Navigating Mom Shaming with Empathy and Strength

mom shaming

Being a mom is one of the toughest jobs out there. From conception, mothers face a never-ending barrage of decisions, sacrifices, and challenges. Yet in today’s world, it’s not just the pressures of parenthood that weigh heavily—mom shaming has become a toxic phenomenon that targets and criticizes mothers for their choices.

What is mom shaming?

Mom shaming encompasses many behaviors, from subtle criticisms to outright attacks on a mother’s parenting decisions. It can take various forms, such as commenting on a mother’s feeding choices, discipline methods, work-life balance, or appearance. Mom shaming can occur within social circles, online forums, and even in the media, perpetuating unrealistic standards of motherhood.

Examples of Mom Shaming

Mom shaming can happen in person and online, and it can come from friends, family, partners, and other moms. Sometimes, it’s outright critical or hurtful, like when a stranger says, “I can’t believe that mom feeds her kids like that,” or when your mother-in-law suggests, “Maybe your baby wouldn’t cry so much if you did things my way.” Other times, people might think they’re being helpful, but their words can still feel like mom shaming.

Here are seven examples of what mom-shaming can look like:

  • Criticizing a Mom’s Choice to Stay at Home: Some might comment, “it must be nice to not have to work” or “I wish I had been able to play with my kids all day.” But being a full-time at-home mom is tough, exhausting, and often thankless.
  • Criticizing Breastfeeding Choices: People frequently have strong opinions about breastfeeding, but it’s a personal choice that can depend on a variety of factors, such as birth trauma or latching problems. Moms already worry about breastfeeding enough without feeling ashamed.
  • Shaming Moms Who Take on Nontraditional Parenting Roles: Some people still expect moms to handle all the housework and childcare, looking down on those who work full-time or prioritize other things. Every family is different, and deciding what works best’s up to them.
  • Competition Between Moms: When moms start comparing themselves to others, it can lead to a competition for who’s the best mom. But every mom has strengths and struggles, and comparing just makes moms feel alone and disconnected.
  • Shaming About Children’s Development: Moms can feel ashamed if their kids fall behind on milestones or don’t keep up with others. This unnecessary blame adds to their worries and can feed into negative stereotypes.
  • Shaming Moms for Choices About Sleep Training: There are many opinions about how to sleep train; no matter what parents choose, someone will have something to say about it. This can lead to parental guilt and judgment.
  • Judgment About Kids’ Activities: Moms often feel judged for their children’s activities, whether they’re trying to keep up with others or feeling pressured to keep their kids busy. Even well-intentioned comments can come across as shaming and question a mom’s decisions.

What causes people to engage in mom shaming?

Mom shaming often stems from unrealistic or outdated expectations about a mother’s role. Some people believe their way is the only right way and criticize others under the guise of concern. Others may feel insecure and put others down to feel better about themselves. Some see motherhood as a competition, always comparing themselves to others.

While some may genuinely think they’re being helpful, their tone or words can come off as shaming. Mom shaming often comes from other moms, friends, or family members. Narcissistic parents or mothers-in-law may shame others to boost their egos.

The Impact of Mom Shaming

Mothers often feel judged, leading to feelings of overwhelm, hopelessness, and insecurity. This can result in motherhood imposter syndrome. Negative self-talk makes moms more susceptible to mom-shaming, worsening their self-esteem. Criticism from friends, family, and other moms can cause loneliness and rejection, discouraging moms from seeking support.

Internalizing mom shaming can lead to mom guilt, hindering self-care and mental health. These feelings can manifest as mom rage or postpartum rage. Moms who feel ashamed may inadvertently make their children feel inadequate, damaging their relationship. Mothers need to show confidence and not let others’ opinions affect their bond with their kids.

Coping Mom Shaming

Moms can deal with mom-shaming by focusing on their own well-being, setting boundaries with critical people, and building a strong support system. Taking care of their mental health and building resilience can help moms feel less affected by others’ opinions.

Here are some ways moms can cope with mom shaming:

  • Take Care of Yourself First: Prioritize your own well-being to feel more confident and resilient as a parent.
  • Focus on Personal Growth: Set goals for yourself as a parent and as an individual without comparing yourself to others.
  • Avoid Comparisons: Remember that everyone has challenges, and comparing yourself to others only leads to insecurity.
  • Be Confident in Your Decisions: Trust that you’ve made the best choices for your family, and avoid second-guessing yourself.
  • Use Trusted Sources for Information: Stick to a few reliable sources for parenting advice to avoid confusion and overwhelm.
  • Find Support: Connect with other moms who understand and can offer empathy and support.
  • Limit Negative Influences: Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel bad about yourself.
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate your successes, no matter how small.
  • Set Boundaries: Politely decline unsolicited advice and prioritize your own needs.
  • Ask for Help: Don’t be afraid to seek help from friends, family, or professionals when you need it.

How to Stop Mom Shaming

If you realize you’ve been mom-shaming, you can change! Being aware of your behavior is the first step.

Here are some ways to stop mom shaming and improve your relationships with moms:

  • Avoid comparing moms
  • Acknowledge each mother’s strengths
  • Offer support, not criticism
  • Work on boosting your own self-esteem
  • Understand that there are many ways to be a good mom
  • Stay open to learning and different perspectives
  • Show compassion
  • Give moms the benefit of the doubt
  • Recall your own experiences
  • Practice gratitude

When to Seek Help for Mom Shaming

If mom shaming is affecting your sleep and appetite, or you can’t stop thinking about it, or if you feel guilty or sad most of the time without a clear reason, consider seeking professional help. These could be signs of a postpartum disorder like bipolar disorder, psychosis, depression, or anxiety. Some therapists specialize in this area and can offer effective support.

Overcoming Mom Shaming With Support & Self-Care

Mom shaming can harm mothers’ mental health. It can come from various sources and lead to feelings of guilt and isolation. Coping strategies include self-care, setting boundaries, and seeking support. It’s important to offer empathy and avoid judgment. Seeking professional help is advised if mom shaming affects mental health. Promoting understanding and support can create a more compassionate parenting culture.


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