No two mothers are alike in their approach to how they prepare for pregnancy, navigate those nine months of creating a life, and introduce their child into the world. Every mom takes her own approach to what she feels is right for her, her baby, and her family. But if you are a mother, you have probably been subject to – or at the very least have heard of – mom-shaming.
As the premier virtual baby shower platform, WebBabyShower has experience helping over 10,000 families celebrate new parents and their children, and knows about the mom-shaming some women experience. In fact, Kate, one of our founders, knows about it first hand. Fortunately, there are some ways to deal with unnecessary judgment.
What Is Mom-Shaming?
Whether done privately or publicly, mom-shaming is a form of bullying that comes in the form of one person degrading or criticizing a mother for her parenting choices, which are typically different than those the person criticizing has made. Society has its own standards for what is normal regarding how parents approach childbirth and childrearing and what is best for children. But is there really a one-size-fits-all approach? Just because something works for one family doesn’t necessarily mean it will work well for another family.
Everywhere from online community discussions to posted articles to play groups and more, can be mom-shaming hotspots, where so many people speak out about what they think is right and what is wrong in terms of raising a child. For first-time parents especially, this can be overwhelming. People who have experienced what new parents are going through are eager to provide their own input in an effort to help out new parents. While some might not see this as mom-shaming and only as giving healthy advice, those on the receiving end might perceive such commentary as a suggestion that what they are doing as parents is wrong or not good enough.
Made of an all-inclusive and supportive community that believes in celebrating the amazing mom you are, WebBabyShower understands how challenging mom-shaming can be. We spoke with three amazing women who enjoyed their virtual baby showers withWebBabyShower about the mom-shaming experiences they have had and how they have overcome this type of bullying.
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Have You Experienced Mom-Shaming?
You might have if you have ever been asked with a raised eyebrow or a discerning tone…
Are you going to breastfeed?
Are you getting an epidural?
Are you exercising during your pregnancy?
Are you really going to name your child that?
Are you actually going to do a home birth?
Are you expecting twins?
Are you going to put your child in daycare?
Are you going to go back to work?
Are you seriously going to feed your kid that?
These are just a few of the questions that might come up before or after pregnancy. It’s not always easy for people to keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves. After all, those of us who are parents think we are the experts on everything, right? We just have to learn not to judge. We are all just trying to do this parenting thing as best as we can.
What to Do About Mom-Shaming: Three Amazing Moms Share Their Experiences
While it isn’t easy to totally dismiss judgmental comments, there are ways to overcome how they affect us. First remember that you know what is best for you and your situation —you and you alone. If you are feeling a bit down from mom-shaming experiences, turn to a trusted friend or group of like-minded moms who understand what you are feeling. It helps to know you are not alone and to have your feelings validated.
In our interviews with three inspiring moms, we learned what mom-shaming scenarios they encountered and how they overcame them. Perhaps by reading the stories of Christine, Angel, and Cassandra, you can identify with some of their mom-shaming experiences and understand that this can happen to anyone and that you have the power to rise above it all.
Christine Learned to Remain Confident in Her Decisions
Five months into her pregnancy, Christine has not been immune to the wrath of mom-shaming. However, she tends to take it all in stride, asserting a type of confidence that comes with being a new mom who intuitively is already standing up for her unborn child.
Even though she is more than halfway through her pregnancy, she is barely showing. That has led to a few people scratching their heads when they see her pull up and park in the “Expectant Mom” spot at the store.“When I park in that spot, sometimes I get glares from other people,” Christine said. “I know some people must think I am not pregnant even though I park in that spot.” She compared it to people’s confusion when they see a person park in an accessible parking spot if they don’t appear to have a disability.
But that is of minimal concern to Christine. As she prepares to introduce her unborn child into the world later this year, she is planning on having a home birth. After mentioning this to family and friends, she was met with some resistance.“Some women told me that they would never be able to do that,” Christine recalled. “They will say things like, ‘Aren’t you worried about someone not being there to help?’”
However, Christine has her bases covered. She will be giving birth in the comfort of her own home with the assistance of a trained midwife, and she has no reservations about what she plans to do.“I was born at home and actually never even went into a hospital until I was 15 years old,” she said. “I never wanted to even be around a hospital.”
Christine, along with her husband Alex, has served in the military, which she described as predominately a “man’s world.”
“Some men just don’t understand that I can’t function with the uniform while I am pregnant so I have to get bigger sizes as there are currently no maternity sizes available,” she said. “I’ve been wearing my husband’s uniform lately!”
Christine has also been reading various parenting books and will occasionally discuss parenting topics from her studies with people at work to see how they will respond.“Those who are already parents will say, ‘You’ll see; it won’t happen that way,’” she mused.
When her child, who is due in July, is older, Christine plans on homeschooling him or her. Yes, she has even been met with some opposition from others about that idea, but she generally takes it all in stride with her catchphrase, “You do you; I’ll do me.”
