Judgement. Opinions, As mums, we surely all have been on the receiving end at some point. It’s rife in our world and a hot topic after US singer Jana Kramer was slammed for her social media post about buying supermarket baby food. To discuss ‘mummy shaming’ I was invited onto TVNZ’s Breakfast show this morning (you can see the full clip on the Dear Mummy NZ Facebook page). It was chatty, it was energetic, it was short! – as is the nature of TV. So here’s a deep dive into my thoughts on mum shaming and what we can do to rise above it.
Judgement is a flaw of human nature.
It’s not new. But it’s disappointing that we haven’t learned to hold our tongues, especially given the advances in and society’s increasing focus on EQ and soft-skills like empathy, authenticity, mindfulness. Mummy-shamers are not mindful; if they were they’d look at the big picture, the important things: is the mother giving the child attention, are they fully present and engaging in the child’s life? What’s more important – a child who is breast-fed til 12 months and reared on organic homemade food, or a child who is loved, happy, compassionate, resilient?
It’s not new. But it’s got worse. People – even strangers – these days seem to feel entitled to pass judgment even beyond a mum’s decisions. Stacey, a friend of mine, has a 4-year old and twin 1-year olds. Regularly at the supermarket, post office, bank and carparks – “anywhere strangers are lurking” – she gets approached by strangers who will ask “twins?”. When Stacey replies yes she gets: “Poor you”. Despite feeling blessed to have three healthy children, and having had the courage and energy to get out of the house with all three, she is made to feel pitied.
Often it’s other mums who are the culprits. Why is this?
I think there are two reasons:
- There is so much choice these days – in our labours – interventions or natural; in feeding – breast or bottle; in sleeping – same room or separate; in vaccinations – to vax or not to vax; in baby foods – homemade or packaged; to work or stay at home…
The thing about choice is that when one makes a choice, and observes a different choice made by another, it’s only natural to compare. But comparison can be an attack on oneself. To preserve oneself, we tend to pass judgement that the ‘other’ choice is a less desirable one than our own.
- There is so much information. Too much. There are literally hundreds of how-to parenting books that tell us what and how we “should” parent. Whilst these can and do help some people, many mums consume them with a desperate reliance and conviction that they are “the” answer, the “right” way. This sets us up with benchmarks against which we compare ourselves. But no book can know you, your values, your unique circumstance, your baby. No matter what decision a mother makes, she’s almost always making it with love and with the belief that it’s the best decision for her baby – and for her. That’s the other thing: I believe that to be the best mummy you can be means being the best YOU you can be. So if we want to see mummies be better, then the way to do it is to help, support, empathise with them, celebrate with them!… not to slam them.
Judgment comes in many forms and in many places, but it is especially rampant in social media. Perhaps this is because of how we accept so many “friends” on social media. Perhaps it’s because of how often we are in social media.
New Zealanders access Facebook on average 14 times per day, and 82% of NZ-based mums use Facebook every day.
So what can we do to rise above it? Here are my
- Ignore it – The greatest happiness comes when you find the courage to accept what cannot be changed.
- Avoid it – Take a digital detox, get off Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and all the others and see how much better you feel – and how much more time you have for engaging in real life!
- Address it – The mummy shamers in all likelihood don’t know your full story; whether your decision is based on a value, circumstance, or you’re just having a bad day. If you pull someone up about it – shame the shamer – with an “I feel” statement, like “I feel belittled and hurt that you would judge me this way”, I bet they’ll be mortified. If they aren’t, ask yourself whether they’re someone you want in your life.
- Abolish it – Take a zero tolerance stance and oust people from your life (your real life and your digital one) who hurt you with their judgement. Surround yourself with people who support you.
- And finally, quietly own it – trust yourself, allow yourself mistakes, be kind to yourself. Noone is perfect. Life is a journey, and motherhood is the rockiest of roads. We all make good decisions and bad decisions along the way. Give yourself credit that you’re doing the best you can, in any given moment.
Rise up. Be strong. There is strength in vulnerability. Feel the hurt, take a deep breath, and then take action. Own it, mummy.
I’ll leave you with a quote from my book: