The pressures of life are difficult. The pressures of personifying a perfect, poised mom? Impossible.
We live in a world where unfounded information and insults are just a click away. But, thankfully, we also live in a world where access to support–counselors, friends and family–positive information, mindfulness, and education, are a click away.
TIME magazine writer, Claire Haworth, recently wrote about the “Goddess Myth,” which is perpetuated by doctors and moms alike.
“It tells us that breast is best; that if there is a choice between a vaginal birth and major surgery, you should want to push; that your body is a temple and what you put in it should be holy; that sending your baby to the hospital nursery for a few hours after giving birth is a dereliction of duty. Oh, and that you will feel–and look–radiant,” wrote Haworth.
This myth makes many moms feel inadequate or disappointed. Like they are somehow falling short of being that mystical perfect, all-natural mom.
TIME magazine conducted a survey of 913 women and discovered that 50% of all new mothers had experienced regret, shame, guilt or anger, mostly due to unexpected complications and lack of support. And, 70% felt pressured to do things a certain way by society. We can’t control what people say on social media or what articles people post, but we can control what we fill our minds with, what we say to others and ourselves, and how we react.
Here are some steps forward we can each take to change the conversation that supports the “Goddess Myth.”
Acknowledge the problem
Criticizing moms only reinforces the “Goddess Myth.” Any type of criticizing, judging or calling out another mom for a parenting decision is called Mommy Shaming.
We sometimes shame others, or they shame us (unconsciously or consciously). And all too often, we shame ourselves as parents. A new survey from the University of Michigan (U of M) led by the C.S. Motts Children’s Hospital, found that 61% of moms have felt shamed at some point.
Mommy Shaming can happen in many ways. It could be someone throwing you a dirty look because you brought your baby to brunch and now he is crying. Or parents at your daughter’s dance recital commenting you don’t dress “like a mom.” Basically, Mommy Shaming is any unsolicited parenting advice or comment you give to a mom saying, “I would never ________.” [ Insert any hot button topic here. Ex: breastfeed vs. bottle feed, deliver vaginally vs. deliver by C-section, sleep train vs. cry it out, etc. ] Also, shaming doesn’t always come from strangers. That same U of M study also reported that of the 61% moms who have felt shamed, the most common source is family.
Mashable gives a sassy tip for those shaming or criticizing a mom’s parenting choices:
“Next time you’re thinking you might know better than a random mom you see on the bus or even your own daughter: keep it to yourself! Keeping kids alive and well is hard enough as it is. It’s exhausting, sometimes spirit-crushing work, and there’s really no right way to do it.”
The first step to dispelling this myth around perfect motherhood (“Goddess Myth”) is to acknowledge that moms in society are too often unfairly judged for their choices.
Be mindful & be encouraging
Be mindful: of what you say to moms, to yourself, and to the world. Your experience is unique, and so is everyone else’s. If we learn to listen and understand, before giving advice, we can cut down on shaming.
It’s easy to make a quick comment about a mom and her baby on the plane, or jump into those Facebook threads when you see people disagreeing about a parenting topic. There are many reasons why we are critical of one another, and sometimes it’s tied to our own insecurities. But the next time you want to comment on someone’s parenting, ask yourself:
“Is this encouraging? Is it kind? Does it build others up or break them down? Do I know the details of the situation? Is it productive? Could I be projecting my own insecurities or jealousy onto someone else?”
Be mindful of what you say or write, even if you have good intentions. Three quick ways to be positive and mindful:
- Say something encouraging or say nothing at all. (Unless it is threatening to the health and well-being of the child). You can say inspiring and encouraging words to a mom without giving advice or thoughts on her parenting.
- Choose to focus on the positive by surrounding yourself with encouraging people, or filling your mind with information that is uplifting and open-minded, instead of articles that present one side of an opinion, or people who condemn certain parenting choices.
- Find an activity such as Loving-kindness Meditation for Moms, working out, prayer, or any activity that supports you personally, and helps you channel positivity and kindness.
“We’re all in this motherhood game together, there’s no time or room for judging or making assumptions. But yet, in all circumstances, there’s always room … always … for compassion and forgiveness,” wrote Regan Long, mommy blogger and writer for Huffington Post.
Manage your mommy expectations
From your friend’s proclamation on how every mom should only feed her baby homemade food, to the A-list star declaring the new best way all mothers should sleep train their babies, to the not-so-subtle remarks from family members (*cough* mom *cough*), the parenting world is full of lots of “shoulds.”
As parents, we already have enough to think about (like raising our kids), without adding what someone else thinks about how we should parent.
Feeling like you should be able to fit back into those skinny jeans cousin Kelly after giving birth, or that you should be able to run 2 miles like Jennifer 3-weeks post-partum—these are all warrantless comparisons.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” When we hold on to what we think we should be doing, saying, thinking or feeling according to someone else, we lose the exclusive beauty of who we are, and how we feel as individuals.
“Women are so unforgiving of themselves. We don’t recognize our own beauty because we’re too busy comparing ourselves to other people,” said Kelly Osbourne.
Instead of focusing on what parenting should be, focus on what your parenting experience is: your own. A recent article on Becoming Minimalist gives insight into why we compare ourselves to others, and provides helpful tips to overcoming this. “Become aware of your own successes, compete less, appreciate more, and remind yourself nobody is perfect.”
Expect – and embrace – the unexpected and unique
Our idealized view of what motherhood will be like is usually a far cry from reality. Birth plans don’t go the way we want. A special “mother’s intuition” isn’t uploaded to our brains the moment we meet our baby. That filter we put on our perfectly posed Instagram photo covers up the struggles of real life and the messiness of parenting.
Whether your baby was brought into this world via adoption or vaginal delivery, surrogacy or C-section, remember: your experiences are your own. Each mom’s experiences, are her own.
It is your choice how you parent. Deciding to raise a child is a beautiful, bold and honorable decision. You are an amazing mom, because you are a mom.
“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” – Jill Churchill