“Mom Shaming” has become a common activity in our society. The fact that there is even a term for something so sad is heartbreaking to me. Motherhood is HARD. We would all be better at it if we had the love and support of fellow moms rather than criticism and judgment. There are many social and psychological aspects to this phenomenon that I am not qualified to address. But it struck me that this is an extension of many false narratives surrounding reproduction.
From an early age, we are told or it is implied that it is extremely easy to become pregnant. And for many people, that is true. Unfortunately, that is very often not the case. Then we are told that pregnancy is a blissful time filled with showers and gender reveal parties. It’s hard to admit if you are one of the many mothers who spend pregnancy in physical pain, worried about the financial stressors, dealing with news that your baby isn’t ‘perfect’ for some reason, or struggling with the multitude of emotions and decisions that come with such significant life changes. Nobody wants to hear about these things. And if we happen to share the truth, it is often met with either awkward silence or platitudes. Or even worse – we’re accused of just being hormonal. We don’t offer real support or practical resources because our society doesn’t even acknowledge that this is a common reality.
Women are finally told that labor and delivery will be painful, but even that process is filled with judgmental opinions and propaganda to ensure moms pick the ‘right’ strategy. For many moms, the first questions they hear after the delivery of their baby are asking about what interventions or medications were used in that process.
Then we get into breastfeeding, sleep training, and more. The overriding message is that these things all come easy and naturally for everyone. So if you are struggling or choose something different or have medical reasons to choose a particular option, then there is something wrong with you or you are a bad mother. At the very least, you’re a lesser mother than those who don’t struggle with any of these issues.
The crazy part is – I don’t know a single parent who has not faced some of these and many other challenges along the path. I’m not sure who these perfect parents are that life goes this easily for. It’s likely they don’t exist at all. But I am 100% certain that they are not the majority like we are led to believe.
If we can’t even talk about the fact that pregnancy often has unpleasant physical symptoms or that breastfeeding can be painful – then how are we supposed to talk about the fact that infertility, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, genetic or anatomic abnormalities, neonatal death, and other outcomes are a very real possibility??
We don’t do ourselves or our friends and neighbors any favors by hiding these realities. Many families feel they will be judged negatively if they share their challenges. After all – this is supposed to be easy – right?? But if it’s NOT easy, then you are forced to suffer in silence without knowing who else is confronting the same issues or what resources might be available. Reproductive or parenting challenges can be life-shattering, but judgment and lack of support should not be part of the equation. Unfortunately, this is the reality for too many families.
My holiday wish this season is that every person is able to have a path to parenthood that follows the social narrative we have created. But my New Year’s resolution is to be more vocal about the real facts of life.
I ask you to join me in sharing your stories and ensuring every parent has the information and resources they need without passing judgment on the decisions made.
We’re all in this together and we don’t become better parents by putting other parents down.
We become better parents by supporting parenthood in all its forms and acknowledging the good, the bad, and the ugly along the way.
Lindsey J. Wimmer, RN, MSN, PHN, CPNP, CPLC is the Founder Executive Director of the Star Legacy Foundation. Lindsey is a pediatric nurse practitioner and Mom to four children, Garrett, stillborn in 2004 and Grant, Bennett and Austyn.