While motherhood can (sometimes, or even most of the time) be a lonely and isolating experience, it can also bring people together, for better or worse. I have met some pretty amazing women because I'm a mother, but I've also made myself vulnerable to some pretty judgmental and hurtful people because I'm a mother, too. I've been mom-shamed and judged and seen many friends experience the same and, while that is the absolute worst, I've also learned how you can help a mom who is being shamed, as a result of those hurtful experiences. I learned when I personally experienced shaming via social media, and needed people in my corner (some people helped, some people didn't) and I've learned by watching other moms being shamed, and asking how I can help or just, well, charging ahead with reckless abandon like an idiotic white knight (which I don't necessarily suggest doing because it's honestly not always helpful).
Honestly, every mother needs help in (arguably) every aspect of motherhood. I'm not saying mothers are incapable of doing things on their own. On the contrary, most mothers do the majority of their necessary tasks solo. But, I mean, couldn't we all use some help? Like, as adults? Adulting is hard; parenting is hard; being a mother in a world that seems hell-bent on judging every decision you make is hard; it's all just hard and when a stiff drink and a warm shower just won't cut it, I say reach out and ask for help and, in turn, don't be afraid to help someone else, too. We may not all be in "this" together, because we're essentially making our own parenting decisions and taking care of unique, individual little humans and coming from varying backgrounds, but we can work side-by-side and support one another in our endeavors. This means helping a mom who may have problems breastfeeding, helping a mother who is struggling with potty training, and definitely helping a mother who is experiencing mom-shaming.
So, with that in mind and in the spirit of solidarity and motherhood and warm fuzzy feelings and all that good stuff, here are 10 ways you can help a mom who is being mom-shamed, in public or on online. I mean, really and truly; if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
Remind Her That She's Not Alone (But Don't Invalidate Her Feelings)
Raise your hand if you're a parent and you've been shamed (publicly, online, by a family member and even a friend) for the choices you've made. Yeah, unfortunately I'm imagining a lot of hands in the air right now, and they're not waving from side-to-side like they just don't care. Sadly, mom-shaming is a real thing and so many of us experience it on the regular. That fact alone isn't necessarily all that heartwarming but, believe it or not, it does help to know that we're not alone. We've all been there, so if you can give a gentle reminder that so many other moms have felt the way that particular mom is feeling now (while not invalidating or diminishing her very valid and real feelings) I can almost promise you that she'll start to feel better.
Stand Up For Her, Online Or In Person
If you feel comfortable and safe, say something. Of course, it's not your job to put yourself in danger or become a martyr in any way, but if you can stand up for a mother who is being shamed, I can guarantee you she'll be thankful. Whether it's behind a keyboard or in person, let that mom and the person shaming her know that the entire situation isn't OK. Like, not at all. Chances are, she's feeling bullied and called out and about two inches tall and starting to doubt herself and her capabilities, so go to her aid and be her support when she feels she no longer has any.
Advocate For Right To Make Her Own Decisions
If it's a specific parenting choice the mom is being shamed for (whether it's breastfeeding in public or choosing to have a scheduled c-section), advocate for her right to make those decisions. Do you have to agree with her specific choices? Of course not. I, for one, have plenty of friends who have made parenting choices that I wouldn't personally make myself. However, what I do for my kid and what they do for theirs shouldn't stop me from fighting for their right to make their own choices for their own family. We all walk our own parenting path and, honestly, regardless of how those paths may vary; I'm just stoked there's more than one way to go about motherhood.
Share Articles (With Her) That Relate To Her Situation
I don't know about you, but I have been passive aggressively mom-shamed via the obvious article share. You know this tactic, right? It's when I post a picture or I make a statement about a particular decision or choice on social media, and bam: there it is; an "article" or "study" that explicitly argues against my choice. Followed by another. Followed by another. In fact, I once posted that I was (regrettably and so very sadly) being forced to find a new home for our family cat, who was continually scratching our son. A friend then posted meme after picture after article about "forever pets" and how you shouldn't be an "over-protective mother" and it was all so hurtful and mean and obvious and anything but helpful. The posts were clearly directed towards me, but were strategically placed as to not cause an outright debate or discussion. (Spoiler alert: the cat is still with us, not because of the mom-shaming, but because another friend took the time to share her personal experience and walk me through some tips to get our pet and our son to "play nice.")
So, instead, why not share articles that relate to a mom's specific situation and the choices she makes, in a positive way? Instead of posting them publicly in an attempt to shame her, send them her way directly. If you're really worried about the choices she's making, talk to her in private. I promise, your message will travel a lot further and seem infinitely more genuine.
Tell Her About Your Own Experiences
Whether you're telling her about a time you've personally been shamed; telling her about a time you made the same parenting mistake she's apparently getting attacked for; or telling her that you make the same choice she makes, sharing our personal stories in solidarity will go a long way in letting mothers know that they're not going through parenthood alone. I mean, motherhood can be a pretty lonely and isolating experience.
Tell Her That Her Choices Are Just That: Her Choices
There is a lot of pressure associated with motherhood; whether it's self-induced or forced on us by society, family, friends or other parents. It's not uncommon to feel like you have to make a specific decision or others will judge you or consider you an unfit mother and whisper endlessly behind your back. Honestly, we all need a little reminder that we have the right to make any choice we want, as long as it's healthy and safe for all involved. We get to decide how we raise our children; we get to decide how we provide for our family; we get to decide how we do one of million things parenthood requires.
Remind Her That Her And Her Family Matter Most
Do we all want to be validated in your choices? Of course we do. It's nice to hear that we're doing a great job, especially by people outside of our close family and friend circles. However, is that validation the absolute, most important thing? Nope. Not even close. What's most important is that mom, baby, partner and any other immediate family members are happy, healthy and safe. If that mom's choices are facilitating all of the above, well: goodbye haters.
Let Her Vent Without Judgement
If a mother has just experienced (or even currently experiencing) some shame and judgement, she probably needs to vent. Like, bad. She probably needs to scream and yell and maybe even cry; she probably needs to say bad things about people who, right now, are not her favorite; she probably needs to do things that she really wouldn't feel comfortable doing in any public forum, because it isn't necessarily indicative of who she is as a person, just how she feels in that moment. If you really want to help her out, let her do all of those things and don't bat an eyelash about it. Don't think less of her when obscenities fly out of her mouth; don't ask her to think about the person doing the shaming and why they might feel the need to judge people (I mean, yes, that's a great thing to do but right now that mom just needs to say some things).
Remind Her That It's Okay To Cut Hurtful People Out Of Her Life
It's not easy to cut people out of your life, especially if they're people you really care about but just can't seem to support your decisions. While I advise being careful broaching this subject, I do think it's worth reminding a mom that it's okay to cut toxic people out of her life. She doesn't need to be weighed down by judgement. Honestly, no one does.
Tell Her That It Will Be Okay
The shame and guilt and doubt she's been made to feel by some judgmental person, will pass. I promise. However she's been made to feel (angry, sad, betrayed, you name it) will evolve into something positive, whether it be a catalyst for ridding herself of toxic people, or a teaching moment that better prepares her for possible shaming in the future. Honestly, everything will be okay (and yes, I repeat that exact sentence to myself multiple times throughout the day. How else do you survive motherhood?).