By J. L. Thurston
I think all moms have been put under the pressure of the loathsome thing known as mommy shaming. Mommy shaming is defined as judging negatively a mother’s choices.
Now, dads, calm down. I know you feel the effects of this. I know there are fathers out there who put magnificent amounts of time, energy, and devotion into their children. But I have to say that most attentive dads can make any rational choice and be called a hero. But moms are somehow usually held in a judgmental light.
That mom never lost the baby weight, this mom doesn’t set a screen time for her kids, that mom went to the bar last night, this mom is looking at her phone at the park instead of staring at her child.
Dads don’t really get that kind of heat.
There are hot button issues in mommy shaming that most of us have heard about. Spanking, ADD medications, breastfeeding, sleep training. You get it. A parent can be criticized on every move they make or choose not to make. The worst is being judged whenever a child misbehaves in public.
I am a mother of a little monster, age four. This kid is headstrong and argumentative and has been against me since day one. I will confess, for years I thought I was simply a bad mother. My kid listens to everyone except me. She is sweet and gentle and kind — according to her teachers and sitters. I, however, have never seen this side of her. I’m usually hit in the face and gut, pushed, stomped on, argued with, and even been told “I hate you” with all the tiny fury she could muster.
Whenever I left her in another’s care I was weighted down with excessive guilt because I know the pain this kid can unleash. But she only does it to me. And I couldn’t stop wondering why?
Mommy shaming. That’s why.
I am constantly questioned out loud by other adults when I do anything for my child. When I slept with her in my arms, when I added baby cereal to her bottles, when I let her eat peanut butter, what kind of medicines I gave her when she was ill.
Lately the shaming comes directly from my husband. When I switched her to a booster seat, when her bedtime is, whether she should be allowed to tell me “no.” I notice that when I make a stand and deny her something he immediately — right in front of her — demands to know why I am denying the thing.
My stand could be about giving her a second piece of candy, or when color time is, or whether or not I let her take her insanely small Hatchimals toy outside (and undoubtedly lose). He maybe feels he’s sticking up for her in an unfair justice system developed by me. He might be trying to gain her favoritism. But I believe he argues me to avoid her tantrums. He’s following the parenting guide written by Veruca Salt’s dad.
My daughter sees him telling me I’m wrong and does what she can to convince me that I’m wrong. My favorite part is when she and I are in the middle of a controlled test of wills and he yells from the couch — while still staring at his phone — “What’s going on in there?” I ignore his question and continue dealing with our daughter. He gets annoyed that I’m ignoring him, so by the time I explain to him what’s going on I also have to justify my actions and point of view. I have to debate to him every parenting choice I make like some kind of flailing lawyer to a judge.
My child has been taught since day one that Mommy’s choices aren’t trustworthy thanks to mommy shaming. She has been shown that I may say “no” but what I say means nothing when another adult is available.
I may say “You can’t have chocolate because you said you were too full to eat your food,” but what she hears is, “I’m just your slave-puppet about to be bullied into giving you chocolate by the nearest adult.”
Tonight, she screamed, “No, I don’t have to do what you say!” in my face. Naturally, it was off to bed with no stories. Then, I had to wrestle a screaming child to bed, try to have a meaningful talk with her, all the while combating my husband who was arguing that it was too early for her to go to bed no matter how she’s acting. (Just FYI, it was 7:30 and her bedtime is usually 8 o’clock.) The next twenty minutes were filled with delightfully snide comments about me just being mean, unfair, and causing problems when there weren’t any. I had to argue my parenting choice under the pressure of knowing I’m completely alone in disciplining her.
Last night and so many other moments in the last four years have been utter madness. It is a shame that me and moms just like me have to struggle this way. Yes, I’m having a pity party. Yes, I’m putting my husband on blast. Yes, there are bigger problems in the world. But I hope and pray that this article will bring two things: That those who mommy shame may realize their questions are doing much more harm than good, and that shamed moms can read this and know that there are other moms who feel the same pressure.
Any mother making the best life they can for their kids is a perfect mother in my mind. No matter what difficult decisions she has had to make.
I support you, woman. You are not alone.