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I haven’t even given birth to my son yet and I have already been mom shamed for certain decisions I am making with my pregnancy, nursery, life as a mother, etc. I have always dreamed of being a mother and felt it was part of my reason for being. I didn’t realise how hard I would find pregnancy and the coming to terms with the fact it was actually happening. The life changing decision to have a child REALLY is a life changing one, every single person I know has had a different journey with parenthood, and it is time we stopped shaming people for doing things "differently" to our perceived perfect picture of parenting.
Everyone is different.
This should be the most obvious, but unfortunately, it’s not. We humans can be harshly judgmental (I do it, too) without realising. If someone deviates from what we believe to be the "right way of doing things" it’s easy to jump to conclusions: "They must be stupid" or "They have no idea what they are doing." Just like full grown adult humans, babies are all different, too! We have to do what works for us as a parent, and that will not always be the same thing as your neighbour! For a variety of reasons, people don’t tend to share the intimate struggles of their own parenting, but instead take to boasting of what they have done well and shaming others for what they fail to do the same. Please stop. Being a mother is hard; I’ve seen this from my own mother, my dearest friends, and even just my own pregnancy.
Whether you are shaming someone for buying all the latest products, or for having everything secondhand, bare in mind that money is a sensitive subject. Everyone's circumstances are different. We were very lucky to be gifted a lot of things from family members and friends at my baby shower. I made a registry of the absolute essentials we needed and asked that anyone wanting to get us a gift either get us something from the list or give us something they had found useful with their own baby that they were not in need of anymore. Our parents gifted us the buggy, changing table, and Moses basket, which were the big items.
Already I have been mum shamed for wanting a new model of buggy that was slightly pricey. I wanted a sturdy, lightweight make, but also wanted it in all black so that it matched my wardrobe and looked cool; I know that isn’t the point of a buggy, but it’s my first baby and both our parents' first grandchild so everyone is very excited. I should not have to explain why I chose the buggy I did, just like someone with a secondhand model shouldn’t have to explain themselves, just like when my friend tells me her buggy cost nearly £2,000; it is no ones place to judge as everyone has a different stream of revenue, a different support system, and a different set of values.
Where your child goes to school is ultimately your choice. If you choose for your child to start nursery at two years old, that is your choice; private school, state school, home school, again, YOUR CHOICE! As long as your child is receiving education, who is anyone to judge you for how they are receiving it? The most important things we can give our children are the tools to be able to build their future.
Feeding is always a controversial one. Mothers that formula feed their babies are often shamed, it is said that they don’t receive the correct nutrients, or they have more health problems later in life, but what many people fail to take into account is that some women CANNOT breastfeed. For some reason or another, their baby won’t latch, their milk doesn’t come in or they simply don’t produce enough milk, if there are health problems with the mother that make it impossible for her to feed her baby, and lastly, if she just simply prefers not to! It is our body at the end of the day, and must be our choice how we feed our infant.
On the other end of the spectrum are the people that mom-shame for breastfeeding in public. Why shouldn’t a mother feed her baby in public? That is, after all, what breasts are for. They are to feed an infant. It is not that mother's fault that society has sexualised breasts and nipples on a female to a point where people feel uncomfortable about a woman feeding her baby. It is the most natural thing in the world, a beautiful bonding experience, and should absolutely NOT be shamed.
Mom shaming comes from the idea that you are doing the best version of parenting there is and everyone else is wrong. There are many circumstances where people cannot do the same thing, or don’t want to do the same thing as you! Family circumstance is one of those times. It is very easy to be a stay at home mom that spends all their time with her kids if your other half has a great job, you already have a house, and he is ok with supporting you both. Good for you. Not everyone has that option. Never shame a mother for going back to work to provide for her child. Alternatively, if a mother is alone with no support system or help from a partner, never shame her for asking for help from the government. Child care is extremely expensive, and for a mother on her own, it can be more or less the amount she would make working in a week, if she chooses to claim for help and stay at home to raise her child, do not shame her; everyone's path is different, everyone faces different struggles and decisions.
Diet will always be controversial, whether you are feeding yourself or an infant. I choose to live a vegan lifestyle, and I do this because it helps the environment, my health, and it doesn’t result in killing animals. This is my decision, and I find it very strange that I am shamed for following a lifestyle that promotes kindness, health, and helps the planet that is slowly being destroyed…that being said, I would never shame a mother for what she chooses to feed her child. Of course we all have views of what is right or wrong, and there are basic rules that most people follow with regards to portions of fruit, vegetables, and trying to limit the intake of refined sugars in children. At the end of the day, is it REALLY your business how someone else raises their child? Someone has already asked me if I am going to "force my child to be vegan," which I found a little funny and also a little insulting; I will not force my child to do anything, I will raise him on a healthy and nutrient-rich vegan diet until he is old enough to know what animal products are, and then he can decide for himself. Why are we shaming each other? Even though I have strong beliefs, I would NEVER tell a mother what to feed her own child, it is simply not my business and not my place.
On the other hand, some families cannot afford the kind of diet others may deem acceptable for a child; families in lower income households may eat a lot of tinned or frozen food just so that they can put meals on the table for their children. This returns to the family circumstance point. You never know someone's full situation, so it’s better to just keep your mouth shut.
There are so many "should" and "should nots" when it comes to children and parenting, and it's often hard to sift through what is opinion and what is genuine fact. Sleeping is a very personal part of parenting and life in general, some mothers love having their baby in bed with them, others will put them straight into their own room from birth. While there are recommendations from midwives and studies that suggest a baby should be in the parent's bedroom for the first few months, this is, after all, your choice as a mother. Only you know what works for you and your baby, and lord knows if you have a system that works for you, you’re going to stick to it, if it results in more sleep!
Disposable, biodegradable, reusable: For god's sake, let a mother change her kid's nappy in peace!
There are reasons and benefits to each, and each mother will have her reason behind what she chooses to use.
Disposable nappies are easily and readily available, and often cheap to buy in bulk, they are the go to for most families. They are, however, incredibly harsh on the environment, and often contain chemicals.
Biodegradable nappies are the more environmentally friendly and less chemical induced version of our disposable friends; however, they cost a pretty penny, and when you are getting through around 10 a day (unless you have a large disposable income) these are often not sufficient for most families.
Reusable cloth nappies are sometimes ridiculed for being old fashioned or "disgusting." I am actually going down this route myself, and have already been laughed at for choosing them…yes, they require more washing, they are less easy because I can’t just chuck them away and grab a new one, BUT they will save me a lot of money in the long run. They are incredibly kind to both the environment and babies' skin.
Whichever you as a mother choose, you should not feel ashamed.
Toys/Dummies and Everything Else in Between
WHY are we shaming each other? We are all just trying to navigate this thing called life, and do the best we can for the tiny human we have created. Who CARES if Karen gives her kid a dummy every time he cries? Who CARES if Susan uses a walker for her baby when she is learning to walk?! What is the problem? Does this directly affect you? Or are you picking holes in someone's life and parenting to ultimately feel better about yourself?!
I haven’t even started this journey yet and I’m already confused and overwhelmed by it. I imagine that is how most mothers feel; and when you’re tired and you don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re trying your damn best and hardest to keep your little one alive and happy, the last thing any of us need is another woman breathing down our necks telling us we are doing it wrong. What happened to girl power? What happened to women looking out for one another?! Let’s see more positivity and less shaming. Please.