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Hey Moms, Let’s Stop the Shaming

One of the things that surprised me the most about becoming a mother was how many people have opinions—and aren’t afraid to share them!—on how we choose to raise our kids. Women are seemingly more susceptible to the spectrum of scrutiny (I touched upon this in my May Mission letter), but I was slightly blindsided by how criticism and judgement increased when I became a mom. From the names we pick for our babies to whether we breastfeed to whether we co-sleep seems to be up for discussion, even though our approaches to parenting are the most personal of choices. Let’s face it, we’re all just trying to do our best, one day at a time.

I, for one, have been “mom shamed,” and, if we’re getting super honest here, I’m sure I’ve judged a mom or two in my wake. I’ve been approached (read: interrupted) about the food that I feed my kids, or the way that I dress them (too feminine or too masculine). I saw a tidal wave of judgement when I shared pictures of my sons with fresh coats of ninja-turtle green nail polish on their tiny fingers – not because they were excited to have their hands resemble the likes of Leonardo’s or Michelangelo’s, but perhaps because this beauty ritual might “emasculate” my toddlers? I’ve even been judged by how big or small my baby bump appeared (aren’t I eating for two? Or should I not have that second donut…). I’ve also been told that I have a great body “for having kids.” Not only is this insulting, because I’m equally as proud of taking care of myself as I am for carrying three healthy, beautiful children inside of me – I’m also proud of the ways my body has changed since then! It’s an insult disguised as a compliment that I can’t help but take personally, even though I know I work hard to stay in good physical and emotional shape for myself and my family.

So here’s the thing: it’s hurtful, because I didn’t ask for any of it. I never asked if I should paint my sons’ nails, or if my baby bump was abnormally large, or if anyone thinks it’s weird to meditate with my kids, or how many times my boys are allowed to watch Ninjago on repeat. Being a receptacle of judgement can be isolating and confusing, because it can immediately trigger feelings of not being “enough.”

Emotionally, we need to validate both ourselves and one another because we’re essentially all just trying to learn on the fly. Motherhood doesn’t come with a handbook- none of us are getting it right all of the time. Negative words can be passed as a collection of small judgements that lead to a larger projection of invalidation. Sometimes, our small judgements are masked as “advice” when we were never invited to chime in in the first place. On the other hand, sometimes we’re extending “coping mechanisms” that come off as put-downs to disguise our own feelings of inadequacy.

When we strive to feel perfect, or expect our friends, family, and partners to be perfect in order to not trigger the parts of ourselves that we feel are lacking, we isolate instead of include. The last thing any mother, or parent, wants to feel is inadequate. True belonging happens when our authentic, imperfect selves are presented to the world. In the absence of shame, we can truly feel received.

In order to stop shaming, we have to be the first ones to stop judging each other. In fact, I’m proposing that we all commit to a “judgement cleanse,” which also means refraining from judging ourselves. For instance, my husband I and chose to go the breastfeeding route for all of our kids, but my middle one only wanted a bottle around five months. What felt like throwing in the towel was actually doing the appropriate thing, so I gave my baby formula. I remember judging myself and overcompensating to people by over-explaining why I had come to this decision. Didn’t they know it was only because he refused to drink from my breast? But let’s say the opposite were true. Let’s say he wanted breastmilk, but I couldn’t make that work. Let’s pretend I couldn’t produce milk, or that I just didn’t enjoy the breastfeeding experience—all of which are a reality for some moms. THAT’S OKAY!

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The whole point is to be the best version of a parent and raise healthy, nice kids. So if that means feeding a baby formula out of a plastic bottle, we got to do what we gotta do. At the end of the day it is NOBODY’s business how or what I feed my children. I am a mom just trying to get by. We all are.

We should try to be better about treating each others’ choices with respect and understanding. You may have opinions about how another mom is disciplining her two year-old who’s throwing a tantrum at the park, disagree with what she’s giving her toddler for lunch, or want to lose it on the mom who can’t get her kid to stop crying on a cross-country flight. But you know what? She’s doing the best she can, too, just like you are on a day when your kids are being impossible. And it’s one thing to give your opinion or your advice when you’re asked for it, but pointing out what you think she’s doing wrong to make her feel bad is telling her that she isn’t enough, that she doesn’t belong, and that she’s not worthy.

So, if you see a mom being shamed or simply having a tough time, step in and offer some words of encouragement. If you feel quick to judge, opt for being kind instead (which is also sending some good kindness karma to yourself on a bad day, too). Extend her a hand, validate her, and let her know that she’s doing a great job. Your encouraging words can simply be, “Hey, this motherhood thing is really hard. I understand what you’re going through, and you’re kicking ass.”

Because if moms can’t support each other during the rough times, who will? Let’s try to remember that we’re all in this together, because loving ourselves through this process is the bravest thing we can do.

 
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23 Comments

  • Elena

    Thank you for sharing this! I feel the same way. We as moms need to lift each other up instead of shaming. We all are doing the best we can to provide for our families. We need to embrace this and learn from another.

  • Mary Bryant

    Well put….
    I practice not giving my input if not asked and always be kind/ encouraging.
    Being judgemental is also a mechanism of control.
    Many need to relax and give themselves permission to just live and let live instead of this rigid, controlling perspective. They inflict it on themselves and then by extension, others.

  • Alice

    You tell them Gen! Your kids seem happy and healthy so people should just stop with the judgement. I can’t imagine how hard it is a Mum as it’s exhausting enough being Aunty for a few hours. Kudos to those who dedicate their lives to a really tough and underrated job xxx

  • Suzanne Lopez-Calleja

    Gen, this is the best article on your blog (so far). As someone who couldn’t breast feed my oldest, I received so much unnecessary hurtful criticism, although I did tell those people where to stick it 😉

  • Sabrina Travers

    I really enjoyed this post as it rings SO true. I’m a mom of two young children and have definitely been judged since becoming a mom. It’s a hard thing being a parent since no one knows what they’re doing and to be put down about it is Ludacris. I’ve found a very small tribe of my own that I stick with that are very supportive and uplifting. Being a mom is the hardest job I’ve ever had but I wouldn’t change it for the world, I love my babies to no end.

  • kendra laytart

    I love this!! Moms often don’t see that what they’re going through is okay. I don’t judge mom’s because I don’t know them, their kid/kids, and their life situation. It NOT my job to judge people, its my job yo make sure they know that they’re loved and appreciated. That doesn’t just go for moms, it goes for everyone

  • Jeanette Brown

    Gen YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY ENOUGH! This article was wonderful. You are wonderful. Your children are happy and healthy, and you (and your husband) are the only one who should decide whether you breast feed, cosleep, keep a schedule, paint nails, anything. . . I have always been impressed with the stuff you have shared with us. I think, from what I can see, that you guys are doing a great job- however you are raising them. Keep doing what you are doing, and ignore the naysayers.

  • Milica

    I am not a mom but I did enjoy reading this and I wanted to thank you for saying all of this. You are truely a grat role model. I do judge people enen though I try not too but I at least keep it for my self and don’t say it to tem online or in person because you never know what someone is going true. Once again thank you for writing this sending my love to you and your family from Serbia <3

  • Hailey Owens

    Thank you so much for sharing this. We have to lift each other up and encourage one another. No one is a true parenting “expert”. Gen, your children are beautiful and happy because of you and Jared. You are doing an amazing job!!! Thank you so much for everything that you do.

  • Stephanie

    I love this post! Lately I’ve had family make backhanded comments about how I raise my son. This shaming is not necessary and I constantly need to remind myself to not take it personally. I commend you for posting what many moms feel.

  • Christa

    Wise words. Thank you for reminding us to put kindness out into the world and to hold each other up. Keep up the good work in life and here. Xo

  • Melanie Arresse

    Gen, thank you for Sharing this!! You are so right! Your post helps me a lot, I’ve joined this motherhood journey just 2 weeks ago with my first baby. So thank you! And please keep posting, it really helps!

