Overcoming Mom Shame: #StopMomShaming Solutions (Mom.Life Q & A)

 

If you’re a mom, you’ve experienced it–unwanted advice, criticism, or shaming about your parenting, choices, or lifestyle that leaves you feeling devastated. Why are we so hard on each other? And why are we so hard on ourselves?

 

Mom.Life Mom-Shaming Survey Results

Mom-shaming is unfortunately an everyday part of today’s world, and the consequences can be heavy.

Recently, the creators of the engaging and popular Mom.Life app conducted a survey of over 225 women on the topic of mom shaming, or unwanted criticism of their choices or appearance, to understand the far reaching effects. Here’s what they found:

  • Nearly 80% percent of the women surveyed report being shamed.
  • 53% say that shaming happens frequently or is rampant.
  • The leading focus of the shaming was feeding choice, followed by parenting style.
  • Other moms are most likely to be shamers (70%).
  • Dads were the least likely to shame moms.

Why are these numbers so high? And why are moms feeling the most shamed by other moms?

 

Understanding Mom-Shaming

You would think other moms would be the most compassionate, sympathetic, and understanding. After all, don’t we all “get” how difficult motherhood and parenting can be? Aren’t we all in the thick of hectic schedules, lack of sleep, and worry that we’re just not doing as well as every other mom?

The sad truth is mom-shaming is a rampant problem, and Mom.Life has taken up the charge to do something about it–a cause I heartily support.

I recently sat down with Mom.Life co-founders, Dee Anna McPherson and Charong Chow, to discuss solutions to #StopMomShaming (the title of their campaign), and also did a Q&A in the Mom.Life app (so fun!), both of which I’m happy to be sharing with you. Listen to or watch our entire conversation in this Motherhood Radio or Motherhood TV episode, and read my take on mom-shaming solutions, below.

 

Mom Shame Q & A with Mom.Life and Dr. Christina Hibbert

A short while ago, I was a featured expert for one of Mom.Life‘s incredible live events. These events are geared toward creating a safe, supportive environment in which moms can engage, live, with one another and discuss topics important and relevant to motherhood.

The topic for the event I was part of was #StopMomShaming, and there were excellent questions by app users and incredible feedback that created an enlightening conversation. Below are some of the most helpful questions and answers from this event. My hope is it will get you thinking about mom-shaming, and how you can be part of the solution, too. (Download the Mom.Life app now to follow me and join the #StopMomShaming movement, and leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!)

 

Question 1 (Mom.Life):

What is your take on mom shaming? We recently surveyed our moms, and the results were astounding. About 80% of mom have been shamed, mostly for parenting choices? And most shamers were moms themselves. Could you shed some light into this dynamic?

Answer (Dr. Hibbert):

It’s awful so many are still feeling shamed on a regular basis, but unfortunately it’s not surprising to me. It’s so easy for us to get stuck in “our way” and then to beleive it’s the “best” or “only” way. This leads to intentional or unintentional shaming about choices, when in reality, it’s CRUCIAL we each do this parenting thing our own way.

No one knows your specific situation. No one knows your specific children. And no one is the expert on your family’s needs but YOU. If we could hold our tongues, see the differences in our situations and what works, and just love one another, we’d all be so much happier and feel so much more loved and supported.

 

Question 2 (Mom.Life):

Love your response and insight! Mom shaming is so hurtful. Why do you think it affects us so much, especially our self-confidence?

Answer (Dr. Hibbert):

It’s the worst to feel “attacked” at the heart of what matters most to you, and that’s exactly what mom shaming does. We are all just trying to figure this motherhood thing out, and as I said before, we each have our own unique situations. Since we’re all doing this without a map, we don’t KNOW 100% what we’re doing, right? Even if I have 6 kids, I still don’t know what I’m doing with every one of them, because they’re all so unique and what worked for one doesn’t work for others. This makes us vulnerable from the start. When someone criticizes in that vulnerable area, it hits extra hard. It makes us question, “Am I a terrible mother?” when really, the criticism says so much more about the person who gave it. It’s called “projection,” and the things we criticize others for are usually the things WE most need to work on. That’s why they bother us in the first place and we feel the need to criticize.

 

Question 3 (Mom.Life):

So, it’s not really about us, then? I love that. Here’s a question from a mom in the app: It seems like no matter who we are we get mom shamed, I am a young mom (20) and get mom shamed by my own mom…how do I shut this down?

Answer (Dr. Hibbert):

Being shamed by our own parents/in-laws is the worst, and it’s unfortunately quite common. Often it’s unintentional and just your mother’s way of tell you how “she did it”. Other times, it’s on purpose. I think this comes from insecurity, as all shaming does. If we feel that sense of self-worth, we don’t need to shame others.

Perhaps your mother just doesn’t “get” what you’re trying to do as a mom. Perhaps she is jealous of how you are as a mom. Whatever the reason, you don’t have to just sit and take it. Boundaries are a wonderful tool for this. Boundaries are rules you set up to protect yourself and your family. It’s like a fence you construct and you decide if it’s a picket fence or a tall brick wall. You decide what is and is not okay for you as a mom with others, and then you talk with them about what you’ve decided, and if they’re ok with it, then great. If not, you’ll need to be tough and keep your boundaries nonetheless. You can still love someone and have strong boundaries. In fact, it’s healthy.

Question 4 (Mom.Life):

Any tips on not allowing mom shaming to bother you to begin with?

