Since I became a mother two years ago, I have been baffled the amount of judgment that I see other moms pass on me and each other on a regular basis. From being told that I am a bad mom because I let Amalia hang out with our Pit mix, Boots, to taking heat for not breastfeeding long enough, it feels never-ending and overwhelming. My thinking was always that we’re all in it together, so why not try to help each other out instead of putting each other down? It has never made sense to me…
Until I read this quote in the parenting section of Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. There is a reason that moms are so mean to each other and it actually makes sense.
“Our need for certainty in an endeavor as uncertain as raising children makes explicit ‘how-to-parent’ strategies both seductive and dangerous. I say ‘dangerous’ because certainty often breeds absolutes, intolerance, and judgment. That’s why parents are so critical of one another- we latch on to a method or approach and very quickly our way becomes the way. When we obsess over our parenting choices to the extent that most of us do, and then see someone else making different choices, we often perceive that difference as direct criticism of how we are parenting… Ironically, parenting is a shame and judgment minefield precisely because most of us are wading through uncertainty and self-doubt when it comes to raising our children.”
Judging another mom’s actions and decisions usually comes from our own insecurities. By now, we all know that insecurity is where most judging and shaming comes from. But the incredible pressure to be a “perfect mommy” with all of the right answers amplifies this in a major way. When we see another mom making a decision that’s different than the one we made, it’s easier to judge them than to think about the fact that maybe we did something wrong ourselves.
The internet and social media have made this worse for two reasons: 1. Moms can judge each other without saying something to your face, and 2. This “perfect mommy” image is being shoved in our faces day in and day out which makes us moms feel even more insecure and defensive. That makes us more likely to judge another mom. It’s a fun little cycle, don’t you think?
But as we all know, is no such thing as the perfect parent because all parents are humans. We’re all going to make mistakes the same way every single one of our parents did. Then Brené goes on to say what I have always believed:
“Who we are an how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”
What I find most interesting about mom shaming/judging (whatever you want to call it) is that 9 times out of 10, the mom being judged hasn’t done anything wrong. Maybe she chose formula over breastmilk (gasp!) or let her son sleep in her bed (oh my!) or perhaps let her baby girl cry it out (the horror!). You are the only one who really knows what your own baby needs and no one should be made to feel guilty for making the best choices for their child in that moment.
But we’ve all done it. We make a choice and it works for our kid and then we preach it as loud as we can. Things feel very black and white as a parent when something works for your kid. I’m not excluding myself from this because I’ve done it too. I’ll see another kid who doesn’t throw tantrums like my daughter and I get insecure about what I’ve done wrong with her. So I judge that parent on something else. It’s terrible and I work hard to stop myself because that is just not cool. The important thing for me to remember is that every baby, every toddler, and every kid is so different. They’re going to react differently to discipline, eating, and food.
If you want a positive and uplifting place to talk about these topics where we allow no judgment, join the Lemon Stripes Mamas Facebook group. I started it because all of the other mom forums I would visit online were full of negativity and hatred. A mom would post a question and then get totally bulldozed about it by 20 other moms. It is absolutely bananas out there! This group has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my 10 years stint at blogging.
What I want to ask you all to do today is to text or call a mom in your life and tell her something that you respect about her parenting. Tell her you love how well she listens to her kids or how thoughtful she is with them or how she’s great at playing dress up. Tell her something nice because she might need that today!
Thoughts from other moms
No one knows the answers to parenting, but we can all do our best to be good people and set strong examples for our children. I 1000% think that this is what will matter most in the end. As I was writing this post, I had dinner with a girlfriend of mine who has three kids. I was telling her about a specific issue I have been having with Amalia and asking for her advice because she’s a great mom and has been through it all. Her take was:
“I think parenting is very similar to religion/spirituality— there is no right way. Lots of people will try to make a case for why their way is right but what really matters is that you follow the path that feels right to you. Honestly, Amalia will have good phases and rough phases again no matter what you do. Overall you’re a great attentive responsible parent and that is what matters.
