Mom-shaming is pervasive and destructive, and although it’s been around for a long time, it’s gained newfound traction via the wondrous world of social media. Shamers can be crueler, more vocal, and incredibly narrow-minded as they hide behind their computer screens and keyboards. That’s not to say this is the only place mom-shaming exists but the social media atmosphere certainly adds a lot of fuel to the fire.
Why does mom shaming exist? The answer to this question is not a simple one. It likely has a lot to do with the shamer’s own insecurities about their parenting habits. And when choices are different than our own, we try to justify that our choices are best by putting others down.
It takes a village to raise a child. But why has the village turned on itself and started eating its own? As parents, we are all united in the common goal of loving and raising our children to survive and thrive. Choices might be different but that doesn’t mean they are wrong.
Here we outline some of the major topics mom-shamers go crazy over. We could all benefit from being a little more open-minded and stop the shaming. It does absolutely no good.
15 Work vs Stay at Home
Society has long been critical of working mothers, and particularly of those who leave their young infants in the care of other people to return to their job or career. Marissa Mayer, a CEO at Yahoo, certainly fueled this debate last year as she publicly announced she would take limited time away from work following the birth of her twins. Some criticized Mayer but others viewed her as an inspiring symbol of a woman who can have it all.
The reality is, some mothers can’t afford to stay home (particularly if they are the primary breadwinner), and still, others choose to return to work simply because they want to. This doesn’t mean these women are bad moms; they are simply making choices that are right for their families for whatever reasons.
One could argue that as long as children are in good care, in a loving and nurturing environment, there is no harm. In fact, it could even be the best-case scenario. We can all agree that taking care of children and babies full-time is one of the toughest jobs in the world but it isn’t for everyone.
14 Mom Types
We’re all guilty of putting other moms into a category based on our first impressions. We categorize and criticize as a means to overcome our own insecurities. Some of the common “mom types” include:
- Pulled-together mom
- Granola or crunchy mom
- Parenting expert mom
- Hot mess mom
- Pinterest or PTA mom
- Hipster mom
The list goes on but the most hated mom type is often deemed to be the pulled-together mom. And isn’t it obvious why? She appears to have it all together when the rest of us have snot, applesauce, and several other unidentifiable stains on our shirts. We rock the ponytail and haven’t worn heels in eons.
Guess what? She loves her kids just as much as you. Maybe she looks better doing it, but do you want to set an alarm to wake up to do your hair? Nope. Leave her alone. It’s her choice.
Similac produced a video last year that pokes fun at the idea of mommy wars specifically around breast versus bottle feeding but the notion of mom types is evident here, too. The ending brilliantly shows that we all have the same goal in our hearts, caring for our children.
13 Breast vs Bottle
This debate has been raging for quite some time. The “breast is best” adage has infiltrated parenting for decades but for some, breast might not be best. More recently, “fed is best” is becoming the new normal.
Die-hard breastfeeders can be overly critical of women who bottle feed their babies. But is this fair? As long as a baby is fed, cared for, and loved, does it matter if they drink formula? Some women have to give up breastfeeding for medical reasons or due to intense pain. And other women simply choose NOT to breastfeed. That is their right.
In fact, a study in Social Science & Medicine actually suggests the benefits of breastfeeding may be overstated. Don’t get us wrong--we love breastfeeding and if it works for you and your baby, it’s wonderful. Breastfeeding can be inexpensive, easy, and very enjoyable. But let’s go easy on moms who formula feed. You don’t know the reasons behind it and frankly, it’s none of your business.
12 Epidural vs Natural
Some women feel intense guilt if they choose pain relief during labor. Why is this the case? Giving birth is heroic regardless of whether you do it naturally or not. The word “natural” alone is part of the problem. Isn’t birth natural regardless of your pain relief choices?
Moms who give birth without pain relief tend to feel a little more justified in bragging about their experience, and women who choose an epidural often feel the need to justify their choice. Some women who opt for pain relief have even been subjected to name-calling over their choice and shamed for doing something others consider not best for the baby.
In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that a “natural” labor can have negative effects on some moms, such as postpartum depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Opting for pain relief doesn’t make you any less of a mom. The #1 goal is for the baby and the mom to make it through the delivery successfully and safely. How you get there is nobody else’s business.
11 Discipline Methods
Many of us were spanked as children and we survived and thrived, right? That said, many parents today choose not to spank their children and opt for gentler discipline methods. To admit to spanking might be your downfall in parenting groups but will you still do it behind closed doors?
