Raise your hand if you are a parent and have never been judged for anything in your life ever. Are you raising your hand? If yes, congratulations! You are quite a rarity, making up .00000001% of the entire parental population. To some degree, we are all familiar with what mom shaming feels like. There are so many choices that we make on a daily basis that we deem right for us, for our own unique situation that outsiders will have no idea about. The funny thing is judgment for those choices can come from anyone, at any time–perfect strangers, friends, colleagues, and family. Sometimes, the most vocal are even our own well-meaning mothers. Yet, nobody enjoys being judged. In a way, mom shaming feels a lot like an adult version of bullying. So how do we deal with this in a constructive way? Remember, our kids are watching, and it is up to us to set the example.
An entire generation raised on Twitter, and we’ve mastered the art of the perfect “clap-back”. As witty or funny as we may be in “defending our honor”, assertiveness is not aiming to make the other person feel worse because we felt bad about what they said. It is having the maturity to not react negatively or get provoked easily. Stand your ground if you must, but in a way that doesn’t humiliate or “put people in their place” because we felt victimized. As the saying goes, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
Ask yourself: By making this choice, whatever it may be, am I putting my child or anyone else in any real danger? If not, then repeat after me: “I am doing the best that I can with what I have. I am okay with my choices.” This is the kind of response that is both honest and vulnerable. It is an affirmation of trusting your own intuition. True confidence does not need validation or approval from others. They can say what they want, but you’ll be fine with that. Only insecure people feel the need to be liked by everyone, and can’t stand the thought of someone disagreeing or disapproving their choices.
Not in the sense that they know better, but that they have come to teach you a lesson you want or need to learn. Every day, we are given opportunities to demonstrate a part of our identity. We cannot magically be the values we hold dear unless we actually put them into practice. For example, when we meet a rude person, we have the choice to be patient, neutral, or to be rude in return. When we meet someone cruel, we are being taught how to be kind in spite of their cruelty. What is your mom shamer teaching you?
The people we connect with the most are those that share our beliefs and agree with our choices. But we meet a lot of people who are probably on the opposite end of the spectrum, and when we unknowingly remind others of what they don’t like in themselves, they lash out and attack us. But see, it’s not really us that they’re attacking. It’s what we represent–in other words, the part of themselves they don’t like. For instance, if you’ve worked so hard on being a more tolerant person, when you see someone being prejudiced, it is natural for you to feel irked or annoyed. So when you get mom shamed, remember that it’s not really about you. Don’t take it personally. They didn’t mean to hurt you, or if they did, it doesn’t matter. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can only hurt you if you let them.
The truth is, most mom shamers are other moms. I’ve never had a random dude come up to me and comment on my baby carrier or ask why I’m still breastfeeding my almost three-year-old daughter. More often than not, we offer advice not from a place of spite, but from our good intentions and yet, unknowingly, we cause others pain. So as a rule of thumb, instead of giving unsolicited feedback, asking another mom personal questions about her children, or comparing your journey with another without her consent, remember: Mind your own motherhood. If someone wants or needs your support, they’ll ask for it. If not, just smile and be kind. Because everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.