"What should I put in my significant other’s Easter basket?"
The question was asked innocently enough; I thought it was even sweet. But the responses given in an online mom’s group I’m part of were anything but sweet.
Most of the 200 replies were sarcastic at best, and downright rude in their worst moments. The general consensus was to give "nothing," with tones of annoyed self-righteousness bleeding through. The inquiring mom eventually turned off the comments. I assume she was tired of people making her feel stupid.
When one of my boys was a toddler, I naively mentioned to a group of moms that he projectile spit up. Another mom spoke up immediately, asking if I consumed dairy. When I admitted that I did, she went off, blaming me for my child’s discomfort and shaming me right back home, where I poured myself a glass of milk and vowed to keep the details of nursing and eating to myself forever and ever amen.
Why is shaming such a natural reaction for moms? Why are we so afraid of different ways of parenting?
Having been on both the giving and receiving end of mom shame, I’m heartbroken for the rest of my peers as we struggle through this difficult journey of motherhood. Not only do we have to navigate our children’s demands and struggles, but also what other moms think of us.
That side eye in the grocery store when my toddler’s throwing a catastrophic temper tantrum because I won’t let him eat the entire pint of blueberries right there in the cart? That feels awful. The snotty comments after asking a genuine question and hoping for helpful answers? It makes my skin crawl. The whispers, sneers and general feeling of doing it wrong when I’ve made an unpopular decision that I believe is the best thing for my kiddo? Yeah, that sucks.
Parenting is this totally individual thing, where we know our children the best and in the most complete way. And yet, being a mom means being judged by a group of women who think they know better than us based on a headline of our life — be it in an online post or the briefest interaction with us in person.
Let me just say this: To all the moms out there who have been on the not-so-fun side of mom shaming — you've got this. Their opinion of you doesn’t matter. Nobody knows your family like you do. Nobody can meet their needs like you can. And while it’s often helpful to pool research and see what everyone else is doing, ultimately the well-being of your family is up to you. So, take the comments — both helpful and unhelpful — with a grain of salt.
And to the moms out there who think they know everything — I would challenge you to sit back and find some perspective. What works for you probably won’t work for anyone else. And what works for someone else does not ever have to work for you.
Instead of laughing or poking fun at the different ways we do family, let’s celebrate each other’s unique sense of what it means to be a mom and a spouse. If we took the time to cheer each other on instead of spitting out the first mean thing that pops into our heads, this world we live in would be a different place. Let’s make real change by showing our kiddos what it means to support the people fighting through this struggle alongside us.
Let’s be examples of community and kindness. Let’s cheer so loudly for each other that the voices of shame and judgment can’t even be heard.
Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha.