Motherhood is not a one size fits all deal, but that doesn't seem to stop the ways society subtly stereotypes moms. It's been happening for so long, you may not have realized the sneaky ways these ideas about what and who a mom should be have creeped into your subconscious. I'll admit it, I have fallen for some of these myself. When I became a mom, I believed I needed to act a certain way to be considered a "good mom." I fell into the bad habit of questioning my thoughts, actions, and beliefs when they did not line up with the image of good moms that was being projected by society in different ways.
It wasn't until I had time to step back and reflect that I began to realize how most of those stereotypes are not only a bunch of crap, but totally unrealistic and slightly sexist. Realizing that there are 100 different ways to be a mom is freeing — it gives you permission to define the role as you wish. Most moms I know value the realness of moms who tell the truth about their lives and share their struggles instead of trying to keep up with stereotypes.
For some good examples of how this situation can happen, check out these seven ways society subtly stereotypes moms, and don't be ashamed if you've fallen for some. It happens to the best of us.
1. Poorly Portraying Them On TV
I love to kick back and burn through my DVR after a long day, but you won't find many shows on my list that have to do with families. Why? Because I am always a bit put off about the ways moms are portrayed. There's usually two extremes: the overly involved, controlling mom (think Claire Dunfy of Modern Family) or the scattered, needy mom. These two personalities definitely exist, but are extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to representing moms. The only show I have found that comes close to shutting down neat clean boxes for mothers is Jill Kargman's Odd Mom Out, which shows many different aspects of a mother's life and personality.
2. Creating Categories For Mom
Sometimes you have to step back and evaluate the information you're being fed. The media loves to hype up the alleged battle between working moms and stay at home moms. But in my circle of moms, this tension is non-existent. This is another way society tries to put moms in categories and create a stereotype to go along with each. I know many moms of each type (working outside the home, and working in the home) and they are each as unique as every freckle on their face. I find the notion of this "battle" difficult to comprehend.
3. Assigning Roles
Just recently, my sons' school changed the term "Room Mom," to "Room Parent," because a dad signed-up. He was the first dad in the history of the school to volunteer for this responsibility. But it opened the door for more dads to join in. Expecting moms to be the only parent who would like this role is outdated, but is still happening. Hopefully a change is on the way.
4. Expecting Them To Figure It All Out
Motherhood is a challenging role — and don't get me wrong, everyone wants to make life easier — but the assumption that figuring out how to balance everything is always focused on the mom. There are numerous articles about how moms can balance life, but scarcely any for dads on the same topic.
5. Assuming All Moms Are Frazzeled
Unfortunately, sometimes moms believe they must fit into the stereotype of doing it all, and burn their candle at both ends. This can lead to a very real and noted condition known as Mommy Burnout. Although this is a reality for some moms, not every mom is at the end of her rope looking for a safety net. This plays into one of the roles we often see in television, where the moms is so frazzled, she can't seem to ever pull it together.
6. Pressuring Them To Behave
I have seen many a death glare from onlookers when a mother dares to make waves, or go against the grain. "She shouldn't be acting that way, she's a mother," I've heard them snarl. Expecting moms to be well behaved and not drawn attention to themselves is outdated and damaging thinking, yet many people still hold these ideas of how a mom should and should not act.
7. Painting Them A Certain Way In Ads
The moms in ads seem to be doing everything right, and looking like a million bucks while doing it all. But as advertising executive and mom, Katherine Wintsch told The New York Times, “I was crying myself to sleep dealing with a toddler and an infant, but the mothers in advertising looked so perfect." That's when she realized she needed to be part of the change.
Wintsch worked with her firm to nix the stereotype of the "perfect mom" that advertisers were using to lure moms to their products, and created campaigns that pitch to the real mom instead.