Mothers face an unending number of decisions to make for their children on a daily basis. Criticizing a mom about her parenting choices is often referred to as “mom shaming,” and can be very hurtful, especially to first-time moms. This month’s Mott Poll report asked mothers of children 0-5 about their experiences with criticism about their parenting choices. Moms and media outlets across the country have been sharing their thoughts and stories. Here’s a roundup of the conversation.
Source of the shaming
Moms in the Mott Poll say their most frequent critics are those closest to them: their family. Amanda MacMillan at Real Simple highlighted this in her article: The biggest offenders of ‘mom-shaming’ may surprise you. Comments on social media, from friends, and from other moms in public were reported less frequently by moms. “We found that women seem to be able to set these comments aside and not internalize them as criticism, much more than they can with comments from their own family,” says Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark. She suggests that family members try to be more encouraging, and that moms try not to let it interfere with their parenting. “Don’t take anything so personally that it gets in the way of being a happy mom to a healthy kid.”
Topics of criticism
Any decision a parent has to make for their child can be the subject of scrutiny by others. Moms in the Mott Poll report hearing criticism about everything from discipline, to sleep, to safety, and nutrition. This was the focus of a Yahoo! Beauty piece: Nearly two-thirds of moms ‘shamed’ by others about their parenting skills. Reporter Rachel Grumman Bender writes about the difficulty of making a decision that might be contrary to what others say or do. But Clark says, “There are very few things that are ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ Putting your child in a car seat is right, but what day care they go to or how you feel about breastfeeding is just a choice.” Supporting moms, especially mom-to-mom, can go a long way. “It’s saying you’re in a community of moms – don’t worry about it.”
Responding to criticism
While comments from others might be well-intentioned, some comments can cross the line from advice to criticism. Moms in the Mott Poll responded to criticism in different ways, as highlighted in a local news piece from WDIV Local 4 in Detroit: Have you been ‘mom shamed’? Producer Sarah Mayberry interviewed Clark and Mott Poll web editor and mother of 2, Anna Kauffman, about the impact criticism can have on moms. In regards to the 42% of mothers who reported feeling less sure about their parenting, Clark expressed concern, saying, “Maternal anxiety and uncertainty doesn’t tend to be helpful for raising strong, and happy and healthy kids.” But a more positive result showed that 56% of criticized moms said they stopped criticizing other moms as a result. “If as moms we can stop hurting each other, that’s a great thing to do. It’s really important to support each other and to offer an empathetic word,” says Kauffman.
Ask a mom
Kauffman also shared her advice and experiences in a Michigan Health Blog post: Why ‘mom shaming’ – on social media and in person – needs to stop. Kauffman says her experiences with mom shaming are the most difficult when she’s already having a stressful day. “While some comments don’t seem like they would be hurtful from an outsider’s perspective, they still make a negative impact when you consider the context of everything else going on for a mom of young kids.” When it comes to the source of the comment, she agrees with moms in the Mott Poll. “It’s easier to brush off or laugh about a random comment from strangers. But when a comment comes from someone I trust, it can be more hurtful.” At the end of the day, moms just want support and to feel secure in their parenting decisions. As Kauffman says, “Sometimes, a mom just needs to hear that she’s doing a good job.”
For more coverage on this month’s Mott Poll Report, check out these articles from HealthDay, CafeMom, Glamour Magazine, HelloGiggles, Insider, Live Science, Refinery 29, Romper, The Bump, The Cut, the Today Show, US News & World Report, and What To Expect.