Mom shaming – the other perspective

>>The side of mom shaming that you may not even know exists<<

Over the past couple of years, I’ve witnessed a lot of mom shaming. I have also been on the receiving end of a good majority of it first-hand. The thing is – it’s not always what you may think it is. It may not be with bad intentions, but, as well, it also might be. With the world at our fingertips (thanks to the wonderful world of technology), I think we’ve all come across stories of mom shaming for things like being too fat, feeding your kids McDonald’s, breastfeeding your infant in public, or for whatever else anyone can come up with for why they believe you should feel bad about yourself and the job you are doing as a parent.

I thought I’d share my experience with mom shaming, and hopefully bring to light the fact that it’s everywhere, it can be incredibly unsettling and rattle our self-esteem as parents, and that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

For me, it started when I was pregnant. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase, “you’re so tiny!”, over and over and over again. By about the 56th time, it was not only annoying but it felt downright disrespectful, rude and judgmental. Maybe it was the hormones, or, maybe it was the ignorance of our society and people feeling the need to provide their opinion where it was neither asked for nor welcome. We value being “skinny” in our society, where being “skinny” is a good thing. But what about when you’re pregnant, your baby is measuring small, and you keep hearing that you’re “so tiny”? Is it still a good thing, or does it cause you to worry more? People don’t understand why it wouldn’t be flattering to hear, am I right?

I think this is a good reminder that we don’t always know what everyone or anyone else is going through. Perhaps your comment was meant as a compliment, but, in fact, you instead made a light of an issue a particular individual was extremely self-conscious about. Despite the best intentions, words can hurt when you’re in a different state of mind and don’t know the whole story. Remember that phrase we all learned in school, KISS (keep it simple, stupid!). A simple phrase, like, “you look good!” will make anyone feel good about themselves. Let’s think twice before commenting on another’s appearance or decisions, especially those we don’t know well to begin with.

Now that I have a one-year-old, I get a lot of comments that fall under the category of “mom shaming” as well. We recently moved, and as I’m getting to know new friends, I get a lot of surprised looks and comments about how young I am, how skinny I am when they find out that I have a one-year-old. Now, I get it, if you are truly surprised, you cannot easily hide this. There is nothing wrong with being taken aback or finding out new information that you really had no idea about. But it’s the comments that follow, like, “but you’re so young!” is the equivalent to saying to a 40 year old mother, “but you’re so old!” – and that is neither socially acceptable nor considered polite in any way.

So why is it OK for someone to tell me I’m too young to have a baby? I am not a teenage mother. I am in my mid to late 20’s, able to provide for my family. I have received my doctorate degree and am the breadwinner for my family. So is age the only factor for determining who makes a good mother? No. And please stop mom shaming me about it.

On the body image issue, which is probably more common in our society today, I’d like to showcase how it can affect everyone, not just those who look or are considered overweight. I have been on the receiving end of many, many remarks about how skinny or tiny or small I am, and ‘how could I have a baby’?? Starting from about 4-6 months post-partum, I kept getting many comments of this nature. Most of you may be thinking, what’s so bad about that? Nothing, if you’ve been overweight or struggling to lose weight your whole life. It is completely foreign to you.

But I’m here to tell you that there are many people, from all walks of life, who struggle with the issue of gaining weight, including mothers. It’s essentially the complete opposite struggle: facing the same issues, looks, and judgments by society, only reversed. Instead of thinking, ‘she needs to put down the fork’, it’s more like, ‘she needs to eat more’ or ‘goodness, somebody get that lady a cheeseburger’.

When you look at someone on the street or in the market who is visibly overweight, do you know what struggles they’re going through? Do you know that they have been tracking every single bite that goes into their mouth and exercising on a daily basis, just to lose 20 lbs over the last 6 months? Or that they are the primary caretaker for their mother with dementia in addition to taking care of their kids and has little if any time or energy to exercise regularly? No, you don’t know their backstory, you know nothing about them. Just like you don’t know what every other person is going through or what they may be dealing with.

Why is it ok to shame those who are skinnier than you, but not ok for those who are overweight or obese? I have plenty of friends who eat salads, veggies, limit their carbs, limit their desserts, monitor their sugar intake, exercise regularly, all in the name of losing weight. Well, I eat a ton of cheese, carbs, Reese’s pumpkins, and ice cream in the name of gaining weight. You’d rather be 10 lbs lighter? I’d rather be 10 lbs heavier. Not everything is as easy as eating more or less, not everything is black and white. So please stop mom shaming me for being ‘too skinny’ in your eyes. I’m a busy, working mother chasing after at least one toddler each day, and figuring out the rest as I go.

I get that life is not fair. People are entitled to their own opinions. Free speech. And that’s all great. But what about the traits like being respectful, well-mannered, kind and supportive? Are these not things we value anymore in today’s society? Sure, there are always going to be a few grumpy gills around, but that doesn’t mean that we have to live a life where we are regularly exposed to judgmental, inconsiderate, jealous, and downright mean people. We want to be uplifting and encouraging to friends and well as strangers and offer words that are supportive, helpful, and polite.

Well guys, you made it to the end. Thanks for listening to my mom rant! Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!

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  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve received all sides of this time of body shaming and it sucks. I’ve been super overweight while pregnant and while not pregnant. And then super skinny while pregnant and not gaining weight or being able to eat anything because I was so sick. I know most advice and comments come from a good place but some people stick their noses where they don’t belong.

    My biggest thing with Mom shaming is that everyone is already wondering if they are failing at being a parent, so as long as the child isn’t in danger…do you boo boo!

    1. You’ve been on all sides! I totally agree – the comments usually come from a good place, but they usually don’t think about how the receiver may feel about it before they open their mouths!

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