When I was pregnant I joined a Facebook group for moms. It didn't take long for me to become completely afraid of becoming a mom. This fear had nothing to do with having a baby and everything to do with how these moms treated each other. I was completely blown away and shocked that mom shaming was real.
Fast forward two years and I have a very different take on mom shaming. Do I still believe it's real? Yes, absolutely. But the more I have interacted with moms on social media (because, honestly, I have never witnessed mom shaming in real life) I have come to realize that mom shaming isn't necessarily what we tend to believe it is.
Quite frequently I will read a post from a mom that, in my opinion, doesn't have an ounce of judgment and yet the other moms will be all over this mom's case like like Sherlock Holmes. In fact, it's even happened to me.
Or sometimes a mom will post and ask for advice but then anyone with an opposing view will immediately be labeled as shaming. Now, I can definitely get on board with the idea that you don't have to share your opinion on every little thing. But what I can't understand is how someone can ask for advice or feedback and not only reject anything that is contrary to their own opinion but then accuse that person of shaming them. (I should note that it's not always the person posting doing the accusing, other people seem more than happy to do it on her behalf.)
Maybe I'm missing something but I think we might be a little confused as to what it means to shame someone. I also think that often times we are accusing the wrong person for doing the shaming.
Let me give you a personal example. I was recently reading a blog post in which the writer was sharing that one of the reasons she believed she was a good mom was because she had chosen a great dad for her children.
I immediately felt ashamed and like I was a bad mom.
Nowhere in the post did she say, "if you did not choose a great dad for your kids, you are a bad mom". There wasn't even a hint toward that. She was simply sharing her own experience and feelings about her own family and her own decisions. Not mine.
If there was any shaming going on in this scenario, it was my fault. I was the one doing the shaming. And it really had nothing to do with her post. Those feelings of guilt and shame were not new to me. I have battled them since the moment I saw two lines just seconds after peeing on a stick.
Sure, there might be someone that would try to shame me for bringing a child into the world without an "in tact" nuclear family but that is not what that post was saying. Not even close.
It was my own feelings of guilt and shame that made me feel like a bad mom.
As moms, we come from all types of backgrounds, experiences and circumstances. These are the things that shape our decisions. Sometimes we make decisions that we feel are best even though they may not be ideal. Choosing to parent my child is what I believed was best, though the circumstances may not have been "ideal".
Some moms choose to formula feed (yep, I'm going there) due to circumstances not necessarily because it is what they wanted or saw as ideal but because of a lack of supply or support or because they have three other small children to look after and it's overwhelming to even think about nursing a baby in the midst of all that. Maybe in an ideal situation they would choose otherwise... but when is life ever "ideal"?
Because life isn't perfect and neither is motherhood, we sometimes make decisions that may not have been first choice. And sometimes we feel guilty about our decisions. When we are reminded about these decisions we can easily feel ashamed but that doesn't necessarily mean that we are being shamed.
Sometimes we make decisions that are contrary to popular opinion because we know it's right for us. Perhaps some people will judge us in these situations. However, for the most part this isn't the case.
I am not saying that mom shaming doesn't exist. Unfortunately, it does. There definitely are times when moms try to make other moms feel bad about themselves and their parenting. But I think a great deal of judgment and shaming starts from within the person feeling shamed.
One of my favorite quotes is this one by Eleanor Roosevelt, "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Sure, there might be some really mean moms out there but when it comes down to it, we are responsible for our own feelings.
There is no cookie cutter way to be a mom. Be confident in your decisions and how you parent your child.
Stop putting guilt and shame on yourself whether it is provoked by your own thoughts or someone else's words.
Remember, even if someone is trying to shame you, she can only be successful if you let her.