It's no secret that things are much different now than they were 20 (or more) years ago. Just about everything is Google-able, information is everywhere, and Instagram and Pinterest have made every event seem like a monumental occasion that must be picture-perfect. With all that stress, it makes sense that new moms face more judgment today than ever before, according to a new study. Published in Families, Relationships and Societies, the study, entitled, "‘People try and police your behaviour’: the impact of surveillance on mothers and grandmothers’ perceptions and experiences of infant feeding," takes a close look at all the pressures new mothers face in modern society.
The researchers took a look at a total of six mother/grandmother pairs, 12 participants, and conducted interviews with each of them, inquiring specifically about feeding practices with their newborns. Because looking at generational differences was crucial to compare the judgement felt by mothers today, "the purposive sampling targeted new mothers to be interviewed with their own mothers, the new grandmothers." And the findings? Well, in short, "Mothers reported increased surveillance compared to grandmothers." So, yes, if you've been trying to convince your mom that you're constantly being judged as a mother, this study is a great tool to help back you up.
Whether you feel like you're being judged for breastfeeding in public, choosing to formula feed your baby, or anything in between, you're likely not alone. The study also confirms these feelings, as "participants described some instances of undertaking both breast and formula feeding in public as though it were an illicit act," because of the looks, and consequent judgement, they were receiving.
Women in the study shared some personal stories about instances in which they felt particularly shamed, judged, or criticized for their mothering choices, emphasizing that they sometimes even felt paranoid:
If you do bottle, people are thinking: “why is she bottle feeding? Why is she?” Even to the point I almost feel that I have to make comments that it’s my own milk.
Unfortunately, these findings aren't entirely unexpected. As moms everywhere know all too well, motherhood is something that everyone seems to have an opinion on. And more often than not, there will be someone who feels the need to tell you just how wrong you are in your parenting choices.
Whether you feel judged for your feeding practices, or your decision to go back to work (or stay at home) after childbirth, remember that being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Judgment coming at you from all directions makes it that much harder, of course, but you're not alone, and (more than likely) you're making the best choices for your child, despite what everyone else might think.