Mom Shaming: 4 Trends that Need to Stop
By: Natasha Sharma, M.Sc., CCPA
Director, Relationship Expert, and Doctoral Student
10 Four Seasons Place, Suite 1000
Toronto, Ontario, M9B 6H7
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I have the good fortune of being a part time stay-at-home-mom, so my 23-month old son and I occasionally go to a public drop-in centre in our neighbourhood. The other attendees vary; mostly home daycare providers, the odd grandparent, and even a rare dad-sighting here and there! On our last visit, one of the staff members pulled me aside. Apparently, another woman had been complaining about me giving my son a snack at 11:30 am because the other kids eat a snack at 10:30 am. She felt everyone should eat at the same time. My son and I usually show up at 11. I was flabbergasted. It might be the oddest thing I’ve encountered anyone to get upset about, and that’s saying a lot as a Psychotherapist in Toronto. If these kids were still nursing, would she have said “Well we all nurse together at 10:30 am, so why are you nursing at 11:30?” I think the concept of the term “drop-in” might be lost on this individual…
The incident inspired me to write about the rising frequency of women blaming, shaming, and complaining about other women. In particular, other moms. The current zeitgeist seems to be a culture where mothers discredit, disgrace, and in some cases downright degrade other mothers, a phenomenon known as Mom Shaming, or ‘M-aming’ as I like to call it. Maming can include: Criticizing, undermining, left-handed compliments, giving unsolicited advice, dubious facial expressions, or general negativity that is aimed (directly or indirectly) at another mom regarding her parenting choices, approach to motherhood, or herself. And let’s face it: I’ve done it, and so have you. At some point we’ve all judged another mom about something, whether it was in person or online. Here are some of the biggest Maming trends that have got to stop:
1. Pregnancy Weight. I remember being at a baby shower and remarking to the lady of the hour how much smaller her bump was than mine when I was the same number of months along. I meant for it to be a compliment, but she appeared slightly uncomfortable. There was no need for the comparison. I also remember being 6 months along in my own pregnancy, standing in line at Starbucks with my husband, when the woman standing behind us turned to me and asked how far along I was. She then proceeded to declare in a loud voice for all to hear how big I was for 6 months, and that I looked like I was ready to deliver right then and there! Bottom line: Unless you are a physician, nurse, or midwife whose services have been retained, it is never appropriate to comment on a woman’s size or weight, during or after pregnancy.
2. Breastfeeding. This is a big one. I remember walking into a monthly get-together with colleagues when one of them – who I see a couple of times a year at best – asked me if I was still nursing. I answered “No” (my son stopped on his own at 10 months). She responded “Oh no, so soon? That’s terrible!” with a crestfallen look on her face. There are far too many exaggerations of the benefits of breastfeeding. There certainly are some scientifically proven benefits to doing it, but they will hardly separate ‘winners’ from ‘losers’ in life. I am grateful I was able to breastfeed. But it’s easy to forget that some women have a hard time getting into it (also me), and that still others can’t breastfeed at all. When my son was a few weeks old I met another mother at our community centre. She told me she could never breastfeed no matter how hard she had tried. She was literally in tears as she spoke. You never know what another mother’s reason is for not breastfeeding. Maybe she didn’t produce enough milk, maybe her baby refused to latch, maybe she had surgery, or maybe she just doesn’t want to. She’s still doing her best, so just support her. Incidentally, I was mostly formula-fed as an infant and I think I turned out pretty well. Enough with the “Formula kills; breast is best” preaching.
3. Baby Gear. Babies need a lot of stuff these days. From the right seats and strollers, to blankets and bottles, we’ve come a long way in our understanding of safety and maximizing baby’s wellbeing. But it has gotten to be a bit much in my opinion. A year back I was sitting with my son and an acquaintance of mine, also a mom, also in a Starbucks (yes, it really is a cliché). She suddenly informed me the bottles I was using were wrong. Apparently I should have upgraded them to incorporate ‘fast flow’ nipples long ago, so he could learn to drink faster. She chastised me and advised me to get new nipples as quickly as possible. In the wake of this “nipple-emergency”, she may or may not have had a point. But I hadn’t asked for her opinion, and there was certainly no need to reprimand me. Incidentally, I never changed the nipples and my son graduated from bottles to regular cups without issue. We need to remember to mind our own business, and to be mindful of the fact that at the end of the day babies really don’t need much in order to live and develop well.
4. Working Moms vs. Stay-At-Home Moms. This is a battle as old as time, and one in which there never seems to be an ending where women can win. If a mother works, she is often criticized by non-working mothers for neglecting her children, putting her career ahead of her family, and generally not being a good mother. If a mother stays at home full-time with her children, she is often criticized by working mothers for being lazy and out of touch with the ‘real world.’ All of this is poppycock. When did we forget to support a woman’s right to choose? Whatever makes a woman happy is what makes her happy. Period. Whether it’s work or domestic bliss. Choosing one or the other does not make someone a better mother or a better human being. Some women have the luxury of staying home, or have no choice, and should never be faulted for that. Others willingly choose to work, or have no choice, and should not be condemned for having other sources of joy and fulfillment outside of children and family.
I think what we all need to remember here is that almost every mother – certainly every mother I have come across – is doing her best to raise her children as happy and healthy beings. I am reminded of a fabulous commercial that circulated a few months back where 6 different ‘parent packs’ all enter the same park with their kids. There were the “working moms”, the “feeding moms”, the “soccer moms”, etc. Just as they are all rolling up their sleeves bracing themselves for a massive parental park brawl, a stroller slips out of a pair of hands and rolls away and down a hill. Without a second thought, every single parent turned and chased this stroller until they caught up with it and baby – who was safe and sound inside – expressing their shared relief in unison. And all was well in the world. We need to do more of that! Focus on what we have in common with one another, instead of on what is different. Stop the Shaming, and the Wounding and Maming, and start ‘Saming!’ Because at the end of the day, we all want the same thing: Healthy, happy, and independent children. Who don’t live in our basements when they are 30.
“To judge is human, but to choose our actions is consciousness.”
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