Today’s column is on behalf of all the mothers who have experienced or are experiencing ‘mummy shaming’ throughout their pregnancy or motherhood.
From the moment I announced my pregnancy, I have been inundated with messages that I appreciate.
But some people have been very forceful and direct with their opinions.
I’m all for advice but we need to think about how we deliver it. Please think before you send a message on social media or lend your opinion to a friend or stranger in mothers group because everyone is trying to do their best during an extremely vulnerable and sensitive time.
So please stop making others feel bad by your negative comments or opinions. Mummy shaming is not OK, and some of us won’t even realise we’re doing it, so please, on behalf of everyone, think before you speak.
On Sunday I was excited to post on my Instagram account about a beautiful baby gift box that we received – one of the first baby presents we’ve received.
In the gift box, there was a book called “Save Our Sleep” that people could briefly see in the video I posted… well didn’t that book open up the flood gates!
It was incredibly intense for a first time mumma, I had 100s of negative messages from people saying things like, “anyone who reads that book and has their baby on a routine is a bad mum,” and “don’t read that book, it’s the devil!” and “sh**ty parents read that.”
They went on and on. I had to stop reading and just hit delete.
My issue is this: it’s a book, and this is our baby, it doesn’t belong to anyone else!
If we want to read a book and we take advice from it, that is our business. Not one child is the same. What works for you and your kids might not work for us.
The shaming in those messages was entirely uncalled for.
One message, in particular, made me so mad and upset: “If they choose ‘me’ time over the babies needs, they’re sh*t parents.”
It’s not anyone else’s place to judge. I imagine that ‘me time’ as a mother or father is necessary for self-care and preservation!
I spoke to a bunch of Mothers about the ‘mummy shaming’ they’ve been experiencing, and I couldn’t believe the responses. Strangers, teachers, parents, in-laws, friends and family members have all shamed these women at different times throughout their pregnancy and motherhood.
Lucy was a young mum who had her first baby at 19 years of age, that baby sadly passed away, and her second at 21. On several occasions, she was told ‘how to mum’ and was patronised regularly by work colleagues and family because of her age.
Tahlia was shamed about breastfeeding by a friend after having some issues. She is a mother of one and was told that her baby would get sick if she stopped. Her friend said breastfeeding was the ‘natural’ and ‘best’ way to feed the baby, that she needed to push through and that stopping would hinder any bond with her child.
I asked Tahlia how her friend made her feel: “Like CRAP. Like what I was doing wasn’t right, like they knew what was best for me, and or my baby better than myself or my obstetrician. I also felt like I couldn’t even talk to my friends for support when I needed it because she only ever told me what to do and made me feel guilty.”
Chelsea experienced mum shaming when she was buying formula for her son. After weeks of trying to breastfeed with no luck she was at her wits end, “I had already done my research and decided on Bellamy’s organic formula and as I reached for the tin, feeling completely defeated, another mum walked straight behind me and said ‘how selfish can you be, that’s your baby, don’t you know that breast is best’.
“I couldn’t believe it, I burst into tears in the aisle, grabbed the formula and ran out of there as quick as I could.”
This is a perfect example of why people need to mind their own business, this woman had no idea about Chelsea’s history and how tough she’d been finding breastfeeding. Chelsea had a pretty traumatic birth and believes that is why she struggled to breastfeed with ease. Remember to be kind because you never know what anyone else is going through.
Tanita has a 10-month-old son but was told she was “selfish” for getting back into the gym and shape after he was born. She would schedule in “me time” to work out or put a face of make-up on to feel human, and she was ridiculed by friends and family for her choice to do this for her own mental health. She was made to feel guilty and ashamed for taking time out for herself when she could.
Hayley has three kids and very opinionated friends who voiced their thoughts when she fell pregnant with her third, saying things like “Three kids is too many. You won’t have time for the other two now, no wonder they are misbehaving.”
These kinds of comments from friends were tough to hear and really made her feel like crap.
“It’s hard enough to feel like you do a good job as a mum,” she said.
“We are our own worst critics, yet people still feel like it’s up to them to tell us how we’re doing it all wrong, how they do it better. It can really make a new mum spiral into postnatal depression, which I developed after my third, after a lot of judgement from my in-laws about having her to begin with, and then having a tough pregnancy. I still question everything I do, and whether it’s good enough for my kids.”
I asked Hayley for some advice for other mums.
“Find your mum tribe, love them hard. They will be the ones who will bring you back up when you’ve been knocked down,” she told me.
“Talk about it. Don’t join every mums’ group on Facebook, find a couple that aligns with your parenting style and stick to those. Love yourself, know you are doing the best for your family, and tell yourself that daily!”
So what’s the message out of all this? Think before you speak or offer your expert opinion. If you’ve been a mother yourself, then you know how hard it can be.
We are all just trying to do the best we can, so be supportive and stop with the shame and judgment, the world would be a boring place if we all parented the same and had the same opinions.