Have You Experienced Parent Shaming?
University of Michigan poll shows almost two-thirds of mothers have been “shamed” about their parenting choices.
My son, firstborn of three children, had allergies. Often those allergies would cause drainage that would cause ear infections or sinus infections – if it had snot associated with it, my son had it. One time when he was in first grade, he developed a more serious problem. He didn’t seem to be able to catch his breath and, worse, his chest became concave with each breath. A panicked trip to the pediatrician resulted in a diagnosis: asthma. Asthma? He’d never had trouble breathing before. Even after many visits to an allergist, I still don’t understand asthma, but as he got older, it didn’t seem to be a problem and fortunately doesn’t bother him today.
At the time, however, I felt like a failure as a mom. Surely I must have caused this in some way, I thought in that irrational way I have. Worse, my own mother seemed to blame me as well. You can imagine how amazing that made me feel. Before you think that my mom is a terrible person, let me assure you that she’s not. She’s the best grandparent ever, which is the reason she put her fear and confusion onto me – she was crazy about her grandson and couldn’t imagine that he would have to suffer even a tiny bit.
And, while my mom was very supportive of breastfeeding since she had done it, my mother-in-law was pretty sure kids couldn’t possibly get enough nourishment through breastfeeding alone. More typical of the time of Sputnik and the advances of science, she formula-fed her four boys. She never said anything to me directly, but…
Whether it’s advice about their children’s discipline or sleep, most moms have experienced some sort of direct or indirect shaming of their parenting practices. A recent poll of moms with children ages 0-5 done by the University of Michigan showed that six in 10 of them had been criticized about their parenting.
And who is the biggest offender? The mother’s parents. A whopping 37 percent of moms said their parents had questioned them the most. And the most frequent topic (at 70 percent) of contention was discipline.
“Offenders” named in the study were: in-laws 31%; child’s other parent 36%; Mom’s own parents 37%; other moms in public 12%; friends 14%.
So, before you throw some shade at your friend because she’s allowing her 4-year-old to pee in the backyard, remember that even well-meaning advice can raise a mom’s stress level. The poll shows that criticism sends 42 percent of moms to a health care provider for advice, which actually could help anxious moms get current health, child development and safety information.