Becoming a mom sometimes feels like you finally got invited into a super-secret society of women. Suddenly, there are playgroups to attend, Facebook groups you can join, and a group of people with a deep mutual understanding of what it’s like to raise children. For me, becoming a mom opened up my circle and expanded it into something I always hoped for: friends. Friends who are in that same stage of life and can resonate with all the feelings surrounding children and becoming a mother.
Unfortunately, that secret society of women isn’t always supportive. Mom shaming is a common phrase we hear all the time. While the idea of shaming is rooted in all aspects of life (bullies on the playground, overbearing parents, insensitive bosses), the shaming that surrounds raising a child often feels magnified.
How to Cope with Mom Shaming
Mom shaming can take all different forms. Sadly, it can start even before you give birth. You may encounter another mom who berates you for drinking an iced coffee while pregnant. There are the moms who shame those who choose not to breastfeed the moment the baby is born. As your children get older, you may get shamed for the toys you buy, the amount of screen time you offer, the foods you give, and the list goes on and on.
You may also be shamed for the choices you make for yourself. Other moms may make you feel bad about yourself for choosing to stay home. Or they make you feel guilty for choosing a daycare. They may judge you for taking a vacation without your kids or judge you for wanting to spend every moment with them. There is truly no way to escape the mom shamers. Instead, it’s smart to learn how to cope with it.
1. Know that you are the best mother for your child.
The most important piece of advice any new mother needs is that they are the mother who is meant for their child. No matter what choices you make for them, your child needs you and only you. If you send your kids to daycare, they will thrive. If you stay home, they will thrive. Or if you feed them all organic foods, they will thrive. And if you hit the drive-through four times a week, they will thrive. It truly doesn’t matter what choices you make. As long as you have your kids’ best interest at heart and do everything you can to ensure they are happy and healthy, you are doing great—and so are they!
2. Understand that their shaming may be rooted in insecurity.
Mom shaming can also come as your kids begin to hit, or not hit, their milestones. Moms who feel insecure about their own child’s development may shame your child who is hitting milestones quicker—and vice versa. A mom who makes you feel bad for not breastfeeding may have had a challenging journey. Perhaps she feels ashamed at herself for not taking that same route. Of course, none of that makes it okay to mom shame. But if you can understand that their negativity comes from their own choices and insecurities and not yours, it is much easier to cope with.
3. Avoid those who continuously shame you.
Some women will always find something negative to say. Cut those people out! Of course, if the shaming is coming from a family member, this may be easier said than done. But if that person is in a mom group or a friend group, there’s no reason to keep them in your life. Being a mom is hard, and as they say, “it takes a village.” You don’t need a village member bringing you down every step of the way. From experience, those types of women will only get worse with time. Try your best to surround yourself with positive mom figures who love your children and accept your choices, even if they are different from theirs.
4. Look for signs of ignorance.
Often, mom-shaming can come from a lack of understanding. This is especially true with older generations, like our own parents and grandparents, who were taught completely different things about raising children. Sometimes, our parents may even take offense to us wanting to do things differently. When I was younger, sleep training wasn’t a thing, so it makes sense that older generations can’t understand why you would take that approach. When this happens, try to explain why your choices make sense to you and why they are great for your children. If they still don’t come around, remind yourself that not everything they did was perfect. If they had the modern tools we have today, they might have made different choices as well.
5. Be confident in your parenting.
I’ll repeat it: you are the best mom for your kids! When you encounter a mom shamer, the best way to handle it is with confidence. If you know that your choices are what’s best for your family, you will be much better equipped to speak to or walk away from that rude mom at the playground. Who cares if she gives you side-eye when you hand your prepackaged kid snacks? You can ignore the mom at music class who scoffs when she sees you giving your baby a pacifier.
As moms, we will always feel a sense of insecurity when it comes to raising our kids. The back of our minds will always replay the same sentence: Am I doing this right? The best we can do is recognize that every single parent will always make different choices when it comes to our kids. We are all so fortunate to have the opportunity to join this secret society of parents—so to all the moms out there: let’s do better.