Mom-shaming IS a thing. It’s more prevalent than you think. What is it exactly? It is any comment or even non-verbal gesture that criticizes, challenges or degrades a woman for her decisions made as a mother. Often they are subtle remarks, spoken in a cavalier manner, with the offender not even meaning any harm. Other times, they are intentionally said to make the woman feel bad. Either way, it needs to stop.
But Carolyn, what do you know? You’ve only been a mom for a year! I know, I know, I’m very new at this. However, from the moment I announced that I was pregnant until now, I’ve heard it all. I’ve also heard such comments from other mom friends, and even in public among strangers. Celebrity moms like my girl, Chrissy Teigen, are always more vulnerable to this sharp criticism as well. I am no saint…I am guilty of passing judgement on moms before I even became one. I’ve come up with a list of examples that either I have experienced or I’ve been told from other moms.
**Caveat: Not all women feel this way, this is purely my own opinion. I’m not trying to tell you what NOT to say, but to shed some light on how seemingly well-meaning comments MAY be interpreted.
–“Are you trying” (to have a baby)– You might as well ask “Are you and your husband intentionally having sex with the ultimate goal of conception?!” Sounds ridiculous that way right? So yes, none of your business, move on.
–“Your biological clock is ticking, you don’t want to wait until it’s too late”– Again… personal timing and family planning is not any of your business. Every woman is VERY aware of how old they are and do not need reminders. Also, you don’t know how long they have already been trying (months/years!) or the struggles with fertility they may be going through.
–”Would you rather boy or girl?” / “I hope you have a _____, they’re easier/better.”– I know this is a natural question to ask. But really what you may be saying is “What gender would make you more disappointed”. I’ve actually overhead the following gossip: “She wanted a boy and she got a girl instead, isn’t that a shame”. No, because she is still going to love that baby either way. Yes, it’s fun to imagine what a girl/boy might be like for them, but let’s be real: if conceived naturally, there is no control over the gender. So is it worth even inserting your opinion on the matter?
–”You should try to deliver naturally” / ”Oh you got an epidural/c-section? You didn’t experience a real delivery then”– Since when is true womanhood indicative of how she delivered her baby?! There was no way I was going to NOT have an epidural, because I’m a baby myself when it comes to pain and am a firm believer in anesthetics. Do I feel that I didn’t experience childbirth? Not in the least bit. I had no choice but to have a c-section after Chase experienced trauma during delivery. I do, however, I fully respect the woman who delivered a baby without a single drug…you are quite the warrior, girlfriend.
-“Breast is Best” / “Formula is so much easier”– This is a constant conversation among new moms these days. There are benefits for both…and you know who is the best at making those decisions? You guessed it- the mom (with guidance from her baby’s pediatrician, of course). Breastfeeding is HARD, especially when you’re a working mom. When I returned to work full-time at 4 months post-partum, I was astonished to discover that the designated “nursing room” was a 4’x5’ CLOSET with an accordion door that did not lock. I opted to sit in a dark semi-private room attached to the break room for half an hour, twice a day, to milk like a cow. Then when I started doing OT home visits, I was pumping AND driving while calling patients…no bueno. Breastfeeding was becoming the bane of my existence. When I switched to formula at 7 months, that burden was lifted and I didn’t feel guilty at all for throwing my pump into storage. Here’s another thing: Not every woman is able to produce milk, even if she wanted to! So that was a “choice” that was already made for her. Don’t make her feel bad for using the powder. Here is an interesting article supporting both.
–“You don’t make your baby’s food?” / “Only organic? Aren’t you a bougie mom!”– Similar to the previous topic, what a mother puts in her baby’s belly is up to her. Yes, I started off making Chase’s pureed foods from scratch. It actually was fun to steam carrots/peas, blend them and freeze them in these little silicone pods. I love baby gadgets, so I was all about it! Then he got older and pickier and I had less time and I got super lazy. So I converted to using pre-made pouches and wondered where these have been all my life! I try to stick with organic products because it appeases my conscience, but sometimes I’ll throw him some regular pasta or Cheerios without a second thought. I don’t stick my nose up to the mom who gives their baby conventional Gerber over the organic choices. They aren’t poisoning their baby, relax! Food is food, and unless they’re offering them raw meat or jars of sugar, let it go.
–”Co-sleeping is a bad idea” / “Why don’t you just let him cry it out?”– I put these both together because sleep is a biiiiig topic. I got this fancy, shmancy Halo Swivel Sleeper Bassinet that I was so excited to use with Chase. It even had features for vibration, nursing timer and a nightlight! Guess how many nights he slept in it? Two. We decided to co-sleep because it’s the only place he would sleep for more than 2 hours at a time. When you have a newborn, SLEEP IS THE MOST PRECIOUS THING IN THE WORLD…for all parties involved. It was survival mode. I have been scolded on multiple occasions for co-sleeping. And yes, I’ve read extensive articles on SIDS and smothering your baby. I do believe having them in the crib as early as possible is ideal, but it’s not always feasible. PLUS, studies show that many families in both indigenous and industrialized countries participate in bed sharing with their children, and it doesn’t truly affect their development or independence. More on that here.
–”Don’t you want to stay at home and bond with your child” / “You need to get back to work ASAP”– Well there’s not much I have to say about this other than to each her own. Some have the luxury of staying home and soaking in every moment with their happy, bouncing baby. Some take the 6-8 weeks off and are back in the office because they can’t afford any more time off. Some make the conscious choice to go back to work because the work-home balance suits them best. I fall into the last category… I love having a career in healthcare and as an adjunct professor, but then having my nights and weekends for my husband and Chase. I function best and am happier when I have both of these roles fulfilled.
So there you have it….mom-shaming. You know what is ironic? Most women are vehemently against any man or legislator making decisions about her body. But then here are women making critical comments about what another pregnant woman and mothers should be doing with her body and/or child. We need to look in the mirror on this one. Very few are an expert at parenting, but every mom is an expert at their own child. You know them best. Being a mom is tough. Some critique and feedback is helpful (when it comes from the right place). Some are better left unsaid. They say it takes a village…let’s hope we can all become a more supportive one.