Combat Mommy Shaming

Top five ways

Here are five ways to combat mommy shaming, that defeating, painful strike of judgment from others that befalls any parent from time to time:

Listen with compassion

It helps to remember that, for the most part, people are trying to help. Never mind that their “help” stresses you out, contradicts your parenting style or makes you want to scream. If you can remember that their words are coming from a good place, it can curb a snippy remark or some other reply you might regret. Even better, verbally acknowledge the concern while moving on with your agenda, saying something like, “That makes a lot of sense. I feel better when I do it this way, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness.”

Figure out what they are really saying

Often, when others try to convince you of something, they are actually trying to convince themselves. Strong disapproval of your parenting methodology is sometimes a psychological defense against feeling unpleasant emotions. Your detracting sister-in-law may have doubts about her own actions as a mom, or the woman in the playgroup who suggests your child has ADD may be worried something is amiss with her own youngster.

We’re not suggesting you psychoanalyze others here, but rather try to understand that different approaches to parenting can open up a lot of questions for others and make them feel insecure as parents. Remembering this can help you feel compassion for the other person, not anger. Try asking them why they find your parenting methodology bothersome and then use the opportunity to explain why you do it the way you do (which brings us to the next point…).

Arm yourself with information (and be prepared to use it)

The day my daughter came home from the hospital, she fussed any time we put her in the bassinet. I wasn’t terribly concerned, but my mom was. “What are you going to do tonight?” she asked. “Where will the baby sleep?” When I told her we were co-sleeping, she had an adverse reaction.
To help my mom understand, I found a pamphlet from La Leche League with articles about sharing sleep with your infant, how to make it safe and how it helps some moms and babies get as much sleep as possible. My mom not only understood more about co-sleeping and our decision, but used the information to talk to other family members about our choice for co-sleeping, saving us from their probing questions.

Change the topic

In the book 25 Things Every New Mother Should Know, Dr. Martha Sears suggests that the pressure of dealing with unwanted advice can undermine your confidence as a parent. “The time you spend with your baby makes you the expert on this unique individual,” she reminds us. With this in mind, when all else fails, simply change the topic. “Talk about the weather, if you have to,” a mom of five once told me, and it might be my favorite piece of advice so far.

Be good to yourself so you can be good to others

Parenting is a tough job made excruciating if you are constantly hearing criticism in your head. Remember to tell yourself you are doing a good job, even on days you feel hopelessly inept, and especially on days when someone has contradicted you. Reach out to like-minded friends and vent frustrations freely in the company of your cheerleading allies. At the end of the day, you are the one who has to live inside your head, so make it a nice place to be.
You don’t have to be a parent to be plagued by self-doubt, but something about the job compounds the natural tendency to wonder, “Am I doing this right?” Questioning your actions is OK; it helps you to stay present and redirect your course where needed. But the kinder and more generous you can be to yourself, the more kindness and generosity you will have left over for everyone else.


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