Breastfeeding, childbirth, food habits, and more… when you are a new mother, EVERYONE feels the need to offer unsolicited advice or to comment on your parenting choices. It starts when you are pregnant, you become open to all kinds of suggestions and criticism from just about everyone. Mom-shaming has always been around, but social media has given people louder voices than ever. One picture is all it takes for us to put on our judgement hats and slew mean comments from behind our screens.
Being a mother is a tough job already. The last thing a new mom needs is to be shamed for her choices, parenting, or anything. Whether it is online or in-person, most mothers have been mom-shamed at least once in their lives. Here are five common ways you might be mom-shaming, without even realizing it.
Commenting on breastfeeding and other eating habits
Everyone knows breastfeeding is great for the mother and the baby. Apart from the physical benefits, several studies suggest that it has a positive effect on the socio-emotional state of the baby as well as the mother. However, some mothers are unable to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, and some choose to breastfeed for more than what you might think is necessary, and it’s completely okay. The choice is a personal one, and by commenting on it, you are doing nothing but mom-shaming.
Questioning the big decision – working or not?
“How do you even do it? I miss my baby too much” or “how much longer do you think you can stay cooped up at home!” – statements like these may seem harmless but are, in fact, condescending and critical. Our judgement and criticism make moms feel guilty for working and guilty for not. The working-mom guilt is a real thing, and we are partly responsible for it.
Commentary on pre-natal and post-partum bodies
No, it’s not necessary that everyone get really, really fat when pregnant, and gets really, really thin right after the baby is born. From “are you eating enough?” to “oh, wow you’ve been eating a lot,” the commentary and judgement never really stops. Pregnancy and motherhood are experiences unique to each person, and comparing your journey to someone else’s is straight up body shaming and just not fair.
Time and again, we’ve seen women in the limelight being shamed for their postpartum bodies. Bollywood actors such as Neha Dhupia and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan have spoken out against the public scrutiny of their postpartum bodies, and rightly so! Bearing and raising a baby is no easy job; her body has nurtured life, and it is entirely okay for her to take her time with it.
Giving unsolicited ‘suggestions’ about childbirth choices
Doesn’t matter if a mother decides to go for a natural childbirth or a C-section, they are judged either way. While some friends and family suggest going the pain-free way, others think natural is best. As a society, this is one of the instances where we have decided that it is okay to tell a woman what to do with her own body. Every mother has the right to choose how she wants to bring her baby into the world, and our opinion is often unwarranted or unsolicited.
Almost every new mom is anxious about their child’s development. Each baby is different, and while your toddler may have started crawling by their first birthday, it is completely normal if theirs hasn’t. We are also prone to bragging about our kids, nephews, nieces, but comparative comments about someone’s child only leads to insecurity and worry. Let the kids grow up at their own pace, shall we?
Raising a child is hard, and when you’re new to it, everyone is a critic. Instead of passing judgement, we could all try harder to be supportive, especially at the workplace. Childcare is one of the primary concerns of a working mother, and it is heartening to see companies starting to offer childcare services, flexible workhours, and paid leaves. At the end of the day, a little empathy can go a long way. If you see a mother struggling, instead of offering unsolicited advice, ask her how she is doing and if you can help in any way.
(Edited by Neha Baid)