I recently became a mommy again in March of this year. I say “again” because my one and only up until now just celebrated her 22nd birthday! Let me tell you, parenting twenty-two years ago was much different than it is now. First, the hospital setting in labor and delivery was much more relaxed and not as clinical looking. We even had a small sofa in our birthing room! Plus, I was given the option of having my daughter room with me. I was also offered and took advantage of lactation counseling services, something that just wasn’t done here after giving birth to my first-born. Mind you, this was the same hospital where I gave birth to my oldest. Further, technology is so much more advanced in 2016 than it was in 1994. I was so excited to have ultrasounds done with 3-D imaging! Consumer products such as cell phones, computers with Internet access and Wi-Fi, and digital cameras are found in most American households. Oh, the pleasure I got from online shopping from my baby register on Amazon from my tablet and deleting unflattering pregnancy photos from my smart phone! This was not the case in 1994. Here’s something more. Twenty years ago, I hadn’t even heard of the term “Mommy Shaming”. Sure, I would see the mom cliques during school functions when my oldest was growing up. And yeah, I would get a sideways glance from another mommy from time to time, which I usually attributed to being ten years younger and looking it than most of the moms in my daughter’s class. (My husband and I started our family when we were both 21 years old). Sometimes, I would accredit those looks to my obvious baking skills when I brought my offerings to the class bake sales. Or, those looks could have also been out of a mixture of curiosity or disgust because we are an interracial family. Needless to say, those fleeting looks did make me feel uncomfortable. Yet as uncomfortable as I may have felt then, it is nothing compared to the feelings that mommies, including myself, have when another mom out right shames them in a public forum.
Now, fast forward to 2016. Today, the majority of Mommy Shaming is done from behind a screen and is no better than the cyber-bullying we teach our children to look out for and report. Google the term “Mommy Shaming”, and you’ll get over 500,000 related results. In just 4 short months, I have observed the different ways to shame another mommy:
- By comparison such as my-child-versus-yours, MommyA-versus-MommyB, or this-way-versus-that-way of doing things
2. Name calling i.e. thigh-gap crew, sanctimommies, crunchy
3. Acting holier than thou (where the term sanctimommy comes into play and is closely related to #1)
4. Posting articles and memes and tagging a mom you know parents a little differently than you do.
Sadly, before my wee one has even figured out the art of sitting up on her own, I have been on the receiving end of Mommy Shaming; most recently with the double whammy of my-child-versus-yours mixed in with an article to back this other mommy’s claim. The reason? I decided to start feeding my child her first foods. In this case, I had posted a picture of my baby with a happy, messy face. She really did enjoy that organic oatmeal. I knew she was curious about foods. I know she can sit with help of her Boppy Chair. I know that food is just for “fun”. I know babies need either breastmilk or formula as their main source of nutrition. What I didn’t know is that I would be shamed for feeding her an age appropriate food: “Ben* has never had baby food ” along with an article about baby-led weaning. This woman and I have been acquaintances for a few years now. In fact, her ex-husband and his family have been close family friends since we were children. This other mommy is also a nurse, and often posts great articles that I read and comment positively on. The article she included this time was also informative; but I am not weaning my daughter, just letting her explore food. I am pretty sure this mommy didn’t even realize she had shamed me. Yet, after comments from my mom, sisters, and girlfriends about how cute my little Sweet Pea was in that picture; this mommy had to put her two cents in about her way of doing things and information to back up her claims. I just responded by telling her thanks for the article. Thank goodness for my little sister! She had my back like she always does and was quick to point out that some babies sleep better with a bit of solid food in their tummies. (I love you, Kayla!). But of course, the mommy (would she be considered a sanctimommy?) had to put her cents in and talk about lack of scientific evidence and blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, my sister is messaging me to make sure I am okay and to remind me that I am a great mommy and to do what ever works for my family. To make a long story short, I ended up just deleting the original post because I didn’t want to deal with any more comments from the mommy shamer.
Mommy shaming has become so prevalent in our society that there are even trends in the shame game:
- Breastfeeding– vs. formula, breastfeeding + formula, in public, cover or no cover, up to a year, more than a year
- Snacks– organic vs. non-organic snacks
- Parties– Pinterest perfect, store-bought vs. homemade, theme vs. no theme
- Mom Fashion and Hair– mom jeans, yoga pants, messy buns vs. coiffed hair, natural vs. make-up
- Working Mom vs. Stay at Home Mom (SAHM)
- Baby food– store bought vs. homemade, baby food vs. baby-led weaning
- Baby transportation– baby wearing vs. stroller or carrier
Seriously mommies, unless another mommy is abandoning, abusing or neglecting her child or allowing another person to abuse or neglect her child we don’t need to shame each other. Are your children fed, clothed, given shelter, and loved? YES! Are mine? YES! We are all doing the best we know how on any given day. My sister summed it perfectly, “What works for you, works for you!”
P.S. This article was not meant to shame my shamer. My story is included to illustrate a mild case of Mommy Shaming.
*Name has been changed.