“Mom-shaming” and how to deal with it?

Mom-shaming and how to deal with it

Motherhood is undoubtedly one of the most profound and challenging journeys a woman can undertake. While it is filled with joy, growth, and love, it also brings many uncertainties and pressures, often exacerbated by social expectations and judgments. Criticism about parenting has always existed, but with the rise of social media, it has amplified and become a widespread phenomenon.

The term “mom-shaming” means shaming mothers. This phenomenon usually takes the form of comments, suggestions, criticisms, or even humiliations about the decisions mothers make regarding their children’s upbringing. These criticisms start even before a woman becomes a mother, when her desire to be or not to be a mother is questioned. From there, the list is endless: type of birth, breastfeeding, school choice… practically every decision a mother must make faces multiple opinions that are often expressed by those around her. Some common phrases include: “How can you not breastfeed?”, “Do you seriously let him/her eat with their hands?”, “If your child has tantrums in public, it’s because you’re not raising him/her properly”, “It’s irresponsible to let him/her go there alone!”. These are usually unconstructive and unsolicited criticisms, which only cause many mothers to feel high levels of anxiety and end up questioning everything they do. For this reason, it is important for general health psychology to detect this phenomenon and learn how to manage it.

Why does “mom-shaming” happen?

Mothers are the target of criticism much more frequently than fathers, reflecting a form of persistent sexism in our society, as it is more expected that they bear the responsibility for child-rearing. With women entering the workforce, household chores and childcare should be more balanced. While it is true that fathers are increasingly involved, in most families, the bulk of this task falls on the mother. Many women feel overwhelmed trying to perfectly balance their work, household chores, childcare, and a long list of other tasks, creating an enormous level of self-demand.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, it is often other women who make these criticisms. This is because society has instilled certain standards and expectations about motherhood that many women internalize and reproduce. Moreover, the traditional patriarchal model has taught women to compete rather than cooperate with each other. Consequently, many of these women end up being victims of their own thoughts, believing that others (especially other mothers) are constantly judging them. Other women criticize other mothers to protect themselves from the insecurity they feel about their own parenting methods.

As mentioned earlier, the rise of social media has contributed to making this phenomenon much more widespread. These platforms allow for rapid acquisition and sharing of information (not always accurate), promoting more frequent rushed judgments about other people’s parenting decisions. Additionally, this information overload can create the feeling that one is never doing well enough in parenting.

Parenting methods also change over time, adapting to social needs, different family models, the amount of available information on parenting… These changes contribute to more frequent criticisms from older generations who experienced different types of parenting, such as grandparents.

Consequences of mom-shaming

Which are the consequences of “mom-shaming”?

  • It generates a negative emotional impact on the woman: anxiety, constant insecurity, a feeling of doing everything wrong or not doing well enough.
  • It can also cause the mother to doubt herself and end up making decisions that are not aligned with her and her values, but with what the surrounding people suggest or demand.
  • The fear of being criticized for their decisions can lead mothers to socially isolate themselves, reducing the likelihood of being judged but also shrinking their social support network.
  • It also affects the children. Growing up in an environment where everything has to be perfect and the mother is constantly stressed can cause more anxiety and feelings of guilt in the children.

How to deal with “mom-shaming”?

Since it is a significant problem today, a collective effort is required, based on educating, empathizing with, and supporting mothers in their parenting decisions:

  • Solidarity with other women (whether we are mothers or not). Instead of judging their decisions, offer support, either by listening attentively, providing practical help, or simply expressing words of encouragement. This form of solidarity among women is called sorority.
  • Realizing that the responsibility for child-rearing should be shared with the other parent, both in public and private spaces.
  • Informing and educating ourselves about different parenting styles, being aware that there are many valid options and that our opinion does not have to match others’ styles or values, and that it is not always necessary to express what we think. Every mother and child are unique, and there is no single correct way to parent.
  • Taking care of ourselves and prioritizing our well-being. Promoting our mental health, making time for ourselves, and believing that we are doing the best we can, and that loving our children and showing it daily is much more important than satisfying other people’s comments.
  • Denouncing negative comments that we receive or witness, whether face-to-face or through social media, to prevent abusive behaviour and show support for the person receiving them.
  • Social media can also be used to combat this phenomenon. In this regard, certain groups have emerged that protest “mom-shaming”, such as the well-known “club de las malas madres”, among many others.

If you are interested, you can read more articles that help you to fight mom-shaming or other types of situations (How to set boundaries to others, Self-care, Self-compassion).

In conclusion, it is better to be a real mother and feel good about yourself than to try to be a “super-mother” who does everything (an impossible task to do, no matter how hard we try) and is constantly overwhelmed. You will be able to dedicate more quality time to your children when you break free from the “shackles” of trying to be the perfect mother. Additionally, you will be offering them a very important lesson: they do not have to do everything perfectly and will still be valid.

If you believe you need help dealing with motherhood and the consequences associated with “mom-shaming”, do not hesitate to contact us so we can help you.

Aina Fiol Veny
Psychologist Col. Num. B-02615