How To Deal With Mom Shaming & Turn It Into Something Positive
Mom shaming. Whether it's the number of kids you do or don't have ('"Only one, huh?"), side-eye about how you handle public meltdowns, the good ol' breastfeeding versus bottle feeding convo, the method in which you gave birth, or commentary on your choice to be a stay-at-home mom (or not), the mom-shame-game is strong. It's hard not to be irked by it, but what if you could discover how to deal with mom shaming and make it positive? I mean, it sounds like a good deal to me.
So, I chatted with a few experts about how we can take the crappy, negative comments and turn them into something that suits us (because they certainly don't sound like they will upon delivery). Because, Lord, if you ever had the urge for a smack down it's in the middle of Target when a woman taps you on the shoulder to tell you how to better mother your child who may or may not be having a meltdown in aisle 14.
But deep breaths, mom. I've got you covered with some pros who are going to help you take that mama bear rage and turn it into a bit of Zen. Because, really, why would you even waste your time with any other emotion?
1. Remember It's Not You, It's Them
"When it comes to any type of shaming, it's important to remember that these types of comments are always about the other person and not about you," Ashley Bradley, a coach and consultant at Purpose & Prosper, tells Romper. "As human beings we all have flaws and insecurities." Bradley explains that when people see a mom making a choice that is different from their own, it's easy for them to feel insecure about their own choices.
"When you are on the receiving end of the shaming, it's helpful to take a step back and remember this," she says. "Get curious before you respond from a place of hurt or anger. What might be making them feel uncomfortable or insecure in this situation?" Bradley says by allowing the shamer their insecurities, you'll be better able to respond in a positive way.
2. Don't Worry, You're Happy
Want a positive spin? Go ahead and Chrissy Teigen it with a simple, "Why you so unhappy, girlfriend?" That way, it takes the burden of negativity off of you and slaps it right back on to the shamer. No harm done.
3. Turn Negative Comments Into Affirmations
Darby Morris, owner and founder of California-based Sweetbay Doula, says she recently had a chance to witness an activity in an Empowered Mamas course that involved a sheet of paper and three columns. "One column is 'Unhelpful Voice', the second is 'Feeling,' and the third is 'Affirmation'," Morris explains to Romper. "In class, we worked on turning our own internal unhelpful voices to affirmations that work for us."
For example, Morris says, women turned "I can't push this baby out" (unhelpful voice) into "my body knows what it's doing and was built to push my baby out" (affirmation). Apply the same theory to negative mom-shaming voices and find a positive internal affirmation, Morris says, and nix outside stressors. Case in point: "Breastfeeding is so much better for babies" as you bottle feed your little one (unhelpful voice). What you should hear: "I am feeding and nourishing my little one." End of story.
4. Take A Moment To Reflect
Before you get down on a shamer, keep in mind that there's a good chance you've been one before, too, says Bradley. Whether your incident was rolling your eyes at a screaming child at Target or eyeing up a mom, then saying something to the tune of, "I would never ..."
"I can recount so many times when I saw kids in restaurants on a phone or iPad and made the statement that I wouldn't want that for my future kids," Bradley says of her life before children. "Now that I have my own rambunctious toddler, you better believe I'm more than willing to trade 20 minutes of YouTube for the opportunity to peacefully finish my meal."
5. Make It An Excuse To Spend More Time With Your Crew
One way to cancel out mom shamers? Ignore them and opt for time with your favorite people instead. They don't have to agree with everything you say or do, they just have to support you (and you them). "Stick with your supporters and reduce the time you spend with those who judge you — be they family or friends," Psychology Today noted about mom shaming.
6. Deflect Like A Pro
This might not seem like a positive spin, but let me help you do the math (along with expert advice from Maria Lianos-Carbone, the publisher and editor of amotherworld.com). "Instead of being upset by unsolicited advice or inappropriate questions, you can deflect," she says. "Pose the question back to them and say, for example, 'Do you remember how it was, how you felt?'" Lianos-Carbone says to give them a second to reflect and then listen to see if they have anything helpful to share. What you might end up with is a mom shaming moment turned mama pow-wow, which is pretty cool if you ask me. "You’re entitled to feel the way you feel and share your thoughts on it," Lianos-Carbone says.
7. Put It All Into Perspective
While there certainly is enough mom shaming to go around, there are also a ton of moms who are really freaking supportive of one another. As Lori Fradkin wrote for Cosmopolitan, " In the almost-18 months that I’ve been a mother, I’ve noticed a form of interaction that gets significantly less attention, something no one mentions when you’re pregnant and certainly doesn’t make headlines. It’s not dramatic. In fact, it’s kind of boring. But it’s important and more women should talk about it. It’s the everyday phenomenon of moms supporting each other."
And that's the only type of mom interaction that's worth focusing on — promise.
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.