Answer (Dr. Hibbert):

I think it all comes down to a strong sense of self-worth, and I’ve learned that we moms struggle with this the very most. I believe there’s a difference between self-esteem (or what we think, feel, how we behave, look, and what others think about us–the “outward” things) and self-worth (who we truly are–the inner truth). I’ve developed a “pyramid of self-worth” to help people work on building this sense of self-worth, to FEEL that self-love and KNOW they’re truly valuable and worthy.

Almost all the issues I see clients for, at their core, have to deal with self-worth, and I started to see this pattern of women especially who’d say, “I know YOU say I’m worthy, and I can tell myself that, but I don’t FEEL it.” It made me wonder, “how to you help someone feel self-worth?” That’s when I developed the pyramid of self-worth, which is made up of 1) self-awareness, 2) self-acceptance, and 3) self-love practices. I write about this in both my books “Who am I without You” and “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise,” as well as on my YouTube channel!

 

Question 5 (Mom.Life):

Here’s a great question from the community: How do you make sure you’re sharing the love when you bring another baby home? How do you make sure you’re there for your partner and also for your other children?

Answer (Dr. Hibbert):

I used to worry so much about this when I was pregnant with my second! I’d wonder, “How could I ever love another baby like I love my first?” But you do. And it’s amazing how your love just grows and amplifies with other children and meaningful family relationships–as a mom of 6 I can say this for sure!

What IS truly challenging is making time so everyone feels they’re getting “enough” of you. It’s important to also get some of yourself, too, so I suggest writing down your priorities–what matters most, in order of most important to least. Then, write down how much time you’re willing to give to each thing each week (including work, relationships, the house cleaning, etc). Focus on getting your top three done everyday, and you will never feel like you’re lacking. The house can be messy, especially if it means you played with your toddler and spent time with your spouse. Let go of what’s not as important in favor of what IS.

I love the saying, “Saying no to something is really saying ‘Yes’ to something better.” Write this on your wall if you need to, but remember that a little of your time and attention, especially if it’s full of love, goes a long, long way. One other suggestion for bringing another baby home: Give the older child a “gift” from the new baby. It’s a great way for big bro/sis to start feeling like and love for their new sibling!

Singing & rocking my youngest, Sydney. Though I was able to breastfeed her, I introduced a bottle early on. I knew I needed it to help me survive PPD.

Question 6 (Mom.Life):

One mom writes: I can’t help but to keep blaming myself for my weight gain. It is my fault and I feel worse because I didn’t “bounce back” like everyone else. Any advice on how I can gain my confidence back and stop blaming myself so much?

Answer (Dr. Hibbert):

Self-blame is a tough cycle to live in. It’s so easy to look at others and compare and think, “They are so much better than I am. I stink!” when really we don’t know their struggles, and they’re probably doing the same thing with us about something else. We compare our worst to others’ best, and that’s a vicious cycle. Our sense of self-worth is so tied up in this. If you don’t love yourself or if you can’t practice compassion with yourself–with who you are, your strengths, weakness, the “good, bad, ugly, and exceptional”– of course, you will blame yourself for every perceived “failure.”

The key is to work on building that sense of self-worth, as I mentioned above. Then, you will feel stronger and able to say, “I don’t like that I haven’t lost this weight, but I accept this is where I am right now.” Then, you have the option to change where you are, to improve. And you’ll be coming at it in such a healthier way. As far as weight loss, my newest book, “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise,” there’s a whole chapter on Self-worth, and I don’t even discuss setting up a fitness program until Key 7! That’s because, if we really want to set and achieve goals–like the goal to exercise or be healthy–we first need a LOT of mental preparation. We need to change how we view “success” and “failure,” we need to build our self-worth so we’ll stick with it, and we need to learn how to stay motivated. Working on these things is a great start to eventually loving all of who you are and achieving your dreams! (Join my “Exercise to Mental Health” course here!)

 

Question 7 (Mom.Life):

Here’s another good question from a mom: How can I feel less lonely as a new mom? How do I make sure I am my own person and not be known as JJ’s mommy? Is it selfish sometimes to be my own person? I don’t want to only be my son’s mommy.

Answer (Dr. Hibbert):

What a great question! First, let me say this clearly: IT IS NOT SELFISH FOR YOU TO BE YOUR OWN PERSON. I see so many mothers who are empty nesters and can’t even answer what they like to do because they’ve given ALL their time and energy to their children and lost themselves along the way. Our goal as mothers is to raise children who become healthy, productive, independent adults, so we do ourselves AND them no good by not remembering who WE are. In fact, I have seen in my own life and so many others’ the power of being YOU as a mom. As we develop our own talents and gifts and share them with others, we SHOW our children how to do the same. We give them permission to “go for it!” because we’ve done so, too. I took my 11 year old daughter with me to an event where I was speaking and doing a book signing, for parents who had all lost a child. She watched me speak and helped with the book signing and at the end of the day she said, “Wow, mom. You are important. You help so many people. I’m so proud of you!” This has helped her want to do the same. We can’t be selfish if we don’t have a SELF. And trust me, as mothers, we give our children so much more when we let that self shine boldly through!

 

 

Have you ever been shamed? By whom, and about what? Do you feel mom-shaming is a problem? Why or why not? What are the solutions to #StopMomShaming?

Join the conversation below by leaving a comment!

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About Dr. Christina Hibbert

Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. She really hopes you’ll join the Personal Growth Group and choose to grow together!

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