Motherhood can bring a wonderful community to your doorstep, but it can also bring a whole lot of judgement and shame. The Mommy Wars are nothing new, and I think at some point every mom has found herself trying to justify why she didn't breastfeed and why she chose to let her baby cry it out. Although a lot of mom-shaming is very obvious (and very rude) there are some really subtle ways to make a mom feel like crap about her choices. In fact, there are probably some ways you don't realize you're shaming other moms.
I know — you would never shame another mom on purpose. I wouldn't either. But I know I have said some things in the fairly recent past that could've made a mom feel ashamed. Like asking a mom why she chose to formula feed instead of breastfeed. Even though I meant it as a legit question (because I both breastfed and formula fed), it can still be incredibly shameful to a mom who's either already struggling with her decision or on the defensive about it. And you know what? It's none of my business.
I know it feels like there are a lot of things you shouldn't do or say to a new mom for fear of hurting her feelings, but it's worth taking a look at these 15 ways you don't even realize you're shaming other moms. Motherhood is an incredibly tender time in a woman's life because there is no expert. Every day presents new challenges and no matter how many kids a mom has or how long she's been a parent, she's bound to have a moment each day where she has no idea what the hell she's doing. And when you do these 15 things, even in a moment of good intentions, you're making her feel even worse.
1. Saying "Well My Kid Never Did That"
You're implying that, obviously, something is wrong with their child. Look, I know that's not what you meant, but it's hard to see logic when you're a frazzled mom, trying to explain to your friend how your child throws their food every time you hand it to them. Instead, say something like, "Man, that must be rough" and continue to listen. You don't have to remind them about your precious angel that eats everything you give her.
2. Talking About Breastfeeding When She's Chosen Formula
Here's a newsflash for those who continue to assume formula feeding moms know nothing — they actually are intelligent human beings. I'm willing to bet that every mom who has chosen to formula feed her baby actually does know the benefits of breast milk and why it's recommended. You don't have to keep reminding her. I know you think you're helping when you talk about the bonding you have during breastfeeding, all of the benefits it's giving both you and your baby, and offering tips to help your fellow mom get her baby back on the breast. But you have no idea why she's chosen formula and you don't have any right to know. Just be quiet and be glad she's feeding her baby.
3. Pretending To Be A Certain Type Of Mom
It's very hard to bond with a fellow mom and make her feel like she can relate to you when you aren't being real. If you're a mom who literally always has it together, then be her. You don't have to pretend to be a forgetful mom who doesn't care about homemade baby food if that's not who you are. Shaming happens on both sides. Moms who seem to be perfect can feel shamed by those who consider themselves to be "hot mess" moms and vice versa. Don't pretend like your kid has never eaten food off the ground or that you hate homemade Christmas ornaments — own your mom status.
4. Saying "There's No Way I Could Put My Baby Through That"
I don't care what you're talking about. A divorce, crying it out, or a 12 hour road trip — it doesn't matter. When you say, "There's no way I could put my baby through that," what do you think it's implying to your fellow mom? That she's a horrible parent for putting her child "through that"? That she should've stayed with an abusive partner because her kids will suffer through a divorce? That she doesn't think of her children and she's a selfish person? Be understanding and listen to her. It's fine if you don't agree with her decisions, but implying that she's a bad mom for making them is a huge no-no.
5. Questioning Their Decisions
I know, this seems like a fine line. I think it's OK to have a discussion with a mom friend about why she chose homeschool, but to question her actual decision? Not OK. You can't say, "I don't understand why you would choose homeschool over public education." You can ask, "So I was wondering how you came to that decision, it's pretty interesting. What made up your mind about it?" See the difference? You can ask thoughtful questions that open up a discussion, but to just question their actual decision is not OK.
6. Claiming To Have Loved Every Moment Of Motherhood
Just stop. All you're telling me is that I'm an emotion-less robot because I don't always love the middle of the night wake-up calls? Not every moment of motherhood is perfect and if you tell me you loved all of it, even when your kid was screaming for the ice cream they just told you they didn't want, you're going to make me feel like sh*t for hating those moments.
7. Getting Passive Aggressive With Your Comments
You know what I'm talking about. Those underhanded comments like, "Well, that's just me," when you're talking about not understanding moms who need a break from their kid. That muttering of, "I guess that makes sense for your family, but I just don't get it" also counts.
8. Reminding Them Of The AAP Guidelines
Especially if it contradicts something they're doing. When you hear another mom say her baby loved rice cereal at four months and you pipe up with, "Actually, the American Academy of Pediatrics says you shouldn't start food until a baby is six months old." Shhh. I like to call you The Corrector and you're shaming. Stop that.
9. Questioning Their Delivery
I had a C-section and it was as far away from my birthing plan as I could've possibly gotten. I wanted an un-medicated birth with no induction or epidural. But because of things outside of my control, like having low platelets and being diagonsed with preeclampsia, I had to have surgery. There are few things I hate more than someone saying, "Well, I don't understand why you had to have a C-section? Didn't you tell your doctor what you wanted?" Yes. Of course I did. But you know, I thought the health of my baby and me was more important than pushing her out of my vagina without meds. If you also follow up with, "I would've never put up with that," you get an extra dose of shhhhh.
10. Telling Them Their Baby Is Behind On Milestones
"What do you mean he's not crawling? Have you asked his pediatrician?" Again, I know you're trying to help and maybe you truly are concerned. But I guarantee that if it's ever occurred to you to call your baby's doctor, it's occurred to your mom friend, too. She knows what her baby "should" be doing at each age, trust me. She's already worried if her baby's not meeting a milestone, she doesn't need you to intervene.
11. Asking Them If They Ever Feel Guilty
You know which version of this question I mean, too. All moms talk about their guilt, but if your friend is mentioning going back to work, you shouldn't ask her if she feels guilty. Likewise, if she's going to be a stay-at-home parent, don't ask her if she feels guilty about not being a working parent. It's either making them feel bad because they don't feel guilty (and implying that they should) or reminding them that there's a reason why they feel bad.
12. Claiming That You Could Never Trust A Daycare
Because some moms have to put their kids in daycare. It doesn't make them less of a mom. They worry and fret over their children just as much as you do.
13. Making Fun Of Pinterest Moms
It seems to be the thing these days to make fun of moms who like to craft or cook family meals every night, but you know what? They're moms, too. They shouldn't be shamed just because they fit the mold of a "Pinterest mom," just like you don't want them to poke fun at you for always buying your kids' food instead of making it from scratch.
14. Arguing That Moms Who Seem To Have It Together Are Liars
Again, some moms really do have it all together. They never forget it's their turn for snack day, they always make extra brownies for the bake sale, their kids are always dressed and on time, and they seem to thrive in their version of motherhood. Not all of those moms are "putting it on" or "pretending for Facebook". Just because you can't understand it doesn't mean it's not her real, everyday life.
15. Saying "Well It Worked For Me, Maybe You're Doing It Wrong"
This one just really gets me going. I can't tell you how many times someone has asked me if I've tried redirecting my daughter's attention when she's getting into things she shouldn't. Stop trying to be helpful. Now you're just making me feel bad.