  • Erika Vernaet

    I have had people that I was a bad mother because I walked my girls to school every day until they were old enough to tell me when they were ready to walk alone. I bought them cell phones just to tell me when they arrived at school. I was and still am a stay at home mom from day one. I never got a babysitter unless it was my parents. But other mother’s judged me. I felt alone but not wrong.

  • Erin

    This is me- giving you and internet fist bump with much respect. Amen. Word. High five. All that jazz. 👊🏻

  • Elena Alkhimova

    I have two grown children. My daughter is twenty years old. She’s pregnant. Last Friday, she learned that her first child would be a son. Soon I will be a grandmother. I am very pleased, and I really want to save my daughter from judgment. Unfortunately, there are too many such “well-wishers” that I think are possible to judge others! Thank you, Genevieve, that you touched upon such an important topic for all mothers. From Ukraine whith love

  • Elena Alkhimova

    Compliments are a very delicate matter. That for some people a compliment, for others can be a very serious insult and hurt their feelings. Let no one ever hurt your feelings. May the Lord bless your whole family.

  • Jordy

    The mom-shaming has gotten to a ridiculous point nowadays. With Instagram, the second anyone posts a photo of something to do with their kid, there’s always a person or two who points out something. A snapshot in the moment apparently gives the illusion that it’s fact, and people are harsh. I think so long as a child is well-fed, nurtured, and mentally and physically supported, then keep opinions to yourself. The nail polish thing was bizarre to me, because it’s not a harmful thing in any way. Critics have no right and we all need to be more supportive and uplifting.

  • Suzette

    Thank you for sharing. As a parent of a child with mental health struggles I get the “well, if you would just…” statements almost daily. I can’t even imagine the judgement you must get raising your children in the public eye. While most of us only have to put up with our own circle of friends and a handful of strangers chiming in at the grocery store, you have to navigate thousands of prying eyes and “suggestions” from strangers daily. I applaud your resilience and willingness to be open about your life with all of us despite the criticism. Kudos to you and Jared and your beautiful children and thank you for helping to normalize and encourage acceptance. No one is perfect, we will all make mistakes. But as you saidn we are in this together!

  • Montana Moore

    Wow, Gen. Knocking it out of the park, with an issue I hadn’t realize was getting so bad. You’ve really shown light on the subject and as usually I’m proud of you for being braver the rest of us and talking about what needs to be talked about ❤❤

  • Betty

    I’m not a mother but I love your post alot. Your kids are so happy. I think it’s awesome you take care of them instead of nannies or etc. My mom was at home mom I saw her struggle all the time. It’s hard. Your doing great.

  • Charlotte Paul

    I am an extremely non-judgemental person and always wish that others would be so, too. Unfortunately I had more than my share considering my parenting skills! I may be wrong sometimes (hey, I’m human! And everyone is a firsttimer parent as each kid is different or the circumstances are) but I definitely am a very dedicated mother and such comments ae hurtful and only fuelled my insecurities! So thanks thanks thanks for pouting this out and inspiring us to be a better person!

  • Veronica McGee

    Very good read. I became a first-time mom in April when my husband and I were blessed with a newborn baby to adopt. I’m the type of person that immediately calls someone out if I feel they’re judgy or being passive aggressive. What I wasn’t prepared for is those that feel entitled to talk to me, interrupt me, and provide unsolicited advice that I don’t want. Having a baby with me does not give friends or strangers they right to provide me with unwanted attention. I realize it’s joyous to have a baby but this journey was long, emotional, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Frankly, sometimes I just don’t want to talk or engage and I certainly don’t want to hear judgement.

  • Liz Brown

    I so agree with your words in this article and think you hit the nail on the head. We are all to quick to judge others when we don’t see the whole picture, let’s say. When you are doing your best and raising, healthy, happy, kind, caring children it is awesome. Mothers and others should be ashamed of shaming others. If they are not your children, you do not have the right to tell their parents how to raise them. Things have changed so much since I was a mother with a daughter and I think it is harder for the parents and the kids today. As my grandmother use to tell me, if you can’t say something nice or help someone, don’t say or do anything. Everyone needs encouragement and a feeling of selfworth. We should all encourage each other, be kind to each other, and help each other that we may be better ourselves.

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