Welcome to motherhood, you are doing it wrong.
Motherhood is one big challenging, wonderful, crazy bag of cats. You would think after nine vomit inducing months, enduring birth, juggling a newborn, siblings, being a partner, keeping your home from burning down all whilst leaking from too many places, that mothers have gone through enough. But no, as soon as your child is born, wrinkled pink with a tiny woollen hat, a target is seemingly immediately slapped onto your back that gives other people free reign to tell you what you’re doing wrong. Mothers are publicly judged and criticised for how they are raising their children; what they are fed, where they sleep, if they have old lady names, if they pick their nose.
And the worst offenders? You’ve probably encountered a few at your local playground. Other mothers, grandmothers, strangers, neighbours the people that should have your back because they know the shitstorm you face. But why have women become so unsympathetic?
Judging mums on their mumming #Meanmums
Mumshaming. Carnivorous, contemptuous, destructive criticisms of people’s ability to raise kids. Snide whispers in the queue of the post office about how you dress your baby who is only just double figure days old. A comment from a cashier about how unhealthy premade baby food is, as you buy jars at the checkout. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t with these women. Shaming can also be subtle, it can be in a glance, an eyeroll.
‘I don’t criticise other mothers. I don’t down talk. Don’t tut,’ says unassuming Angela.
But you and me? We may shame in ignorance. Did you love breastfeeding? Think everyone should co-sleep because it worked so well for you? Did your baby flourish with baby led weaning? Fantastic. Do you want to share this guidance? Equally fantastic. Parents have strong opinions and can be ardent about positive ways to raise and guide children. That said, passion and opinion if not carefully considered and gently spoken can instead turn to poison in a vulnerable mum’s heart. Also, I understand an otherwise lovely person can be not-so-nice because she’s overwhelmed herself. Tired, distracted.
Anti-venom and confidence are not stocked on shelves or sold in Boots. If you are not mindful instead of lifting her up, mother to mother, you let her slip down.
Since we are at it, let’s bash dad too.
A bitter experience for me was seeing a dad in baby group that came in with a teeny little human who sweetly projectile vomited all over him. A group of mums frowned and stepped away like the two had dysentery. Noses wrinkled up in distain. Now we have all been covered in sick ladies. It is not like he was swinging the baby from her ankles whilst singing the Batman theme tune. I offered a muslin and started to chat about him and his kid. He was fully capable, didn’t need a mum to rescue him but we have all been alone in a group desperate for some adult interaction. Over half a cup of cold tea we chatted about sleepless nights and how intimidated he felt to be in a room full of 30 women. That the looks were noticed and made him feel like shouldn’t belong. Mum cliques. It’s all very high school. I felt ashamed to have a vagina that day.
No one except Gandhi or Yoda is that nice.
Yes, you know what you are right. On a recent school pick up a mum in front handed her rather doughy son a can of coke and a fun pack of Snickers. My brain in earnest, thought crikey he could probably do with an apple instead. Yes, my inner monologue is narrated by Dick Van Dyke. I thought it, but did I say it? Did I scowl, did I loudly say to my own son who asked if he could have a can of coke ‘no, we don’t drink that bubbly diabetes inducer’ in a snide tone? (He does not need any more excuse to be hyperactive and coke is only for adults when combined with Bourbon in our house). Nope, I kept stum.
Just because you have opinions does not give you the right to say them.
Yes, free speech and all but cultivate some emotional intelligence. You do not know circumstances or reasons behind other parents’ choices. It is contradictory that mothers are mumshaming each other when they, likely, are raising their children to be kind. One day I heard a loud conversation about how bad ‘working mums who abandon their children in nursery are.’ WTF. I am not saying we need to sit around singing kumbaya as all parents have different approaches styles and opinions. You are free to think them. But until you are perfect, and know you are by getting a letter from the parental version of Hogwarts then think before you say, or type, or look. Unless you think a child is at risk of harm, hold your words in with a constipated grimace and move along.
The effect words have from Mumshaming.
Newborn mums are the most vulnerable. Exhausted to the point of tears, just hoping to get through the day and feel like they are doing ok. Being good enough. There are way too many voices telling us what should be done. Hitting the heart and filling it with doubt and guilt. Sticks and stones can hurt in ways that will heal, but words can break you. Fracturing confidence and bruising self-worth. More than we need comparisons and put downs we need support, encouragement and empathy as mothers. Solidarity. Because it’s hard, and lonely and days are really hard when you are living off three hours sleep a night. When my daughter was a couple of months old, when asking for advice someone made a comment that left me crying on the sofa. A few words that I don’t suppose was meant to be vicious, but it through me down a dark, crushing PND shaped rabbit hole. I had a total meltdown and never quite got back up.
Motherhood is born in hopes, expectations and love. Don’t crush that.
In a world dominated by Pinterest and Instagram it’s hard enough to feel like a good parent and with the lack of parenting empathy from society, hopelessness has been enabled and enhanced. Come on mums; support each-other. Respect the parenting choices that are different to yours. Just because it isn’t what you would do doesn’t make it wrong. Be proud to be a mother who supports other mothers.
Now you can judge me for my dodgy grammar and sentence structure.