Let me paint a picture for you….
You and your significant other have made the huge decision to have a child together. You’re both ready to take the next step to turn your love and adoration for each other into a little human.
After 9 months of nurturing and caring for the growing child, you give birth. It’s a life-changing experience and you didn’t think you could love something more than when you hold your child in your arms for the first time.
Then…parenting begins. The sleepless nights, the tantrums, the 24/7 cleaning, nursing, and nappy changing and wow do you wish you could have just one night or weekend to yourself – not because you don’t want to be a parent anymore, but because you’re a human who needs a break.
You know the baby is safe and taken care of, yet you find yourself feeling apprehensive leaving your child for the first time. You realise, though, that this is something that you and your family need, so you decide to relax and have a nice night out to unwind…
Lo and behold, you wake up the next morning and see that you’ve been criticised and shamed online for going out to dinner without your child, and shamers even suggest you should be at home instead looking after your child.
I’m sorry, what?
Say hello to mum-shaming; the latest trend to hit social media. Mum-shaming is a cruel way for strangers to publicly criticise, shame and “blast” mothers online for their parenting abilities. Often mothers find themselves under fire for things such as trying to still have a social life, or the way their children are dressed or what they are fed. Sounds a bit like none of ya business to me?
Celebrities and politicians are often the targets of this mum-shaming trend. With women such as:
- Chrissy Teigen, who one month after giving birth to her daughter, Luna, was shamed on social media for going out to dinner with husband, John Legend.
- Kylie Jenner, who was criticised for attending Coachella Festival one month after giving birth to daughter, Stormi Scott
- And Jacinda Arnden, Prime Minister of New Zealand, who was criticised for opting to take 6 weeks of maternity of leave and was even encouraged to take 6 months instead.
These are just a few examples of what mum-shaming looks like, and unfortunately this is only a small sample of women who experience mum-shaming online. With other celebrities such as Ciara, Beyonce, Megan Fox, and Kate Middleton all being blasted in the past, it’s a wonder that these celebs still grace us with their presence.
While celebrities often find themselves the target of mum-shaming, don’t think it won’t happen to your or someone you know. A study conducted by Michigan Medicine found that 61% of mothers have admitted to receiving criticism about their parenting decisions, often surrounding topics such as breast feeding versus bottle feeding and their disciplinary choices for their child.
This form of “everyday” criticism doesn’t always take place online or on social media, however it still has an impact on mothers who are just trying to do their best. 42% of mothers report that they felt unsure about their parenting decisions and techniques after receiving criticism from an outside source, while 37% of these mothers actually changed they way they parented their children.
So why all the hate?
Some argue that they’re providing constructive criticism to those mothers, and that they’re showing their support by providing their feedback and opinions on important topics. Mmhmmmm.
Sarah Clark, an associate research scientist from the University of Michigan, further discusses how mum-shaming also often stems from the shamer’s own insecurities about their own decision making on the same topic.
A study conducted by the University of Arizona, further found that in social group settings people may often feel the need to influence other people’s behaviour in an attempt to prevent or control “bad” behaviours. This is known as behavioural control and often stems from an individuals concern over being associated with what they would consider to be a “wrong-doer.” The wrongdoings are not always necessarily considered to be “bad” behaviours. However this does not stop the shamer from trying to influence behaviours and certain actions, simply because they do not want to be associated with somebody who does certain things differently to the supposed status quo.
It is even suggested that shamers feel guilt when another person acts wrongly, as they believe that they should have been able to prevent or predict the other person’s behaviour.
Regardless of the motive of the “constructive” criticism, or the behavioural control justifications; the uncalled-for advice and shaming can not only cause parents to change the way they parent their children, but it can also cause parents to experience anxiety and further worry about the daunting task that is being a parent.
So the next time you feel the need to express your “concerns” and “worries” maybe just check in quickly with yourself, and really think about whether your suggestions or criticisms are truly necessarily.