If you ever need more unsolicited opinions in your life, just start raising a child. Suddenly everyone and their dog has a negative opinion about the way you feed, dress, or simply breathe around your kid. It can be maddening. But talking about this issue with your partner is crucial, even if they don't quite experience it to the same degree. Learning healthy ways to discuss mom-shaming with your spouse (according to relationship experts), will help you cope with those comments from the peanut gallery.
Basically, mom-shaming occurs when others negatively judge a mother's parenting decisions in some way. From major topics such as whether you breastfeed to minor ones like your go-to brand of applesauce, your choices as a parent are up for debate. And for whatever reason, having a kid means every busybody in your vicinity is compelled to comment on your every move.
That said, such mom-shaming is nothing new, and encountering it doesn't mean you're actually a terrible parent, or anywhere close to being "bad" at all. "Honestly, I suppose mom-shaming has been going on since the first mother became the first grandmother," Dena Kouremetis tells Romper. She's the author of Psychology Today's blog, The Unedited Offspring, as well as the mom of #Girlboss author Sophia Amoruso. She cautions that many people who engage in mom-shaming may have good intentions at heart, and it's important to maintain a healthy perspective about the whole thing. Certainly, rising above the whole situation is one solution.
But if you're struggling to deal with these comments and explain the whole culture of mom-shaming to your spouse, that's OK, too. Here is some advice from relationship experts about discussing mom-shaming with your partner.
1. Ask For Genuine Support
Your spouse may brush off these mom-shaming fears with a comments like, "You're doing great, babe. Don't listen to them." Although your SO's intentions are probably pure, these responses may not help you feel much better.
"Spouses need to be empathetic and supportive versus dismissive about these types of shame-related struggles that mom can feel," Jeffrey Bernstein, PhD, child and family psychologist and author of 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child tells Romper. "Spouses often feel they are doing the 'right thing' by giving blind reassurance but this often leaves women feeling alone."
Sometimes you just need to feel heard — by your partner most of all — and it's ok to be assertive about that.
2. Talk About Social Media's Effects On You
Mom-shaming used to be limited to the people in your immediate vicinity. Now, strangers the world over can comment on your parenting choices with just a few taps on their keyboard. If you feel like your own parenting decisions are under fire from seemingly perfect parents on social media, discuss these feelings with your spouse, Bernstein says. Figure out the role these platforms will play in your relationship and your parenting choices. (Don't forget that taking a break from any and all social media is an option, too.)
3. Admit Your Uncertainty With Parenting
From your SO's point of view, you're probably an amazing parent who has this whole child-raising business on lockdown. So it may come as a surprise that you're not always certain of your parenting choices.
"To 'educate' spouses, it’s perfectly acceptable, even desirable, to admit that you are miserable or unhappy or second-guessing yourself or that you feel unsure of yourself after someone’s remarks," says Susan Newman, PhD, social psychologist and contributor to Psychology Today and US News & World Report magazines. Admitting these weaknesses may not be easy, but it will give your SO a better view into your world.
4. Mention Specific Incidents Of Mom Shaming
If something goes down on the playground with a nosey stranger, tell your SO about it. This isn't about attacking the person. Rather, it gives your SO some insight into the world of mom-shaming, as Newman further explains. Plus, you get to vent a little.
5. Ask Your SO To Take Action
Make sure your spouse has your back. "Invite your spouse to be on your 'team' to shore you up against criticism and shaming — even the comments that may be well-meaning," Newman says. If one of your in-laws makes a judgmental remark about your choice of baby sleep training techniques, then your spouse can ask them to knock it off.
6. Compare Mom-Shamers To Armchair Quarterbacks
Sometimes sports analogies really can help. "It’s common for people to 'coach' from the sidelines and blame those who are playing or coaching when things are not going so well for the team," says Mary C. Lamia, PhD, author of What Motivates Getting Things Done. Even other people who have kids don't know what it's like to raise your child. It's a whole other ball game.
7. Accept Your Different Perspectives As Parents
You SO may never quite see mom-shaming culture the same way you do, and that's OK. "The goal is to understand each other," Lamia says. As long as your spouse acknowledges that this bothers you and acts with compassion, you're doing fine.
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.