Mom-shamers don't discriminate. No matter what parenting choice you make, someone will find a way to criticize your decision. It's hurtful when the comment comes from a stranger or an acquaintance, but I'd argue it's not too hard to let those comments roll off your back. When you have a relationship with the person, say a mother-in-law or friend, it becomes more complicated. It's perhaps the most distressing, though, to have the source be your significant other. I asked women to reveal the mom-shaming they've heard from their own partners, and it was eye-opening.
Eighty percent of millennial moms deal with mom-shaming, according to a 2017 survey conduced by baby food brand Beech-Nut. And, according to a report from C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, 36 percent of parenting criticism comes from a mom's own parenting partner. Now, this could be because the number of interactions we have with our partners is greater than those we have with virtually anyone else, or because we're just more inclined to interpret what's meant as a gentle suggestion as an attack when it comes from our partner. It's just as possible however, that insensitivity and lack of respect are the culprits.
Being a mom is a tough gig, and when your partner judges you on anything from your postpartum body to the way you parent, they make it that much harder. Just ask these women:
"My partner didn’t like me breastfeeding our children in front of guests in our home. Our children also didn’t like to nurse when guests came over. I always ended up in the nursery nursing. We would always get into an argument before we’d go somewhere or before guests would come over. We are still together and our children are 4 and 2."
"My husband will point out to me when I verbally come down on our son too much. Like, speaking to him in a condescending way. It doesn't make me feel good when he repeats my tone back to me."
"I feel like I'm tattling (and on a really good dad, at that) but two things I heard/hear a lot are: one, he can't go anywhere with the two kids, like it's not possible, couldn't imagine it. So I feel forced (shamed?) into always bringing both kids everywhere.
"And two: to stop breastfeeding. I'm not even going to keep going because I get fired up, but I want to feel total support in that regard and it's ended up more of me having to defend my decision.
"Also, I'm not down for sexy time these days. I know it'll come back, but I feel like a bad wife."
"I currently work as a substitute teacher, and my husband is a tenure track professor. On his days home with our 17-month-old, he often gets done way more than I would.
"Last week, I was unable to pick up a sub job for a day when we had daycare scheduled, so I said I’d take him in and use the time to fix the toilet. My husband asked, 'You can’t fix the toilet with him here?'
"Um. Do we expect plumbers, who do this every day, to do their job with a 17-month-old grabbing gross/dangerous things, getting in the way, and just generally being distracting? Why on earth should I, a person who occasionally likes the challenge of fixing things, be expected to manage that?"
"My husband said his ex never had any problems breastfeeding. I think he was legitimately stumped as to how to help me. Classic foot in mouth maneuver."
"Ever since I had children (my oldest is 5 and my youngest is 3), my husband has had issues with my weight gain. I have gained about 20-30 pounds since having my second. He has told me he doesn’t find me as attractive anymore because of it. Side note: he has also gained 30-40 pounds since we had kids, and never mentions that fact when discussing my weight.
"I am not worried about my weight and feel more confident in myself than I ever have in all my life, and I think it bothers him that I’m not rushing to lose weight for him. I think many men feel they 'deserve' women who look a certain way or weigh a certain amount, but don’t feel any kind of obligation to look a certain way for their wives.
"I am active because it makes me feel good to move my body, but I will not lose weight for anyone else and I will not make my outward appearance where I find my worth."
"My ex-partner kept saying that his mother had actually lost 2 pounds from her pre-pregnancy weight after she gave birth."
"I was two weeks postpartum with my first. My parents had been visiting since the baby was born and helping enormously. They were leaving the next morning, and I was crying, feeling so overwhelmed and worried about how I would handle taking care of the baby by myself when they left. My husband told me that I had been 'too moody' since the baby was born and I needed to snap out of it because he was tired of it."
"My daughter (our first child) was about 3 months old — she was exclusively breastfed, and I had to leave the house for the first time without her. (I could have brought her with me, but it was easier to leave her with my husband.) I fed her before I left and put her in her swing to sleep (I wouldn't do that now, but I was 19 and stupid), so that she would hopefully sleep the whole time I was gone (which she did).
"I got home about an hour and a half later and saw that my husband had washed the dishes and I said, 'Oh you washed the dishes, thank you!' And he replied, 'Yeah, I did. I also vacuumed and did a load of laundry. It's not even hard to keep the house clean. I don't understand why you make it out like it's so difficult to keep the house clean. You really should be getting more done.'"
"My partner was part of the reason I felt pressured to breastfeed. I remember expressing early in my baby's life that I wished I could combo feed with formula. I was desperate because our baby was nursing every hour sometimes. I was getting no sleep, had postpartum depression, and had no help outside my partner, and he worked 10 to 12 hours a day at that time.
"So, I approached him and asked how he felt about combo feeding. He told me he would rather I didn't and that he just liked the 'natural' way. At the time, I was vulnerable and didn't know what to say. It upset me, and I felt shamed for even considering formula.
"Fast forward a few months and I'm into the swing of things but still stressed as hell. So, I brought it up again. Same answer, but this time I defended myself. I explained that it was my body and I was exhausted. I also explained how harmful the 'natural' rhetoric was. He understood a bit, but I still felt like he thought he was 'giving up' when we bought a can of formula.
"Since then, I've talked about it to him a lot and he learns more and more. He has since said he'd support me if I formula feed our next from the get-go. Nevertheless, his initial reaction still stings in my memory."
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.