Some parents of strong-willed children suggest spanking is the only way. Time-outs and withholding privileges simply don’t seem to work for some children. Spanking can sometimes act as a “reset” button for children acting out. Then again, we teach our children not to hit one another, so what kind of example does spanking set?
Flip the coin and you’ll find that American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against spanking, suggesting it entails corporal punishment and can cause psychological damage.
Parents tend to judge one another when they see bad behavior or temper tantrums gone wild without repercussions but at the same time, spanking is a no-no. The best course of action may be specific to a given child. And shouldn’t we let parents decide what that course of action is for their own children?
10 Amount of Screen Time
We can all agree to the fact that there is such a thing as TOO MUCH screen time. But that doesn’t necessarily mean no screen time is the answer. In fact, some information suggests that some screen time can be good for children. It can be educational and promote healthy social habits. Additionally for parents, it can provide a much-needed break to prepare dinner or simply to stay sane.
Nobody is advocating for the screen to act as a babysitter but if used appropriately and with reasonable limits, what harm can a little screen time do?
So, if you go over to your friend’s house for dinner one evening and see their children on iPads, don’t assume that’s all they do. Just assume it’s what they’re doing at that moment to keep the peace and give the adults some adult time.
At the end of the day, we just need to trust that parents are doing what’s right for their households. Limits are relative and yours aren’t necessarily the gospel.
9 The Family Bed
The concept of a family bed is not a new one. The reality is that co-sleeping is something that has been practiced by various cultures throughout the world for centuries but it isn’t a commonly accepted practice in North America.
But to each their own, right? Proponents argue that the sense of togetherness is good for children and to isolate them is cruel. Breastfeeding moms also find the practice of nursing easier when children are right there.
The biggest argument against co-sleeping is the danger it exposes to children, especially infants. There have been cases of suffocation and strangulation, which obviously outweigh any benefits. Furthermore, some feel that it creates co-dependent children, prevents parents from having any alone time, and can impact healthy sleeping for everyone.
As long as parents do it safely, it’s really nobody’s business. Resources exist to make sure you are doing it properly if co-sleeping is your preference.
8 Homemade Baby Food vs Store-Bought
This is a fairly new topic in the mommy wars arena. We guess the shamers are looking for new material.
Some women have the time, money, and inclination to make their own baby food but others don’t. What’s the big deal? There are many healthy options out there for store-bought baby food. And many of them come bearing the beloved word “organic”. It’s also a nice way to expose babies to different tastes before making a batch of something yourself.
Making baby food can be time-consuming and stressful. We know because we’ve done it. While some parents enjoy doing it, not all do. Some moms may choose to take a shower or take a nap instead of making baby food in those precious free moments they have, and opt to buy baby food instead. We can’t blame them.
What’s next? Are moms going to be shamed for making their own baby food but not growing their own vegetables. It’s silly really. If babies are healthy and thriving, let’s credit moms for that.
7 Vaccinate vs Not
Vaccinating children is a topic that can cause raging debates between parents. Emotions run very high where vaccinating is concerned. Vaccines started getting a bad rap in 1998 when a paper was published suggesting a link between the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The paper has since been proven fraudulent and research has been conducted since to demonstrate there is no link between the two. Case closed, right? Not so much.
Talk to a parent who saw a change in their child directly following a routine vaccination and they might convince you that the link exists. As such, some parents opt to not vaccinate their children because of the belief in this causal link, others because of personal beliefs, others because of concerns about allergies…there are a whole host of reasons.
Parents who do vaccinate have reason to be concerned because children who aren’t vaccinated pose a risk to other children, especially young infants whose immune systems aren’t fully developed. The alternative to vaccinating can mean a baby or child develops one of these illnesses that vaccines are meant to eradicate, and the outcome may be much worse than what a vaccine could cause.
This debate will rage on, no doubt, and is one of the most heated topics on this list.
6 Breastfeeding in Public
There has been much discussion around breastfeeding in public of late. Many women are more comfortable doing it today than ever before but as a result, we are hearing more cases of moms being shamed for doing so.
Part of the issue stems from breasts being objectified sexually. But when a mom breastfeeds, there is nothing sexual about it. She is feeding her baby. Others say it’s unnecessary and shamers want moms to do it behind closed doors as if it’s offensive in some way.
One mom was recently berated because she posted a picture on Facebook of her young daughter pretending to breastfeed a doll. Children learn by example and she was simply trying to take care of her baby. This particular case got a lot of attention and we hope the critics were put in their place.
