Updated: Nov 14, 2019
We seriously need to talk about this.
My first experience with mom shaming was when my oldest daughter was just 5 months old. I had been snap-chatting a local mom friend of mine, when mid-sentence, my daughter let loose screaming telling me to pick her up RIGHT NOW. So like the good employee I am, I obliged. I pop a bottle in her mouth and get right back to what I was doing. I replayed the failed snap and found it to be a kind of funny and relatable experience! I posted the cute video to a mom Facebook group and captioned it, “A mother’s work is never done”, and maybe a silly emoji.
Boy did they rip me a new one. Women from all over the world were calling me a terrible mother. They even invited me to a new Facebook group made for mom shaming just to call me out! To my horror, apparently I was a terrible mother for not teleporting to my child the instant her chin began to quiver. I was negligent, an abuser, and careless. Hundreds of comments poured in and eventually I couldn’t keep up. And once they had their fill, they kicked me from the group.
That was my introduction to the heinous world of online mom shaming. Now three years later, if I had a dollar for every instance of mom shaming I’ve witnessed, I’d be rich. I’ve learned there are different types and forms of cyber bullying in the mother community. And while this seems a new problem, it’s really not. It’s an age old problem, only updated with new capabilities. Raise your hand if you’ve been victimized by your mother-in-law, your own mother, grandma or any other woman in regards to how you raise your kids?!
Through my experiences, I’ve learned how to handle the challenges of mom shaming and successfully navigate the world of social media as a mother. These are my tips for new moms trying to find their way and create a positive online experience for mothers:
Only you know what is best for your child.
Everybody thinks they know better, everybody has their own opinion, and it’s annoying! You must understand and recognize that other comments and opinions can come from a good place, but only you know what is best for your kids. You know them better than ANYONE! And most importantly, you know them every minute of every day in REAL LIFE, not just through a photo or video on social media. So you must trust yourself. Trust that you know how to gauge when your baby is cold or needs to be swaddled tighter. Mama knows best!
Don’t be a judgmental mom.
The same goes in reverse, though. Women have such a strong sense of nurturing that it comes naturally to want to care for others’ children. Don’t. Just as you wouldn’t want to be judged on how you parent, it is not your place to pass unsolicited advice and judgments online. If you see a mom who is doing something you wouldn’t do or would do differently, your reasoning doesn’t matter. Trust me, it is best to keep your thoughts to yourself. The golden rule says, “treat others the way you’d like to be treated”, and it still holds true online and on social media.
Understand everyone has different situations.
A mild annoyance for one person could equate to actual anxiety for others. You don’t know how your comments could effect them. And with moms already having a higher risk for depression and anxiety, you must be understanding and caring. The phase of life as a new mother can be the least confident time in a woman’s life. Even the most self-assured mother could only appear that way on the outside, but on the inside have severe insecurities. The smallest comments can plant seeds of doubt and be quite destructive to a mom’s self esteem. So be understanding of everyone’s personalities and circumstances, and you’ll be sure to avoid causing hurt.
Don’t take comments personally. I know, this is HARD.
If you receive comments from other moms meant to shame you, tell yourself this very important reminder: it’s because they are insecure. And it is the truth, mama! They attack and name-call, like they didn’t just knock their kids’ head on the car putting him in his car seat with a sippy cup full of simple sugars while he watches too much TV on his tablet. So don’t worry and don’t take comments personally. It will be hard, but nobody is perfect and neither is the person making you feel like a terrible mother.
Give advice kindly and receive it graciously.
I know what you’re thinking, not all advice is malicious! Of course this is true, especially on safety matters. If somebody needs a polite nudge in the right direction as far as car seat safety goes there is a kind way to convey the message and a gracious way to receive it. In the world of social media and picture-sharing, we do feel the need to point out low chest clips and loose straps. Helpful and important advice from a genuine place does exist, so give the advice and try not to sound judgmental. Offer real, helpful tips for the mom to put into practice! And when it comes time to take advice, remind yourself that you aren’t perfect. Take that helpful advice as a gift and thank your fellow mamas for taking the time to lend a hand.
Finally, let moms live.
So, I’m calling it. I’m calling everybody including myself out because I’m totally guilty of it as well. We CAN do without the little comments and it costs nothing to be kind. So when we see a mom deciding to use formula instead of breast milk simply because that’s what she wants, then let her live! Move along and raise your kid how you want to. Lastly, for the love of Target and espresso stop assuming. Stop assuming the worst in people and we will all be better for it.
About the contributor:
After seeing her first episode of Gilmore Girls, Sarah had been obsessed with the idea of becoming a girl mom. Now, she has Audrey and Serenity! Sarah lives in a beautiful and quirky small town on a lake with her dogs, cats, and her husband, Chase. She is a photographer in her spare time because she loves showcasing the world in a different way, something she finds enlightening and inspiring. Sarah is also a MentorMama for SocialMama.