It was international women’s day recently and my social media was filled with positive quotes empowering women everywhere. One of my favourites was; be the woman who fixes another woman’s crown without telling the world that it was crooked – and it made me think that we all need to do this more, we need to unite as women.
Mum shaming is something I think we have all been guilty of doing and perhaps been on the receiving end of. Thankfully I have not had any horrible experiences but there have been different times where I have noticed looks or felt I had to justify certain things. Like my first couple of weeks at swimming lessons with Zak and all the other mums breastfed their babies after and I sat there with a bottle I felt like I had to speak up and say Zak was unable to breastfeed so had to resort to bottle – why did I do that? Did they even notice or care? No one even commented and I just threw it out there probably through my own insecurities and disappointment at not being able to breastfeed but whatever the reason I felt the need to justify how I fed my child.
I think overall I’m a pretty laid-back parent and I can seem quite blasé about certain things and it takes a lot for me to get stressed but that doesn’t mean I don’t take my role as a parent seriously and it doesn’t mean I don’t freak out behind closed doors. Last week I took Zak to get weighed and as we are that awkward stage where he can’t sit on his own yet but there’s not a still bone in his body and all he wants to do is be on the move, I thought nothing of putting him on the floor to roll, so I could finish dressing him, myself and pack the bag. The look from the other new parents with their tiny bundles wrapped up did not go unnoticed, no one said anything but yes, I felt the tuts and stares. Zak was perfectly happy shrieking with delight on the floor whilst he rolled all over the rug whilst I silently muttered fuck you to all the other parents judging me.
Perhaps part of the shaming is the advice everyone throws around so easily albeit with the best of intentions. But is there anything more annoying then people suggesting things the instant you mention something? Parenthood is overwhelming at the best of times and information being thrown at you from several different directions just adds to it. I get everyone ticks differently but I think I am one of those people who if I want advice, I will ask for it, I’m not afraid to ask for help and I choose to ask those closest to me for their thoughts because they know me. It’s when the advice comes from people, I don’t know that well or have no real understanding of me, my life or my child that I find it frustrating. My mum has been a great example and has only ever offered advice if I have asked her, she literally said its been 25 years since I had a baby so much will have changed, I’m not going to tell you how to do anything, I want to learn with you. She’s been an incredible comfort but so respectful of letting me figure it out as I go, and it has taken our relationship to the next level. But not everyone is my mum and that’s frustrating!
However, I must put my hands up because I too have been guilty of judging and typically of people I don’t know and I’m so cross about myself afterwards. I don’t know these people, their battles and challenges and yet I’m still so quick to pass judgment even if I don’t say it out loud – what gives me the right? I’m not a perfect parent and I certainly don’t know it all as I’m just winging it each day. I know how being judged makes me feel so I hate that I do it to others.
There are however still kind people out there! A few days ago, Zak was out of character thanks to teething and although he wasn’t screaming or crying, he just refused to sleep and spent the whole time giggling and chatting. 2 ½ hours into trying to get him to nap I was running out of ideas having tried walk in the pushchair, drive, rocking, letting him cry it out and Calpol. So, whilst out on another drive I popped into Tesco to purchase some Anbesol teething liquid which a friend had recommended to me, hoping to tame those ruby red cheeks he was sporting. A lady noticed I was scanning the shelves looking at teething gels and she piped up that she recommended Anbesol but it was sold behind the counter at the pharmacy and she showed me where it was then took Zak off me and entertained the wriggly sod whilst I purchased it. She was my new hero and I’m sure it seemed nothing to her, but she restored my faith instantly - we need more mums like her!
Is mum shaming really just a reflection of our own insecurities? Do we take offence too easily when others are just trying to help? As if we are not critical enough of ourselves, the last thing we need is other people adding criticism. Motherhood is the most exhausting, worrying, rewarding role and its for life, you never stop being a mum. Mum shaming definitely happens and I have heard some horror stories from friends, and I wonder if like so many other things these days, it’s made worse by social media, but it needs to stop. We need to remember we are all on the same side.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I am looking forward to my first one as I continue to embrace motherhood. Everybody knows there’s no manual or one size fits and I certainly don’t get it right all the time but my boy is a happy chatty miracle who makes me proud every day. So those that want to judge privately or in public go ahead, I don’t care. I will stand with the other mums with my giggly boy who’s missing a sock, not wearing a hat and has lunch stains on his top as he rolls round the floor. It seems to be the recurring lesson and motto of do what’s right for you and your baby. Screw the rest of the world we are doing great. I certainly will be making a more conscious effort to support fellow mums and women without judging or offering advice but maybe continue to share that knowing smile.