As a child, I shared a room with my entire family until the age of 11 because that was all we could afford. We never went on vacations, so I would lie about trips to Disney World when it came time to discuss our summer plans in class. My hard-working, immigrant parents did the best they could. Years later, I would become a low-income mom myself, and the judgements I faced were highly unexpected. This is why I’ve made this list of ways folks don’t realize they’re shaming low-income moms.
There are folks who outright shame anyone who has kids and can't afford a four bedroom house with a two car garage. These are the people who say things like, “If you can't afford them, you shouldn't have them,” only to (usually, but not always) advocate for restricted abortion and reproductive rights. Many of these folks don't even have kids themselves. I know because, once upon a time, I was one of them. I didn't get why anyone would choose to reproduce if they would constantly be struggling. It seemed almost unfair. But what I failed to recognize is that we all have the right to start a family.
So, as long as we work hard to make sure our kids needs are met, there's nothing wrong with not being a rich parent. In retrospect, I know I was wrong in my judgement of mothers and other parents. If you're wondering whether you've ever accidentally or unintentionally shamed a low-income mom, this list is for you.
Commenting On How Soon They’re Returning To Work
If the mama in question has a full-time job, but is not exactly in a high-ranking, paid leave sort of position, she might cut her maternity leave short. It's difficult to care for your newborn if you're constantly terrified you'll not have enough money for bills. Instead of saying, “Oh, but aren't you going to miss the baby?” (because of course she is), try saying, “Is there anything I can do to help you with this transition?”
...Or Why They’re Suddenly Becoming Stay-At-Home Moms...
If a mom’s income isn't high enough to justify paying for daycare while she works, she might just stay home. There are other reasons for staying home, too, of course, but I've found that the inability to pay for childcare is way more common reason than you might think. Criticizing her (potentially reluctant and difficult) decision to forego her career due to finances is just plain mean.
...As Well As Pushing On Why They Won’t Send Their Kids To Child Care/Babysitter
Not everyone can afford child care. Not everyone can afford a babysitter. I'm sure most parents would love to, but pressing them on why they don't “take a night off” and leave the baby with someone else is not OK.
Criticizing The Food They Feed Their Children
When I was pregnant with my son, I dreamt of only feeding him organic purées I made all by myself. I wouldn't let a single conventional fruit or veggie touch his mouth. Then I realized that food is food and WIC and Snap don't cover organic baby food, and I was too tired and stressed to make any of my own, so that went out the window.
Whenever I encountered a mom who raised her eyebrows at me for giving my son some apples and prune mash from a Gerber jar, you can bet I felt more than a few feelings.
...Or The Toys Their Kids Play With
“But aren't those made in China?” Y'all, it would be a wonderful world if we could all afford fancy handcrafted wooden toys, made locally, for our kids. But fact is, some of us can only afford to get “the cheap stuff," and cheap usually comes in the form of plastic. Don't scrunch your nose at my kids toys just because they don’t come from the family-owned store a few blocks away.
Making Negative Comments About Food Stamps And/Or WIC
The biggest form of shame I ever got in my early mom days were the huffs and glares from folks standing behind me in line at the grocery store while I brought out my WIC checks. While some folks were more sympathetic and patient, others would make a fuss and clearly not caring at all about how it might make someone like me feel.
And don’t even get me started on all the folks who would casually say that people on SNAP or WIC are “lazy” or “taking advantage of the system.” You can kindly you-know-what yourself, thank you very much.
Judging Them For Not Putting Their Child In Mommy-And-Me Or Other Group Play Activities
I don’t know when it became the norm to automatically put your kid in Gymboree or My Gym or Banana Monkey Jungle Butts Class or whatever, but I, for one, am sick of hearing about it. Nearly everyone around me that had kids would immediately ask me why I wasn’t taking my son to one of these monthly membership places.
I get they might be good places to meet and bond with other moms, or fun in general for the kids, but they never seemed to think that maybe, a) I wasn’t interested and, b) I couldn’t afford it. They certainly never gave me a gift card for it, that’s for sure.
Continuously Asking Why They Haven’t Had Professional Photos Taken Of Their Baby
While our parents generation were all about Glamour Shots, these days parents seem to have a need to purchase professional portraits of their kids for every damn season and holiday there is. Like, I get it. You think your kid is cute, and that’s awesome. However, and it must be said, please forgive me for not dropping $100 every two months to take posed photos of my kid and, you know, feeding him instead.
Questioning Their Children’s Clothing (Or Dropping Brand Names)
I have a relative, I won’t say which one, who is kind of stuck on brand names. She always seems to shame me whenever I buy my kid clothes that are just, well, kid clothes. Shirts and comfy shorts and pants and colorful socks, sans a Polo or Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger logo. She likes to gift him clothing with said brands emblazoned on them and frankly, I find it shaming as hell.
Constantly Offering Them All Your Old, Unwanted Belongings Even After They’ve Refused
Look, I get it. You’ve been a parent, so you want to help offset the cost by offering me your child’s former wear (plus your closet is full). I totally appreciate the gesture. Honestly, though, I don’t like your style and if you offer them to me one more time I’m going to scream because while I may not be rich, I can still afford a few things.
Gloating About What You’re Able To Afford For Your Own Kids
Some parents are the worst. For example, the ones who will tell you about how hard it was for them to secure a spot at the most expensive freaking Montessori preschool in town. Or how they spent $2,000 on their baby’s first birthday party: the one that had ponies and a magic show and singing chipmunks and little blue elves with white hats that brought the cake out and whatever. You know what I mean. STFU, thanks.