Remember during our teen years when it seemed that life was so hard, and we felt like it couldn't possibly any get harder? With all the peer pressure, high school drama, and the complicated journey of finding ourselves, much of the difficulty came from being constantly worried about what others thought of us. I thought that stress would end with adolescence. So when I became a mom, I was surprised to see so many of the same challenges in the form of mom-shaming.
You would think that those of us in this same stage of life, having this important role of motherhood and sharing the same struggles, would be more appreciative towards one another. But unfortunately, it's not always like that.
The days of being put down and judged for our decisions seem to crawl back into our lives again as moms. So how can we cope with mom-shamers and find the strength to not have them affect us? Hold our *virtual* hand as we share some steps to help you feel more confident and stronger as a mom!
What is Mom-Shaming?
First let's define mom shaming:
It is when you speak out against or bully other moms for making choices different than your own. It’s the subtle (or sometimes downright aggressive) comments that other people make against a mother’s choices to try and build up their own self esteem while tearing down others.
According to Liz Talton of Pitter Patter of Baby Feet, in a study of 475 mothers with children ages 5 and younger where they were asked the most popular topics they’ve received criticism for, answers included:
- Diet and Nutrition
- Breastfeeding vs Bottle Feeding
- Child Safety
- Childcare Decisions
- Plus many more!
A lot of the issues moms criticize each other for are ones that rile them up enough that they feel like it's okay to shame another mom about it.
Mom-shaming hurts. It can make even the most confident parent question themselves. And because parenting is such a challenging thing to begin with, being shamed over decisions can make that shame feel even more magnified.
So how can you cope with mom-shaming if you are a target of unwanted criticism?
Steps to Cope with Mom-Shaming
Step 1: Know that you were meant to be your child's mother.
I truly believe that our children are specially meant to be ours. You were meant to be your child mother, no one else, so no one is better than you to understand your child's needs and make decisions for them! Seek advice when needed, but trust your instincts, even if they lead you in a different direction than someone else.
Step 2: Understanding that the other person's shaming may be rooted in their own insecurity.
Not only is this applicable to mom-shamers, but to all bullies in life. The reason they are criticizing you is most likely because they are insecure with their own choices or have been hurt by others. They may they feel guilty or like they aren't doing a good job, so by shaming others they can assert their superiority--making them feel that their child is better than yours, or their judgment is better than yours.
If you can understand that their negativity comes from their own choices and insecurities and not yours, it is much easier to cope with.
Step 3: Avoid those that shame you.
Personally, I've had to take a break from those that shame me as a mom. It can be hard when they're close to you (they tend to shame you the most, unfortunately). Even family members can be overbearing at times.
Your mental health is and should be your #1 priority, so take a break from that person or let them know how you feel when they criticize you, and if that doesn't work, then avoid them altogether.
Step 4: Be Confident in your parenting.
In case you needed the reminder: YOU'VE GOT THIS! You are doing what is best, you love your kids and always will! Remind yourself of what you've accomplished as a parent and look at your child's strengths and their adorable personalities to know how great you're doing at raising and influencing them!
Remember, you're the best mom for your kids, so handle it with confidence. If you know what's best for your child, the better equipped you will be to walk it off or speak to the shamer about it. You don't have to be perfect to be a good parent!
Step 5: Don't compare yourself to other parents.
It can be hard to not compare yourself to another mother, especially with social media reminding you every day. Assure yourself that no parent has it "all together," nor are the lives you see on social media as perfect or put together as they might seem in a photo or video.
What you're doing now is working for you in your life, and that's more than okay if it doesn't look like what someone else is doing.
Step 6: Say nothing.
I know, I know, sometimes it's hard to not say anything, especially when the person offending us is saying untrue or rude comments. But sometimes saying nothing is just as powerful.
According to reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist, Dr. Carly Snyder, "Often, the best thing to do is disconnect from the conversation. You don’t have to justify or explain your parenting to anyone—you’re doing your best."
Step 7: Find your village.
If I've learned one thing about becoming a mom, it's that I don't want to make friends with people who won't be respectful on the way I parent. Yes, you can still have different opinions or ways of doing things, but it's all about respect. Good friends won't want to change you, but accept you for the mother you are and know that you're doing your best. They will boost you up in a positive way and offer kind and caring advice if they have any!
More Ways to Overcome Mom-Shaming
- Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself
- Set boundaries/stand your ground
- Reply with kindness
- Focus on personal growth as a parent
- Stand up for other moms being shamed
- Look for signs of ignorance
Don't worry! We've all been there!
Ways to Stop Yourself from Shaming Others:
We may have not realized at other times that we were the one shaming another mom. So if you find yourself shaming another parent for something they choose to do, follow these steps to help stop yourself from shaming:
Stop comparing moms to each other
Highlight each mother’s individual strengths
Offer support, not judgment
Work on your self-esteem
Remember that there are many ways to be a good mom
Adopt a growth mindset–be open to learning and seeing things in other ways
Give moms the benefit of the doubt
Remember what it was like for you
Make a gratitude list
Remember, you know your child best. Though it can feel like the mom-shamer's voices are loudly questioning you and making you feel like you're doing nothing right, know that there's no right or wrong way to be a parent as long as you're loving and caring for your children.
Whatever works for you may not work for another mother. There's no "one size fits all" approach to parenting. You're doing your best for your child with love, and as long as you have your kids’ best interest at heart and are keeping them healthy and safe in the way you know best, that's all that matters.
Never feel alone, because you're definitely not. There are definitely other mothers out there who raise their kids the same way you do yours. Give yourself grace! You're doing amazing, so ignore the nay-sayers, because you've got this!