by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Are you a mother who has been criticized for the way you bring up your children? If yes, you have been a victim of mum-shaming. The phenomenon called mum-shaming is the public judgement and criticism of mothers for the way they are raising their children. Though mum-shaming is not an exclusively modern phenomenon, it is more apparent and public now because of the ubiquitous presence of social media. Let us see some examples of mum-shaming.
A lot of mothers who decide to go back to work after having a baby are victims of mum-shaming for supposedly ‘putting career ahead of family’. Critics of such mothers talk about how some children have suffered in the hands of cruel baby-sitters or maids. They might also warn such mothers that they will not be looked after in their old age by their grown children, just because as babies they had left them to go for work.
Another oft-heard criticism against some mothers is that they feed formula milk to their babies, not breast milk. The critics will go on to enumerate the many benefits of breastmilk over formula milk and often portray such mothers as monsters who care more about their body shape than about their babies. Many mothers have problems with the breast milk production, and criticisms for using formula milk make them feel very guilty.
It is every mother’s nightmare when their kids misbehave in public or use bad four-letter words. Often the accusing finger is pointed at the mother when kids misbehave, for apparently ‘not raising kids the right way’. The truth is that kids may misbehave for a variety of reasons, and not necessarily because of poor bringing up.
In the playgrounds or school waiting rooms, often the mothers of children who do poorly in studies get the blame for not helping the kid enough in studies. Sometimes, it is the teachers at school who would call the parent, usually the mother, and complain about the poor performance of the child at school. Not every mother is a ‘helicopter parent’ or would like to be so.
If you yourself are a mother who engages in mum-shaming, what are your reasons for doing so? Let us see.
In many cases of mum-shaming, when the victim is seemingly enjoying herself, the motivation to accuse her is often jealousy. You are not able to be that mother who is able to leave her toddler at home and go for a glorious swim in trendy bikinis. You are not able to be the mother who has financial freedom because she chose to resume her career after the baby was born. Your jealousy manifests itself as mum-shaming.
Oftentimes, mothers have no compass to follow regarding bringing up children. She does not know whether she is doing the right thing, but would hate to admit it. When you grapple with such inadequacies, the only way to feel good about oneself is to find fault with others’ parenting. In fact, a lot of mum-shaming individuals have deep-seated insecurities that are not resolved.
If you are a person who believes that life has to be lived according to certain set laws and rules, it is easy to find fault with people who deviate from such laws and rules. Besides, parenting is one topic on which all mothers since the beginning of time have opinions about. When some mothers swim against the flow of widely held views on parenting, they easily get shamed for their choices.
If you are a person who cares little for how another person feels or are incapable of imagining yourself in another person’s shoes, you will easily criticize others. The same holds true for mothers. Many mothers bring up children the way they do because of their own reasons, of which the rest of us do not know anything about. Until and unless we know their stories, and are able to empathize with them, we will not understand why they do what they do.
Whatever be the reason, it should be said that mum-shaming is an unnecessary and negative cause of heart break for many mothers, especially those who are new parents and those who may have the burden of post-partum blues. It is time for mothers to be kind to each other.