The Olympics are coming this summer. Let me tell you that if “Mommy Shaming” were up for a medal, there would be some fierce competition. Just how critical can we be when it comes to moms and their choices? I’ve recently gotten some first-hand knowledge that proves what a serious issue this has become.
I was pretty shocked when the simple act of allowing my daughter to occasionally put on make-up for special events created an internet backlash that didn’t just take up mommy message boards, but landed a sidebar on the Yahoo homepage. While I never expected everyone to agree with me, because that’s just ridiculous, I had no idea that so many people would choose to make huge assumptions about me and my life based on a five-minute snapshot of my daughter and me. I was told that I’m a horrible parent who doesn’t know how to discipline my child and might “inviting” predators to assault her. Over lip gloss and blush.
But the more I thought about this surprising outrage, the more I realized that I was just a small blip on the radar for mommy shaming everywhere. I was lucky.
For whatever reason, our culture has decided that it’s perfectly acceptable to tear apart women for their parenting shortcomings. In fact, we seem to enjoy it.
The perfect example might be the story of “Tan Mom,” a New Jersey woman who was arrested for possibly endangering her daughter by taking her to the tanning bed. Patricia Krentcil‘s seriously bizarre appearance sparked a media frenzy, discussions of tanning addiction and of course, concern for Krentcil’s five-year-old daughter who turned up to school with severe sunburn.
But this story has been so much more than a mom who seems to have a severe addiction. It’s been a huge joke, appearing on SNL and prompting an insulting exchange with Snookie. Before we even know exactly what happened, we’ve all judged, tried and convicted this woman. She claims that her daughter got burnt playing out in the sun, and if you see the little girl’s red hair and pale complexion, it’s easy to assume that she reacts really strongly to a little sunlight.
“Tan Mom” and her legal issues are a glowing reminder that we still need to educate people on the dangers of skin cancer. It’s a reminder that addiction can take many forms. And it might even be a situation where this little girl needs a new home until her mother can come to terms with her mental health issues. But did it need to be a circus where we all point and laugh at the crazy lady?
Whatever the questionable parenting practice is, there’s probably a group of upstanding citizens ready to rip a mom to shreds because of it. Look at the controversial TIME cover. Women who don’t breastfeed are made to feel like horrible failures who are selfishly denying their children. But now women who discuss breastfeeding into the toddler years are warned that they’re ruining their children for the rest of their lives. For a while it was Tiger Mothering, now it’s Attachment Parenting that will get to face scrutiny and contempt.
Let’s not even get started on Toddlers & Tiaras. As we’ve discussed plenty of times here at Mommyish, we’re firmly against the show that encourages women to sexualize and exploit their daughters on the kiddie pageant circuit. But does that practice justify the serious hatred and vitriol that these women seem to inspire in people? I’m just not sure anymore.
The fact is, we all seem to feel pretty comfortable passing judgment on parents for big or small offenses alike. So often, we see extreme stories like T&T or “Tan Mom” and we don’t have a problem piling on the negativity. Lately, we’re allowing that mentality to come out at smaller and smaller debates. And we’re letting a single facet of a parent’s life become the only thing that matters about them and their children.
Here at Mommyish, a woman was criticized ruthlessly because she didn’t know the dangers of organic toothpaste. No fluoride = cavities for her toddler. And apparently, that single lapse in judgment makes her too “stupid” to adequately raise a child. This mistake is so egregious to some that she received the Holy Grail of mommy insults, “I feel sorry for your kids.”
Maybe I’m still a little defensive, but I think in general that the kids will be alright. The new generation of little ones will adapt to the cultural changes just like we have. It’s the moms that I worry about. What divisive parenting practice will come up next, leaving a whole new set of moms open to ridicule and hostility?
Obviously, I think it’s important to talk about parenting. I do it everyday. I think that having discussions about parenting practices helps us all make more informed decisions. But I also think that this openness and communication has led to the vilification of moms for big and little offenses alike.
We don’t have to agree on everything. But as parents, maybe we should start trying to support each other, even when criticism feels like the natural reaction. Maybe we should step back and ask, “Is this practice actually endangering a child?” Because if the answer is no, hold back on those insults and try discussing your opinions without passing judgment or insulting anyone.
The truth is that almost all moms are just trying to do the best they can. We simply all have different ideas of what that is. It doesn’t make some right and some wrong, it makes us different. That’s okay. We can still support one another.