A few weeks after Lil Bub was born, I posted a pic on my Instagram account of me breastfeeding Lil Bub while pumping extra milk on the other side and editing a blog. I was such a proud Mama for my amazing baby (as all us Moms are!), and after Lil Bub was born, now over three months ago, I felt overcome with love. I started sharing more personal pics on my social media feeds, as I felt naturally compelled to do.
After a few hours, I went back to post another pic and checked out the comments from the last post. Whoa. I was shocked to see that there was hundreds of comments, mostly positive but a good portion not so positive. The not so positive ones ranged from, “If you are doing on demand breast-feeding, you should not be pumping” to “You should not be reading or doing anything else why you are feeding your baby.” These negative, shaming comments all had one thing in common: the word should.
I was pretty flabbergasted at the judgment. I was a new Mom that was- and still is- with my baby pretty much 24 hours a day but am also still working full time. I pump and freeze milk for future emergencies or times when I can’t be with Lil Bub (so far we’ve only used one of these milk bags but in the future I may actually have to be away from him sometimes here and there!).
Newborns have around 10-12 feedings a day, so sometimes, yes, I actually read or write while I am feeding. I’m not watching TV or cruising the Internet while I’m feeding, but feeding my other greatest passion: the Beauty Detox lifestyle I’ve created and supporting our precious community. But you know what? Even if I was watching TV or cruising the Internet, as many exhausted moms probably do sometimes when they are nursing, who gives a crap? Is that for anyone to judge? Hell no!
I think sharing is wonderful for Moms. But shaming is not okay. What’s the difference? Shaming often uses the word “should”, as I mentioned earlier. As in “you should do this”, you “should not do that”. It’s so judgmental. So awful. It’s a thinly cloaked hoity toity attitude centered around “you’re doing something wrong in my book and I’m going to point it out to make you feel bad.”
No one wants to hear they “should” or “should not” be doing something they aren’t. It’s the fastest way to shut someone down. By the way, this also applies to food choices. The worst way to try to get a loved one to change their diet is to wrinkle your nose and say “Oh. You are eating X for breakfast. You sooo should not be eating that. You should have a Glowing Green Smoothie instead.” Even if you are coming from a place of good intention, this is a terrible delivery clouded with judgment and the negativity of shame.
So back to the positive…sharing. There simply isn’t just one way to be a good mom. Just because something worked for someone else does NOT make it the “right” way (like “should”, “right” is a very dangerous word).
We can share by referencing a personal experience then making suggestions, as in, “I tried this carrier and it really worked great for me. Maybe you’d like to try it also?” Sharing is helping, shaming is putting down.
A few weeks after that pic, I posted a pic of me carrying Bub in a farmer’s market. I couldn’t possibly think of anything negative you could say about that pic, but then some shaming emails poured in about the types of carrier I use. Of course, there are always Internet rumors, and some claim carriers cannot be good for hip positioning. But I had weighed all my options carefully after deciding I wanted to use a carrier and keep Bub close to my body and heartbeat, which is what personally felt best for me.
I had also checked with my pediatrician, Dr. Gordon, who writes children’s wellness books and he said our carrier is the best for us and our needs, including nursing in there. So why would people that use different carriers or make any other different decisions feel the need to shame me or anyone else? I was confounded. It was my personal and very carefully made decision, and what I believed was best for us. Why sit there and throw negativity at anyone else? It just felt so gross.
I also have gotten shaming comments for breastfeeding in public, being with baby while doing other things (I posted a pic of me holding him napping while I recorded the audiobook for me upcoming book Radical Beauty), and lots of other things.
I then posted about the whole phenomenon of Mom Shaming, and a mountain of comments came in about that also. It seems I am not alone. Mom Shaming is a very real issue in modern society. If you are a Mom, you are vulnerable for being shamed for: not breastfeeding, using formula, breastfeeding in a public place, not working, going back to work, eating basil (gasp! Because a few people hypothesize that eating an enormous quantity might reduce your milk supply… how dare you eat pesto!), how you carry your baby around (“Oh you use a stroller? Guess you aren’t doing attachment parenting!” or “You shouldn’t use that carrier. There are better ones”)… the topics are as endless for shaming.
We live in a world of social media and the Internet, where people can hide and comment and judge from afar, as in my experience. But even in the real world, since a large majority of the population are parents, and many can’t seem to help themselves from judging what other Moms are doing, chances are at one or some points you unfortunately may have been exposed to the wrath of shaming comments at least some of the time. It can also come from judging family members!
A few weeks ago I was at a dinner party and had Bub with me, asleep in his carrier (again, he is almost always with me). An older lady seated next to me just couldn’t resist saying, “You shouldn’t put him in that thing until he’s at least 6 months old.” At first, I felt the white heat of rebuttal rising up at first, and I was tempted to say, “Oh yeah? How would you know? They didn’t have these types of modern carriers around when your great-grandkids were growing up.” Ooh that would have felt nice to stick it to her. For about 5 seconds. Then the reality would hit me: I sunk to her level. I felt sad that she couldn’t say anything nice about Lil Bub, or to me, only something shaming. But then I felt more sad that women aren’t very supportive of other women a lot of the time.
As much as it hurts us to be shamed by others, the only thing we can really do is band together in love. First we have to understand where shaming comes from. I’ll be discussing this topic in my interview with Gretchen Rubin, New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Project, on my podcast Beauty Inside Out on Monday so be sure to check it out!.
Her take on the Mom Shaming phenomenon is that parenting is such a personal issue that is so close to the heart, with most everyone doing their absolute best. But if you are doing your best and that Mom over there is doing something different, does it mean you are doing something wrong? Many consciously or unconsciously quickly turn to shaming other Moms by judging what they do as “wrong”, because that helps them affirm that what they are doing is “right.”
The only way to overcome shame, judgment and other negative nasties is with love. Let’s all just share with each other, never shame, and always trust that everyone is doing their best. If we feel really strongly about something, it’s great to share that with others, but remember that our personal experience does not necessarily make that right for every other Mom on the planet.
By shaming other moms, you ultimately end up feeling worse about yourself. What you put out you get back to you. If you focus on sharing and supporting, you’ll feel better because you are putting out love and will feel better about yourself, while resting confidently in your decisions that you are doing your best for your family.
I created a hashtag #moms4moms to start posting more about moms supporting each other instead of judging or shaming each other. Please join me in creating a network of positivity, by posting pics of mom stuff or anything you find inspirational or want to share with this hashtag. We can all hold the space for a No Mom Shaming Zone in our personal and professional lives, social media and across all interactions with moms.
Moms are doing a sacred job: carrying and bringing in life. Moms are beautiful beings, unique in her own right. Let’s respect ourselves more as Moms- and humans- by respecting each and every other Mom out there.
Let’s stand together in love and strength by supporting each other! Motherhood will be a much better experience collectively for each mom and this will reverberate throughout the whole community. And our children will grow up in a more peaceful, loving world.
Don’t forget to share your love and support by hash-tagging your photos with #moms4moms!
In love and health,
Kimberly & Lil Bub