Then I asked a few other friends (two bloggers and one non-blogger) for their take on this topic. Here are their thoughts:
An influencer mom with one baby: “Moms can be really wonderful and supportive. They can be so judgmental and so mean to each other, and I think the “mean girls” are very likely angry and insecure. It’s a whole other world when you put yourself online but I really don’t think having a blog means it’s ok to have cruel things said to you and about you. In what world would you tell your child that if someone shares their story, it’s ok to be mean to them? Making unfair assumptions about someone you don’t know or judging the way they parent or what they choose to share is not ok. Whenever I write about something I’ve struggled with, it’s to help other moms feel less alone. I wish we’d all realize that we all love our babies and want what’s best for them, and we’re all doing our best.
A friend with two kids and twins on the way: ”My youngest didn’t sleep well for about 21 months. When he was 3 months old, I had him in a carrier at the grocery store because that was the only time he would sleep longer than 20 minutes. I remember a woman disapprovingly told me he looked uncomfortable and unhappy, and she couldn’t believe I carried him that way. I wanted to scream that this is the most peaceful he’s ever looked. But she didn’t know my story, or his. We only see one part of everyone’s story, and we’re all just basically trying to survive as best we can.”
And an influencer mom friend with two kids: “The thing that baffles me is when moms online expect the worst from everyone they come across. I’ll get comments like ‘It makes me crazy that you Instagram Story while driving with those two precious children in the car!’ Meanwhile the image in IG Stories is flipped and my husband is driving… Where has the benefit of the doubt gone?!”
Kim Simon from Scary Mommy says it best: “Moms, I need you. We need each other. It will only get better when we start feeling better about ourselves. Put away your keyboard and put your hand on my shoulder. Log out of the Facebook groups and text your best friend. Tell her she’s doing a great job. Tell her your baby ate a crayon when you weren’t looking. Tell her the truth about motherhood. Your children are watching… is this how you want them to treat each other?”
Read more on mom-shaming:
The Top 7 Reasons Why You’re Mom Shaming (Scary Mommy)
There’s a scientific reason why we can’t stop shaming moms, and it’s causing ‘maternal anxiety’ (Insider)
Why Moms Mom Shame (Parents)
Why We Mom Shame, According To Experts (Romper)
5 Types of Mom Shaming and How to Shut Them Down (Reader’s Digest)
And This is Why Mom Shame is Lame (Huff Post)
How have you been judged as a mom? Have you ever publicly judged another mom? If so, how did it make you feel?
Julia this is SO good!! We all need to read this daily
Thank you and agreed! xx
While I haven’t experienced bad judgement against me (which I’m thankful for) I’m constantly trying to remind myself that my kids are watching, and would never want them to learn from me, how to put down or be mean to others. I’m sure I’ve gotten the looks while out in public and when my kids are loud and people stare I want to crawl in a hole, but I’m thankful for the times that I remember to say outloud to moms with the toddler throwing a tantrum in target, “I’m sorry he/she is giving you a hard time, IVE BEEN THERE! I hope your day gets better”. I only ever want my kids to see me lift others up. Thank you times a million for tackling this topic!
I keep reading all these articles and posts about mom shaming- and I can’t help but think to myself- who are these people shaming you?!
I am a full time working mom of a toddler and 7 months pregnant with my second. I have literally never been shamed for any choice I have made as a parent- at least to my knowledge. Maybe its because I don’t parent in such a public way as folks who are bloggers/influencers?
All I know is- parents who shame other parents seem like real assholes and should be avoided at all costs. Everyone is just doing what they can when they can in the best way they can!
This is so spot on! Over the last 15 months I have experienced more ‘mean-girl’ moments than I thought were possible since leaving high school some 16ish years ago. Between the shame of working full time or only breast feeding for a couple months or the fact my son still wakes up at 4:30am every day (which is also somehow my fault??) it has been a pretty wild ride learning to be resilient in a new way and mindful of how I than interact with other mothers. I really appreciate you voicing your perspective and consistently encouraging people to lead with kindness.
