Your Biggest Mommy Shamer is Probably Related to You
Unfortunately, mom-shaming is nothing new to working mothers. The “mommy wars” have raged on as people are quick to judge moms for the decisions they are making, whether it be reentering the workforce or choosing not to breastfeed. A new study out of the University of Michigan is now proving that this type of shaming does exist and is more common than you might think.
According to the report from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health Care at the University of Michigan, six out of 10 mothers with children up to five years old say they have been criticized for their parenting choices. The results were based off a poll of 475 mothers from around the United States.
“Our findings tap into the tensions moms face when parenting advice leads to more stress than reassurance and makes them feel more criticized than supported,” says poll co-director Sarah Clark.
The surveyed moms reported that they received the most judgement from within their own families. The most criticism came from their own parents with 37 percent of respondents saying they have received unwarranted advice from their mothers and fathers. Followed by their child’s other parent and their in-laws, with 36 and 31 percent respectively.
Clark explains that this may be due to relatives trying to teach young mothers older parenting practices.
“Family members should respect that mothers of young children may have more updated information about child health and safety and ‘what we used to do’ may no longer be the best advice,” says Clark.
While mom-shaming seems prevalent on the Internet, it actually was reported at a relatively low rate. Only 7 percent of surveyed moms reported being criticized on social media.
The most common topic of criticism in the poll was discipline, with 70 percent of mothers reporting it. The other highly reported topics cover numerous parenting issues including diet and nutrition, sleep, breastfeeding, safety and child care.
According to Clark, all of this criticism can have a negative effect on mothers who are just trying to be the best mother that they can be.
“Mothers can get overwhelmed by so many conflicting views on the ‘best’ way to raise a child,” she says. “Unsolicited advice—especially from the people closest to her child—can be perceived as meaning she’s not doing a good job as a mother. That can be hurtful.”
Some of the surveyed mothers have had a somewhat positive reaction to the shaming. The criticism has made 42 percent of them more proactive in seeking out professional advice, like from a health care provider, before making big decisions.
“This indicates that most mothers view their child’s health care provider as a trusted source of accurate information and advice, not as a critic,” says Clark. “Child health providers can help by encouraging mothers to ask questions about any parenting uncertainties, and offer reassurance and practical advice that helps boost mothers’ confidence and reduce anxiety around choices.”
About half of the mothers in the report say that they try to avoid the people who give overly critical advice. Clark suggests that any advice to a mother should be made lovingly.
“It’s unfortunate when a mother feels criticized to the point where she limits the amount of time she and her child will spend with a family member or friend,” she says. “To guard against that situation, advice to mothers of young children should be given with empathy and encouragement.”