When I tell people I stopped breastfeeding a couple of months ago because my milk supply suddenly stopped, I get mixed responses.
Most of my friends get it and are supportive. Others offer me condolences and apologies, which are well-intended. And then a few — and these are usually people I don’t know well — shake their heads disapprovingly or look at my child as if he were just rescued from an animal shelter.
Apparently, this “mommy-shaming” is a real thing — and it’s more common than you think. According to a new study, nearly two-thirds of women claim they are mommy shamed by others, with their in-laws and parents being some of the worst offenders. What are they being shamed about? How they displcine their child, what they feed their child and whether they use a bottle or not. (I’m not sure what the “or not” is. A sippy cup? Out of our palms? A shot glass?)
And here’s the even harsher fact, one that wasn’t discussed in this study: We all do it, too.
Moms can sometimes be the most critical. We’re mean about it, rude, judgmental. We give other moms disapproving looks, shake our heads, roll our eyes, gossip, criticize, post on Facebook, write blogs. We think we know what we’re doing, that our way is the best way, that everyone else should follow our lead. We raised awesome kids, right? So, do what I did and you’ll have awesome kids, too!
I wish it were that easy.
Truth is, there are myriads of ways to raise kids, and they are plenty of reasons why parents do what they do. And there’s really no way of knowing what’s really going on.
I remember talking with a first-time mom months ago who was very defensive about her choice to use formula instead of breastfeed. She opted to take medication that would pass through her breastmilk, so she gave her son formula. I get it. Of course she was going to use formula. But she had been made to feel badly about her choice and thought she had to defend herself. And that’s too bad.
As long as we’re making the best decisions we can at the time we’re making them, and we’re considering our options, keeping our child the priority, I can’t see how we can go wrong.
We don’t know what every situation is for every mom. Maybe she works at a job where pumping isn’t an option. Maybe she can’t afford a super-fancy preschool or organic baby food. Maybe she has three other kids who need attention, too. The bottom line is, we just don’t know. And if we don’t know, we shouldn’t be quick to judge.
I know I’ve been judged for my choices to let my dogs lick my baby, to take him to the beach before he was six months old, to drag him around with me on interviews, to stop breastfeeding, to feed him store-bought baby food, to let him sleep in a rocker, to use Pampers over Huggies, to vaccinate my child, to not post his photos on social media, to let my mother-in-law watch him on Sundays so I can surf and feel normal, for traveling to Japan with an infant. And everyone is entitled to his or her opinion about it. But I’m doing the best I can, to make decisions every step of the way that I’m OK with, that keep our child safe and happy.
And I will make mistakes. Things will go wrong. But there’s not a single parent out there who did everything right. None. But we try, and that matters.
Look, we’re always going to judge. It’s what we do as humans. But let’s be a little more compassionate, too.