“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.” ― Louis C.K.
If you’re not a mom, you may not understand the sideways looks and comments we have to deal with on a regular basis. If that’s the case, let this be a sliver of preparation for you. Tuck this into your back pocket for when you see someone being shamed; you might be able to stand up for a mom that’s struggling.
If you are a mom, and you haven’t yet experienced the hatred some people are capable of – awesome! When you inevitably do (because, unfortunately, there’s always something you do/believe that will put someone off), maybe this will help you formulate an appropriate response. Maybe this will even help you not explode in someone’s face.
I would love to share my personal stories with you all; however, I don’t feel comfortable posting them out of respect for those they involve. Instead, I’ve gathered a collection of anonymous stories from some other mothers. These ladies are always the nicest, kindest people when others have questions, and are always willing to offer support and be uplifting when we need it most.
“I am actively Mom shamed by strangers, even friends have and “family” because I am a young Mom and my husband and I have an age gap. Hubby and I are 15 years apart, I’m 24 (our oldest is 3.5 and youngest 1). People think my kids were an oops, no they were planned REALLY! And I have been told too many times to that I could not possibly understand what’s it’s like to be an ACTUAL Mom because I’m too young. That I just don’t get it yet and that there is no way I’m a good caring, loving Mom. Because I’m young. It’s exhausting trying to always prove myself as a Mom.”
“My principal shamed me about getting pregnant at the wrong time- (I was [pregnant] right up until state testing). [Apparently] I can “time that better.””
“When my second was around 6 months old I was on the WIC program with him. I was doing shopping for that & waited my turn in a long line. When it came my turn to check out, one of the items I picked up wasn’t right. They sent someone to grab the correct item & this older man waiting in line started causing a scene & yelling loudly saying how I shouldn’t have kids I couldn’t take care of, that’s his tax [dollar] I’m using, bla bla bla. I walked out of the store in tears & was always scared to go shopping again”
“…She asks me if I breastfeed my son. I told her not anymore, he had ties that were revised but it didn’t fix the problems we had. She tells me “well that must be why you’re back at work so early. I breastfeed and it takes so much more time and energy. You just get so much more sleep formula feeding.””
“My dad absolutely hates that I [breastfeed] my son and am going to [breastfeed] my next son (due in October). He makes it a point to bring up how gross it is…”
She then goes on to say how her father made a crude analogy between men and breastfeeding women in public, involving public indecency. I’m sure you can guess what he said next – trying to keep it PG-13 here. Ridiculous! This mother, in response to my asking if I could share her story, said: “Tell them not to let anything stop them. I have full intentions of breastfeeding this child until he self weans. Regardless of what anyone [he or anyone else] says.” You rock, mama!
“After I had my first, I “wasn’t trying hard enought to breastfeed”. After I had my second “you shouldn’t make him work so hard to get breast milk, just give him some formula.” I was exclusively pumping.”
“…my own mother called me [a] wretched parent for letting my daughter cry in her crib. I had just spent over an hour trying to calm her down and put her back to bed after her brother woke her up. She started kicking, hitting, biting, and nothing calmed her. So this was the last ditch effort. Letting her cry for a few minutes. Because we all need a good cry sometimes right? Nope. Mom swings by to borrow something and lets me know how awful I am on her way out”
“A little old lady made small talk with the two year old [telling] her how beautiful she was. Then the lady asked if she could see the baby, so I lifted the cover back so she could take a peek. And with the most serious tone says “WHAT is wrong with her face? Shouldn’t you do something about that? You don’t want her growing up as the ugly sister.” In my stunned [shock], all I could muster was that it was called eczema and we were working on finding a treatment. Her response “well, whatever you’re doing isn’t working””
“My son is 4m old and 21lbs ([exclusively breastfed] & 100% healthy)
A lady was recently buying clothes from me and told me “you must be doing something wrong for your son to be that fat, there’s no way he’s healthy at that weight””
“My family constantly gave me crap about how we raise our first. No junk food!? Oh that poor kid! No TV!? He’s so deprived. He’s rear facing at 3!? He’s not going to know which direction to walk. Cloth diapers? That’s nasty. Breast feeding!? You know you can use formula!?”
“I’ve been mom shamed for vaccinating my kids , mom shamed for being a plant based household, mom shamed for homeschooling, mom shamed for being [crunchy]! Ehh.. I never really care much for what anyone thinks or says. Long as I know I’m doing my best to do what’s best for my [little ones,] then their opinions are just that, opinions. God knows my heart and that’s all that matters! We moms aren’t perfect but as long as we try our very best then I say NO REGRETS.”
So… What to Do?
So how on earth should you respond to these? It’s tough! I am, by no means, a confrontational person. However, had I found myself in one of these situations, I may have reacted quite rashly; some of these ladies are literally saints!
The second-best piece advice I ever got as a mom was to “smile and nod” whenever a family member, friend, or stranger offers you “bad” advice on how to parent your own children. I have used this numerous times; sometimes you just have to deflect and move on. This is also my go-to for mild mom-shaming offenses. Sometimes it even works in more extreme circumstances, although you can be seen as very rude. But, let’s be honest, sometimes the situation just calls for rudeness in the name of self-defense.
Another great way to approach mom-shaming in negative circumstances is to have a formulated response that you can give to anyone. Something like: “While I appreciate your concern, I know my kids better than anyone and am handling this situation.” This can very quickly change the direction of the conversation and even end it entirely.
Hopefully, you don’t find yourself faced with this type of negative and demeaning interaction with another person; but if you do, you now have a leg up!
What have people said to you that made your jaw drop? How did you respond? Drop a line in the comments below!
P.S. You’re a parent, and that’s already the hardest job in the world. Give yourself a pat on the back today for coming this far without losing your marbles.
Until next time,