Anyone who has ever cared for a small child knows it is HARD, whether you are a parent, a grand parent, a teacher, or a care taker, at some point you have done what was probably the “easier” thing, rather then what the public would view as the “correct” thing.
Before becoming a parent myself I specifically remember being at a grocery store really late at night with my boyfriend and seeing a young child in the cart crying and fussing while his mom shopped. Noticing the child’s distress I said to my boyfriend in a hushed whisper “isn’t it kind of late to be taking a baby grocery shopping? It’s like 11:00 and he’s clearly tired.” Fast forward 8 years and I would have my very own little boy, who despite every possible effort absolutely will not go to bed at reasonable time of night. We tried skipping naps, we tried waking him up earlier in the morning, but to no avail. Our 14 month old would rarely close his eyes before 11:00 at night, we were sleeping so little and were so tired all of the time that we got to the point that we didn’t care when he fell asleep, just so long as he did and we all got a little bit of rest. One night while I was waiting to take my exhausted self to bed, I thought back to that comment I made in the grocery store and the many variables of why a woman had her child in the grocery store late at night. Was her baby a night owl like mine, despite her best efforts? Does she work all day and the only time she had to run to the store to get groceries was late at night ? Was her baby sick and she went to the store to get some medicine in hopes of calming him and getting a good night sleep? Or was it simply her choice to take her infant to the store at 11:00, it didn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, the child was fine, she was fine, and it was none of my business why he was awake and shopping.
From that pivotal moment I decided I was never going to “mom-shame” again. I would not give unsolicited parenting advice or judge another mom, because to be brutally honest I had absolutely no idea what motherhood takes until I became a mother. The endless nights of exhaustion catch up with you and you can’t always be in the running for the ‘mom of the year award’. And that’s okay.
My little boy is three years old now and I have learned that everyone, and I mean everyone has opinions on how you parent your child. Opinions on co-sleeping and breast feeding, bed times and diets, behavior and religion. In the age of social media, it feels like the whole world is scrutinizing your every move, but especially your choices as a mother. Every picture you post can turn into a debate on your parenting skills or God forbid, your lack thereof.
I had a friend post a picture of her peaceful sleeping baby in her car seat only to have a swarm of mom shamers (including her own mother in law) criticize her for how her baby was buckled into her car seat. While I agree that car seat safety is a top priority, the car was parked and the mother loosened the straps to let her sleep before taking her in the house, but her disgruntled commenters made it seem as though she snapped a photo while blazing down the highway at 75 mph and failing to secure her infant properly in her seat. The fact of the matter was, they didn’t know the details surrounding the photo, but they didn’t hesitate to jump to worst case scenario and let her know it. Already suffering from postpartum depression, the comments were so hurtful and detrimental to her that she deleted her social media and didn’t post anymore photos of her beautiful daughter for fear of being portrayed in a negative light and being told she was “doing it all wrong”.
I have to ask myself when it became okay to critique every move a mother makes, is it because of social media and the fact that people feel brave behind their screens? The answer I came up with is yes and no. Mothers have always been fair game, I have had random strangers give me advice in grocery store lines, in waiting rooms at doctors appointments, really anywhere they can. Social media makes it easier but it doesn’t end there. A lot of mothers aren’t bothered by comments about their mothering, but a lot are. When you are already exhausted and new at motherhood, someone implying you are doing it wrong can be more than one can take. The truth is, every parent hopes they are doing their best and feels guilty when they lose their patience and snap at their child or feeds them something not so healthy for dinner one night because they are just too tired to make a well rounded meal.
No parent is perfect, but I am willing to bet that they are trying. Maybe we can all agree to cut parents a little slack. It’s the hardest job in the world, let’s not make it harder by being mom-shamers.