Updated: Jul 8
Ladies, if you are anything like me, you are probably in a bunch of different mom groups, either online or in person.
There are groups for moms of toddlers, moms of teens, moms who like backgammon, you get the picture.
Some of these groups are more fun to participate in than others, because inevitably, if you get a group large enough, there is going to start being mom shaming going on.
Why Do We Mom Shame?
In large part, I think we start to mom shame moms that are different than we are, because we have very strongly held beliefs about what we think is the right or wrong ways to raise kids.
Breast vs bottle, crib vs co-sleep, stay-at-home vs working. And I could name plenty more. I'm sure you have been there when the debate got heated, and someone called someone else a terrible mom, or threatened to call CPS on someone.
Personally, I think we are all just afraid that we are doing something wrong that is going to scar our kids for life. So we buy into all these formulas on how to 'do it right' and once we have chosen how we are going to do things, we believe that our way is the right way with every fiber of our being.
Deep down, I think we do this for two reasons:
We want to be good moms
We are terrified of what will happen if we aren't
The problem is, there is more than one right way to raise kids. We are trying our best, we love them, and that is what matters the most. Just because one way of doing things is working for me and my family, it doesn't mean that a different way of doing things won't work for you and your family.
What does this have to do with stereotypes?
A lot, actually.
"Stereotypes are characteristics imposed upon groups of people because of their race, nationality, and sexual orientation. These characteristics tend to be oversimplifications of the groups involved and, even if they seem "positive," stereotypes are harmful." (What Is a Stereotype? (thoughtco.com))
When you think of a mom, what do you think of? For a lot of us, we think of the moms on those old 50's TV shows like Leave it to Beaver. Moms who have it all together, in their perfectly pressed apron, with dinner on the table when everyone comes home, and a big smile.
Or, more recently, there is the stereotype of the woman who can have it all. Perfectly balancing career and family, she can be an ass kicking #girlboss with perfect shoes, her Starbucks, and her beautiful children going to Montessori or some such.
Both of these stereotypes are oversimplifications of the roles that we, as mothers, fill. Both of them are incomplete caricatures, and both of them are hurtful.
What is the common denominator?
In both of the above-mentioned stereotypes, the women I described have perfect, well-mannered children. We want to believe that what we do as mothers is going to cause us to have perfect children.
We believe that we can be perfect mothers if we believe that we can have perfect children.
Well now, isn't that just a bunch of crap. I have been a mom for going on 20 years now, and I have never seen a perfect mother, or a perfect child. But, these harmful stereotypes make us believe that we have to live up to some ideal of perfection or our children are going to come out damaged.
That's why the fear and the mom-shaming comes in. We hold to our beliefs so strictly because we have this terrible fear that we are going to damage our children somehow. So if Jenny across the street is using cloth diapers instead of disposable like I use, well then, Jenny must be badly wrong. My diapers aren't damaging my child, so hers must be!
Choose Kindness Over Fear
In order to stop mom-shaming, we have to stop the fears that cause it, and realize that there are many ways to raise kids that won't leave them horribly damaged forever.
As moms, we need to band together and be kind to each other, help each other, and support each other's choices. Even if sometimes those choices seem to be diametrically opposed. Because come on ladies, being a mom is hard! Wouldn't you rather have a collection of supportive friends, than perfect smiles that coat thinly-veiled hostility?
Society has laid a lot of responsibilities with mothers. There is this unspoken expectation for us to be super-women, and frequently we aren't. We are expected to love our children, take them for outings, clean them, bathe them, clean the house, make the dinner, do the shopping, and take the cat to the vet.
We are supposed to go to the gym, take time for self-care, get our nails done, and wear high heels every day.
No one can possibly juggle that many tasks in one day.
So come on ladies, let's be as real and human as possible. Let's post pictures on social media without makeup, without our house clean, and when our kids decide to dig in the dirt wearing underpants and no shoes (like my daughter did yesterday!).
Let's show some kindness to other moms who are struggling, by showing them that we don't have it all figured out yet either, that we aren't perfect, our kids aren't perfect, and its OK if they aren't either!
Let me know what you think in the comments! What stereotypes have you dealt with? How do you combat them?
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