Another topic of discussion that causes Christine to chuckle a bit is the notion that she and her husband have decided not to find out the sexof their child until delivery.“So many people will ask us why we don’t want to know,” she revealed. “I simply respond, ‘What’s the difference, anyway? I don’t care about gender reveal parties and can just get gender-neutral clothes. The baby will just puke on them all the time anyway. What does it really matter?’”
As for the body-shaming pregnant women sometimes experience, Christine blames that phenomenon on a lack of information and t social media’s increasing influence, as well as on Photoshop. “Sharing that she once “had a problem with cellulite” because of what is thought of as acceptable in society, she said, “I changed my mind to think healthy is beautiful and that is why I don’t care as long as I know I am healthy now.”
Angel Doesn’t Take Everything to Heart
Admittedly slightly overweight before becoming pregnant, Angel was told by seemingly well-intentioned friends and family that they feared her pre-pregnancy weight could affect her pregnancy. But Angel basically let those words roll off her back, as they did not hit a nerve as greatly as another topic did. One of the bigger issues affecting Angel is her approach to sleep-training her now 9-month-old son.
“I won’t let him cry it out,” she expressed. “Some people say that if I go to him every time he cries it will affect him his whole life. However, his crying is mentally hard on me.”
With a husband serving in the military and working in another city during the week, Angel spends long days and nights with her son, which can be exhausting at times. Sleep is a much-needed respite from the rigors of the day. “I have to sleep, so I bring him in bed with me sometimes or place him in the crib next to the bed,” she explained.
Angel is also practicing some baby-led weaning and introducing purees, which are used as an introduction to solid foods. However, her practices prompted some to question her tactics. “I’ve given him a chunk of steak to chew on, and some people get worried he will choke,” she said. “But I only do this on the weekends when my husband Michael, who is CPR-trained, is around, so I am not worried. I want him to get used to the taste and textures of foods and not grow into a picky eater.”
Angel typically brushes off the naysayers and tries to ignore commentary from others. “I will listen to what others have to say but I won’t take it all to heart,” she said. “No matter what, people will always have something to say. Usually when I feel upset… I try to remind myself that my body was able to create my amazing, beautiful baby boy, and that, without those changes, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Fortunately, Angel enjoyed having her baby shower through WebBabyShower and encountered no mom-shaming in that arena. “My mother-in-law loved being able to put together a slideshow of my husband and I showing us growing through the years,” she shared. “The games were also a lot of fun; it was so nice to be able to have something people could participate in at their leisure. I think it helped everyone find a little ray of sunshine during a really tough time. My son was born August 2020, so everything was right during the height of COVID.”
Cassandra Says to Be Positive and Love Yourself
At the end of March, Cassandra gave birth to a baby boy. Currently on disability due to a medial and lateral meniscus tear in her knee, she experienced her share of mom-shaming when she was pregnant. At the time, she was working as a nurse at a correctional facility in her home state. For whatever reason, the people with whom she worked barely acknowledged she was pregnant, which caused a few issues, especially during the pandemic.
“I pushed carts and frequently went into the quarantine unit,” she said. “That just didn’t make sense to me.”
Cassandra also dealt with a few body-shaming issues. While at the beach one day, her mother-in-law suggested Cassandra, who hasn’t been able to exercise because of a bad knee, might be having twins due to her size.
“In my opinion, body-shaming is hurtful and damaging, to a mother-to-be especially,” emphasized Cassandra. “Expecting mothers have a lot going on already, and the stress of what others think about their weight shouldn’t be a contributing factor. Expecting mothers have fluctuating hormones and having to worry about body-shaming can be dangerous for the expecting mom-to-be and the baby.”
Stating that body-shaming can lead to a “distorted [body] image,” Cassandra explained, “This can be scary to all because while looking at the beautiful image of yourself you should see, you just don’t. All you see is fat and what is wrong all over your body and you can never be truly happy looking in the mirror. This can lead to malnutrition and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. These disorders are serious and can be life-threatening, especially if you are carrying a little one inside you.”
Because she is older now than when she had her first two children (she is also mom to a 16-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy), Cassandra feels a bit more knowledgeable and prepared to handle things, including mom-shaming scenarios. And much like Christine, Cassandra blames the media and the ability to digitally edit photos for the body-shaming aspects of mom-shaming.
“People never feel satisfied with what they have and constantly want to change their appearance to look flawless, so they use filters to fix models in magazines, and people on social media use filters to hide things like wrinkles or blemishes,” she noted. “I believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder, just as perfection is. You have got to love yourself and be happy. You only live one life as you. Just be positive and see the real you.”
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Don’t Waste Your Energy on Negativity
There will always be people who think they know what is best for you, but they are not you and cannot possibly know or understand your unique situation. There will always be someone who may challenge what you say, do, or think, but don’t focus on their negativity. Look for the positives as you navigate motherhood, and give yourself more credit for how well you’ve adapted to the role of being a mom
As author Jill Churchill once noted, “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” With that in mind, consider yourself one in a million!
Did you enjoy this article? How do you deal with mom-shaming?