Parenting Without Shame
- You do your best during pregnancy and later becoming a parent, but opinions fly when it comes to caring for your baby.
- There is a difference between a helpful piece of advice and straight up shaming someone.
- You have the power to be your own advocate and create boundaries with all those mom shamers out there!
Have you ever talked with a friend or family member that made you feel like you were a bad mom? Most parents can probably say yes. Maybe they were surprised to hear that you don’t sleep train your baby. Maybe they thought that you should give your baby formula like your mom did.
This is called “mom shaming”. Urban Dictionary says its “criticizing or degrading a mother for her parenting choices because they differ from the choices the shamer would make.” You are not alone if you have ever felt this way.
A national poll of nearly 500 moms, conducted by Michigan Medicine’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, found that almost two-thirds of moms have felt mom-shamed. 6 in 10 mothers report they have been criticized about how they parent their young child. It was most common that they felt shamed by other family members. Topics like how a baby is fed, discipline, sleeping, safety, & childcare are just a few that were used to shame parents. These parenting choices can feel like hot button topics nowadays!
How to Respond to Shaming
Most of people will be criticized because of our parenting choices at some point. What matters is how you feel about it and how you respond.
Moms in the survey responded in different ways. Many looked for more information on a topic. Some moms even changed their parenting decisions as a result of learning more. You can always look into what is best for you and your baby by speaking with other moms and then asking a health professional like a pediatrician or other provider.
Mom-shaming can start right away. When you are pregnant you’ll find out that everyone has opinions! It’s good to be prepared for when a conversation like this comes up. Here are some tips on how to handle criticism:
- Listen to what they are saying. If it’s someone you have a good relationship with, they may just be trying to give you advice that worked for them or they know to be true from evidence-based sources. It could be genuine concern or helpful suggestions for you to consider.
- If you start to feel offended and hurt by their comments think about whether this person is the best person to take advice from or not. Are they shaming you with no thought of your feelings? If so, they may not be a good person to keep around. Leave the conversation and take a moment to compose yourself if you feel like this will become a bad argument.
- Carefully think about whether there might be any truth in what they are saying and maybe look into the topic more afterwards so you can feel confident in your decisions as a parent.
- If their advice does not feel helpful or is just plain mean, you can say something like ‘Thank you, but I’m happy with my decision. Then move on or end the conversation.
Reminder: No matter how much you explain yourself, some people will still shame you. You do not owe any one that is not parenting your child an explanation!
Shame vs. Advice
There is a difference between someone shaming you for your decisions, and someone providing considerate advice. Think about which friends or family members encourage you in your parenting.
For example, maybe when you were trying to pick out a baby bottle, your aunt or friend offered great advice on what worked for them. She asked you questions to help you make a decision that worked well for your family. Remember that she is a safe person and will be a good person to talk to when you need help with your child.
Now think about which friends or family members have discouraged you in the past. Set boundaries with those people so that you don’t expose yourself to unhealthy criticism.
For example, if your mother says that she can’t believe that your 2-year old is sleeping in your bed, but you know that it helps your daughter feel safe, then it’s a good decision for you and your daughter. You can set a boundary with your mother. Tell her that you have already made this decision, and it works best for you and your daughter for the time being.
It’s okay to create boundaries, and be able to decide who gets to have a say in how you parent.
Share Support Not Shame
Remember the next time that you have a conversation on parenting with a family member or friend that everyone trying to make the best decisions for their children. They love their children and do the best they can with the information & resources available.
It is okay to do your research on the best techniques of parenting and to seek support for parenting. Choose what is best for your child based on their development, emotional needs, and your capacity as parents. Be a mom who encourages others in parenting instead of bring people down!