Since becoming a mom, I’ve experienced my fair share of mommy shaming. I’ve been criticized for everything from nursing on demand, to supplementing with formula and working outside of the home. So, I wasn’t all that surprised when I stumbled on a new study by C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital that confirmed that over half of moms had been shamed since becoming a mom. What did surprise me, however, was the source of that shame. The moms in this survey admitted that their support system was their biggest source of mommy-shaming.
According to this study, which surveyed 475 moms with kids under the age of five, 61% of moms have been shamed because of their parenting decisions at least one time. These moms were harshly criticized about a wide range of topics. Some moms got push back because of how they chose to discipline their kids. Other moms were attacked for their feeding practices, whether they chose to bottle-feed or breastfeed. They also experienced shaming over sleep practices, how they approached safety and their child care choices.
None of these things are all that surprising. These topics have been controversial for as long as I have been a mom and I’m sure our own moms debated about these topics as well. It’s nearly impossible to spend a day online without seeing an article or a Facebook debate picking apart the pros and cons of each possible choice a mom could make when it comes to feeding, discipline, sleep-training or caring for their kids.
Surprisingly, even though we spend a lot time online debating these topics, social media wasn’t the primary source of mommy-shaming. Instead, for moms with kids under the age of five, their support system was their greatest source of shame. The mother’s parents were offering the most criticism for 37% of moms. Spouses and their families followed close behind, 36% said their partner had shamed them for their parenting skills, and 31% said their in-laws judged them harshly.
I found myself incredibly disappointed by the results of this study. New moms need a strong support system. They need their spouses to offer them unconditional support. They need the grandparents of their children to be available for non-judgmental advice and help with childcare. If so many moms are being shamed by the people they are closest to, they simply aren’t getting the support they need.
Of course, in my experience, shaming a mom holds very little benefit for the mom or her kids. There have been times when I have been questioned for taking a more gentle approach to discipline or for co-sleeping with my kids, and all this judgement did was make me doubt myself as a mom. Mothers need confidence in their decisions to parent well and shaming them robs them of that confidence and makes them second guess their decisions.
What moms need most isn’t someone they care for pointing out each time they make a mistake or choosing a different approach to parenting. Instead, they need family members who see just how hard they are working to care for their family and a helping hand when things get hard. It doesn’t look like parents, in-laws and spouses are going to be backing off on the mommy-shaming anytime soon. Now, more than ever, us moms need each other. We need to step up and become the source of support and unconditional acceptance to the moms in our lives.