Being a mother is a daily challenge in women’s life and, even after several years of mothering experience, there are still many things to learn. Even though rewards are numerous, the role of a mother entails several difficulties, overwhelming problems, and drastic changes you are never enough prepared for.
Apart from combing private life with working career and deciding whether to hire a babysitter or not, a mother has also to face unwanted criticism concerning personal parenting choices. Known under the name of “mom-shaming”, this judgemental behaviour is becoming more and more frequent among mothers’ parents, friends, and unknown people met on social networks or in a public area.
If mothers have been victims of people’s critics since always, the information era has amplified this issue and given voice to people who write with a keyboard. According to reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks M.D., people have the impression to know more thanks to the internet and the consequent facilitated access to any kind of information.
Moreover, people tend to use social networks as aspirational platforms where to depict an unrealistic world made of their own beliefs and theories, pretending that this is the correct way to behave. In fact, it is possible to find many Facebook groups created by women who aim to exchange a piece of advice or a suggestion. In reality, these online communities have turned into a lair of mothers ready to criticise and express unsolicited opinions.
In 2017, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health published a survey concerning this issue and has listed mom-shaming’s main targets. Discipline, diet nutrition, child safety and sleep issues are the main reasons that lead a person to judge other parents’ choices. Among these topics, the most controversial one concerns breast versus bottle-feeding. Mothers have strict points of view in the matter of formula, milk supply, and the like. Nevertheless, some women can’t nurse their baby because of specific medical conditions: mom-shaming can also cause depression in these individuals.
Experts have analysed the new version of mom-shaming, describing it as a psychological reaction to some feelings, such as pressure and confusion, which are part of the pregnancy and new motherhood experience. Putting the blame on a vulnerable individual is a way to feel more self-confident and less insecure about their own parenting practices. This attitude may be the direct consequence of a black-and-white thinking, which is a common mindset among overly anxious mothers.
It is important to underline that the perfect mother does not exist. Parents should also understand that parenting choices depend on specific contexts and cannot be extended to objective statements. According to psychologists, it may be helpful to share personal experiences where mothers have made a mistake and learnt from it. Showing imperfections and self-improving can be criticised at first, but this honest behaviour is a great source of inspiration for women in the same situation.
Acknowledging that mom-shaming can’t be avoided is another first great step to feel confident with your own parenting decisions. In addition, mothers should always remember that those who like to criticise are lacking self-confidence and positivity in their daily life.
As most critics don’t have reliable evidence, people shouldn’t listen to any advice without consulting a doctor or an expert. In fact, dispatching information can have serious consequences, especially if it deals with health problems.
Using your sense of humor against “mom-shamers” is the right way to ignore their critics and make them understand that this kind of approach is not well accepted by other parents. The less mothers spend time with them, the more they will enjoy their life and every new discovery made with their baby.
As we have already stated, most critics come from unknown people met in public places or on the internet. Ignorance can be at the basis of their comments: by ignoring your history and your personal situation, their critics or suggestions may hurt your feelings and induce you to make wrong decisions.
What’s more, a woman who wants to pursue a professional career and build a family shouldn’t be criticised is often harshly criticised. Working mothers have to face two different types of pressure: on the one hand, they feel obliged to reaffirm their commitment at work on a regular basis; on the other hand, they are often called “bad moms” by those mothers who don’t work. In general, working mothers tend to be 40% more stressed than working women without children: adding pressure to their condition is not a helpful way to support them and enhance their efforts to sustain the family economy.
Far from being a rare phenomenon, mom-shaming affects the life of thousands. The above-mentioned survey published by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has shown that 61% of mothers with children aged 5 and younger claimed that they have been victims of mom-shaming at least once in their life. In addition, this sort of criticism comes from mothers’ parents (37%), child’s other parent (36%), in-laws (31%), friends (14%), and other mothers in public (12%).
The only person who really knows a baby is his mother and his father. They are the ones who are allowed to make decisions and opt for the right solution. Parents should be able to accept the fact that mistakes are part of the experience: without them, it would be impossible to improve and achieve new goals. In order to fight mom-shaming, parents should start ignoring it and embracing their parenting adventure with its positive and negative aspects as well.