What a great post for me to read as I enter week 36 of pregnancy with my first child! Thanks Julia! Have a nice weekend!
Thank you for this post. I think we have all been guilty of judging moms, I think I did it more before I became a mom. Now I’m realizing how hard this job is, I know there is no right way to do this.
But with all the shaming out there, I feel guilty for doing certain things and that’s not fair. I feed my baby organic food and I still breastfeed him at 15 months, and sometimes I feel shame in that. And I really shouldn’t. I never judge moms if they breastfeed or not. What really matters is the love you give them.
I commend all you mom bloggers putting yourself in the public eye. People can be so harsh. Some of them don’t even have kids and still feel like they can judge. Thanks for being strong and paving the way to parenting the best we can do.
Moms have enough guilt and shame in their brains without any outside influence. We always ask ourselves, “Am I doing this right?” But we don’t really need answers from anyone.
The internet is not the same as IRL interactions. IRL I have found that moms are mostly nice and supportive! Most children have similar quirks and most parents have issues with some of the same stuff you will and most really don’t care about how long you breastfed or screen time and are more interested in commiserating over the shared difficulties but also the funny parts of parenting.
Yes!!!!!! I also loved Daring Greatly on so many levels but maybe the most about perfectionism and parenting. Such wonderful perspective.
I’ve been reading and listening to Brene Brown so much lately, too!! I love that you quote her in here. To your points about mom shaming- it needs to stop. There are moments that I have witnessed many mom’s struggling in public with their children and I do my best to always give them the benefit of the doubt. We don’t know one another’s stories or struggles or triumphs. We don’t have to be close to each woman we encounter, but we can choose to be kind and we can choose to believe that we are all just doing the very best we can in that moment. Happy weekend!!
I can’t say I agree with this post. As a new mom, literally every interaction I’ve had with other moms has been wonderful. They’re supportive, offer guidance and give me great advice, but always say “this is what worked for me, your kid might be different.”
The title alone made me pause – I would have actually said the opposite. Moms are your greatest ally when you’re a new mom!
It sounds like a lot of the mom shaming you might be experiencing is due to the blog and instagram. It might not be mom-shaming, as much as it’s probably that your life is public and people are going to feel like they can critique you because you’re giving them a forum. I’m not saying you shouldn’t put it out there, but of course once it’s on the internet it’s going to open the door to anyone, whether you’ve invited them explicitly or not.
I love your blog! I must say that I am not a mom so I have not received judgement for that, but I do receive a lot of judgement for not knowing if I want to have kids. I am 24 and everyone always feels like I need to have kids. I feel like life is hard enough on women and we should just all support each other with whatever life choices we make that we truly and honestly feel are best for us.
As a new (ridiculously happy to be a) Mom, this has resonated with me the most:
“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”
thanks for all your sweet posts on motherhood!
Great post – but I disagree with this one line: “I think parenting is very similar to religion/spirituality— there is no right way.” On the contrary – there are ENDLESS right ways!!
Interesting timing as I just came upon this article as it was highlighted by the Everygirl. I pride myself on not judging other moms as I know I’ve received it for not breastfeeding (after being unsuccessful) and I’m sure for other things. But… I was at a outdoor concert last night and it was sunny and 90 degrees and I as I looked around and saw a baby that with no hat, crying, that seemed extremely uncomfortable, and I felt myself thinking… what the heck?!? Why?? And I REALLY had to check myself to consciously get out of the judging mode. I think my mama instinct was out of concern for the baby, but I had to remind myself to trust that the family knows their kid and they know what she can handle, and they’ll leave if it gets to be too much. I mean, I brought our 6 month baby to a loud bar during NCAA tournament and I know I got some looks but he was fine. We need to trust that we are all have the best intentions for our kiddos and we’re doing the best that we can.