damn mouth shut!
No one ever changed their mind from someone getting offended and berating them. If anything, people get more entrenched in the view they had before.
3. Respond from a place of love
As stated above it’s important to respond from a place of love. We live in a time of scientific conflicts, controversies, conspiracy theories, and world leaders who spread misinformation. It’s so difficult to know which way is up sometimes.
But one thing will ALWAYS remain true: love.
If you care about supporting women, supporting mothers, and being a source of positivity and uplift in your community, you won’t speak with an intention to scold or berate.
If you truly care about someone, respond from a place of compassion and a desire to truly help (only if the woman wants help).
4. Examine Your Own Insecurities, Fears, and Jealousies
Sometime when you have a chance, take out a journal and write down some of your opinions about mothers and parenting. After each one, take a hard look at your fears and see if anything starts to line up.
I bet you anything they will.
The answer to why people judge others lies within our fears and insecurities. Just take a closer look.
5. Be an Advocate and Supporter of Women Standing By Each Other
When you see someone mom-shaming, call them out. Gently.
Let them know that it’s not okay to shame other women based on their own point of view. There are many different ways to live this life, and there’s no single right path.
But making other women feel guilty is certainly not a great way of having a healthy, vibrant life with compassion and support.
When you judge someone, look at your own insecurities. You might be surprised at what you find.
Feminism is about a woman’s right to choose her own life instead of having her life chosen for her. Don’t be the woman who tries to choose for others.
Mom-shaming is NOT okay.
Have you experienced mom-shaming?
Drop me a comment below.