Mom-shaming! What does it mean and why does it exist?

Mom-shaming is a word that we hear all more often. But what does it mean? Mom-shaming is simply put when a person criticises and/or degrades a mother (or both parents) for her parenting choices because they differ from the choices that the “shamer” would make. This can be done privately or publicly. Celebrities are often victims of mom-shaming.

Why do we have the tendency to mom-shame?

The society has created ideas and certain norms about how parents should be and what is best for children. Articles are written, discussions in communities and online forums have decided that they are the ones to tell parents how things should be done. Suddenly we all have ideas about what is right and what is wrong. Telling people how to raise, dress, breastfeed and carry their children.

New parents often find themselves in a situation where they are facing a new obstacle. Everything is a first time experience and challenge. We see a friend, a family member or just someone at the park in the same situation that we have found ourselves in. We want to give our advice to others on how to handle the situation. The idea is maybe not to “shame” another mother, just the need to help out, as you have found yourself in the situation before. However, this might come off to the mother you are giving advice to, that she is not a good enough parent.

Mothers and mothers-in-law want to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives. They often feel that they should have a say. Out of love and to get involved, they want to give advice or sometimes take control. For a new mother, this can feel like criticism of her ability and choices as a mother.

When is it shaming and when is it friendly advice?

Especially as new parents, we are often uncertain of our abilities as parents and we look to others for guidance. However, when told how to do things (without being asked), we often get offended. We are trying to do our best as new parents, but it’s something we have never done before. Therefore we might be extra sensitive to someone pointing out that our child might need to wear an extra sweater or shouldn’t eat that salty cracker.

Mothers giving advice and mothers receiving advice could and should, therefore, try to put them in the other person’s situation. Taking a step back and realising that there can be different ways to do things and it’s not always the right way or the wrong way.

Wait for parents to ask for your opinion or experience, before giving it.