If someone has an issue with breastfeeding in public, we wonder what's the real problem. It may be time for some self-reflection.
5 Single Moms
Single moms have been scrutinized since the dawn of time as if their homes are less “whole” than the homes of dual-parent families. There are lots of reasons some moms are single but more so than ever before, we are seeing women opt to parent alone by choice. My goodness, what is the world coming to?
Rachel Lehmann-Haupt writes a powerful piece on slate.com discussing her choice to become a single mom. She wanted a baby, and decided to have one on her own at the age of 40. Rachel realized her window of opportunity was closing, so she obtained a sperm donor. At 40, having a baby became more import than finding the love of her life. To us, this sounds like a very well-thought out and mature choice but still, Lehmann-Haupt finds some people look down their nose at her.
Rather than shaming single moms, shouldn’t we celebrate those who make choices to get out of destructive relationships or situations where they are unhappy for the sake of themselves and their children? And celebrate those who decided to raise babies on their own when partners weren’t around? And celebrate those who keep it all together without the help of a spouse? Yes. Let's do this instead.
4 Number of Children
What’s the ideal number of children? The answer is clearly however many you want to have and can support! So, let’s quit judging parents who only have one child. Everyone’s children are spoiled. Just because someone only has one child doesn’t mean they’ll be more spoiled than yours.
Further, an only child won’t be deprived of playmates because they’ll make friends at school and in the neighborhood, just like we did in the olden days. Parents aren’t obligated to produce a second or third child in order to provide their first child with a playmate.
And how about families that have four, five, six, or 15 children? What about them? Okay well, 15 might be a bit excessive but it’s still none of our business. There is no reason to judge other people for their choices. If you feel that strongly about them, you should just be grateful that your situation is different.
3 Sleep Training Choices
Sleep training is a very controversial topic and is not for everyone. Some of the original techniques that promote full-blown cry-outs gave the concept a bad name. That said, some parents implement these early methods with great success and swear by them. There are now many sleep training options for parents to consider which offer gentler alternatives to “crying it out” but some still opt for this early technique.
The Cry-it-Out (CIO) method was popularized by Dr. Marc Weissbluth and is exactly how it sounds. With this method, you put your baby down awake, shut the door, and leave them to cry. It’s not easy and not for the faint of heart. Some parents bite the bullet and go for this approach because it’s straightforward and usually garners fast results. But usually, it’s also the last resort.
Opponents of CIO say it’s counterintuitive to let your baby cry to the extreme. They cry because they need us. Further, it can lead to undue stress in infants, is cruel, and puts parents needs before babies.
As mentioned, there are now many sleep training options for parents to consider which offer gentler alternatives to “crying it out” but regardless of your choice, it still remains nobody else’s business. Keep in mind that CIO is usually the last resort for parents that nobody wants or plans to implement. Those who use it definitely feel sadder about it than anybody who is judging them.
2 Baby Wearing
Baby or child wearing is the practice of carrying your child in a carrier or sling. It’s been practiced forever across many cultures and provides many benefits, including keeping babies and children safe, warm, and close. Further, it promotes attachment and healthy development.
Some women practice baby carrying when their babies are infants and others do it until their children are too heavy to carry. And of course, some choose not to do it at all.
Last year, a mom was shamed on social media for carrying her daughter, 5-years-old at the time, while shopping. A store employee snapped a photo of her and then boldly posted it on Facebook with derogatory comments. The photo was shared so many times that it made its way back to the mom. What nerve. How could anything good come of this?
Some critics of the practice suggest that children and babies suffer discomfort when being carried in a sling or carrier. This is lunacy. Let’s find another cause to rally behind.
1 Kid Falling into Gorilla Enclosure
Mom-shaming has never been more evident than it was earlier this year when a four-year-old boy tumbled into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati zoo as his mom stood nearby.
This boy’s life was saved but a beautiful silverback gorilla died as a result. This, of course, is a massive tragedy, and criticism raged towards the mom for not watching her son more carefully and closely.
If you’re a parent, you know how quickly little ones move and, in the blink of an eye, they can get out of our sight. It’s happened to all of us but most of us are fortunate enough to not experience a situation like this in such a public way. Witnesses to the incident don’t blame this woman in the same way anonymous critics have.
This mom will be haunted by this incident for the rest of her life. Isn’t that punishment enough without the world raging against her? There is a lesson and it certainly isn’t about shame. It’s a good moment to pause and be grateful we haven’t been so unfortunate. Let's end the mommy wars and get behind each other again.