The Mommy Shame Game (alternate title: Let's Stop Being A**holes to Each Other)

As many of you have noticed, I try to be funny with this blog. Often I'm bitching, but I try to infuse some humor into my bitching. But sometimes you just have to have a good old-fashioned knock-down, drag-out, throw-the-book at 'em rant. This is one of those.

I am so fucking tired of mommy shaming. I had no idea the degree to which this goes on until the moment I became pregnant, at which point I was immediately bombarded by it via every conceivable channel. Have a sip of coffee during your pregnancy? Shame on you. Have a sip of decaf coffee? There might be a smidgen of caffeine left in it! Shame on you! Go for a run? Lift a weight? Eat too much? Not enough? For shame you selfish heathen! She who wantonly jeopardizes the health of her unborn child for her own happiness/sanity.

A digression... I will concede that smoking two packs of cigarettes, drinking to excess, or doing drugs during your pregnancy is stupid and selfish. Some lines are pretty clear. But back to my rant.

As soon as I had my daughter, a new wave of mommy shaming came to the fore. Breastfeeding? A must! Heaven forbid the little darling should get so much as a whiff of formula. And by the way, while you're breastfeeding, do not so much as dream of sugar, alcohol, caffeine, soy, or dairy products. Provide a pacifier in lieu of your nipple that she has literally sucked the skin off of? (I'm not kidding, this actually fucking happened) Never! You might mess up her latch/teeth/self-worth/OMG she'll still be pacifying in college.

In my daughter's three short months of life, I have read a lot of mommy shaming posts. Some of them are actually mommies shaming themselves when all they were doing was the best they could based on the information available to them and the circumstances in which they found themselves. The particularly mommy in the article above considers her son's birthday the anniversary or her personal failure to prevent her own C-Section (can I get a "WTF?" ya'll?) Heartbreaking, and the result of a parenting culture that sets every single mother up to fail to live up to its impossible standards. 

Then tonight, I came across this article in The Washington Post's "On Parenting" section. The piece, written by a mom who started a night nurse service to help out other moms like herself (a complicated delivery of twins, a toddler at home, a husband with no paternity leave, and no family in the area). When a local news station ran a piece on her business about moms helping other moms, the amount of hate, vitriol and shaming that ensued for the mommies that had availed themselves of this assistance was staggering.

I'm sorry, but can we take a step back and remember that line we all love to trot out: "it takes a village"? Yeah, chew on that for a second. We constantly say "it takes a village" but the second you reach out for help, out comes the shame posse to remind you that it only takes a village if you fail as a mommy. Does a night nurse seem like a luxury to most Americans? Sure. Is it a luxury out of reach for most Americans? You bet. Does it mean it should be? HELL NO. As the author of that article points out, in most other developed countries, some degree of assistance is not only available, it's expected. It's part of the package. New parents, especially those with high-needs babies, medical complications, or other special circumstances, are provided with support and assistance in the form of someone else helping to physically take care of their baby.

Three months into parenthood, I consider myself incredibly lucky. I had a complication-free delivery. I have a healthy baby. I've been able to exclusively breastfeed with only minor hiccups along the way. My darling daughter sleeps well. My husband, Mark, and I are on the same page about how we parent, we're committed to prioritizing our marriage, and we're happy.

And do you know what? I feel guilty about this. I feel ashamed. I feel like I cannot say this to other moms because I don't want them to think I'm lording it over them, or faking my happiness. I somehow feel as though I'm not a member of the sorority because my hazing was insufficiently brutal. The culture of mommy-shaming in this country has reached the point that people are even ashamed to admit when everything is going right.

Our culture of shaming is turning into a culture of silence. Sure, The Internet has plenty to say, and it says it loudly, but real parents, in their real lives, are swallowing the truths of their parenting experiences because they are afraid of the judgement and shame that now seems inevitable and universal. It has to stop.



Popular Posts