Even if you’re not a mom, you’ve probably heard of “mom-shaming.” Even celebrity moms aren’t immune: Chrissy Teigen was shamed for a breastfeeding photo earlier in June.
Ask any mom about how other people talk to them about their parenting choices, and nearly all of them will have at least one horror story about being judged, shamed, and offered advice they never even asked for. And that’s no exaggeration: A new study confirms that two out of every three moms of young kids have been shamed for their parenting decisions.
The new study, conducted by the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, gathered responses from 475 moms who have at least one child between the ages of 0 and five. Many of them said they’ve been shamed over decisions ranging from breastfeeding to childcare.
But some topics came up more than others when the moms noted what aspect of parenting they had been shamed for.
Of the women surveyed, 70 percent said they had been shamed for the way they discipline their children, the top “shame-worthy” category. But there’s oh-so-much-more that moms said they’ve been judged for: 52 percent for nutrition and diet; 46 percent over sleep; 39 percent for their breastfeeding vs bottle feeding choices; 20 percent about child safety; and 16 percent reported being judged over childcare. That’s a lot of judgment coming at moms from pretty much every parenting angle.
If that’s not bad enough, this judgment is almost always coming from someone the mom is close to, or knows really well. Like Vanna, the moms who were polled reported that 37 percent of the time, the shaming came from their own parents. The mom’s spouse or child’s parent shamed them 36 percent of the time, and in-laws were the shamers 31 percent of the time. That’s right: A mom’s own parents and co-parent were shown to be shamier even than in-laws!
Vanna, a 30-year-old mom of two girls, tells Brit + Co that she and her mom had a huge argument over her breastfeeding choices after she gave birth to her oldest child. She tells us that she spent some time living with her mom after her oldest was born, and her mom quickly started pressuring her to bottle feed. Vanna wanted to breastfeed and had already started doing so, but her mom was insistent. Vanna never gave in, but her mom made her breastfeed in the privacy of the bathroom for the length of her stay.
Erica, a mom in her 40s, told Brit + Co that her oldest daughter has special needs. Because of this, Erica has received a ton of judgment and unsolicited advice as her daughter has grown up.
Erica says that her daughter, who is on the autism spectrum, could be easily overwhelmed with too much stimulation when she was younger. Though she and her daughter were working to develop coping tools together, Erica still received a ton of advice she didn’t want or need about parenting. She tells us that she was told to spank her daughter, and told that therapy was too excessive for their family’s needs.
Sarah Clark, co-director of the hospital’s poll, tells CBS that the survey’s data reveals “the tensions moms face when parenting advice leads to more stress than reassurance and makes them feel more criticized than supported.” Hearing the areas where moms feel the most shamed by others helps to shed light on how to actually help moms, instead of just further stressing them out and wearing them down when they’re already dealing with the challenges of raising young children.
Ultimately, unsolicited advice and judgment around parenting topics is really hurtful to moms. Clark tells CBS that it’s especially painful when the judgment comes from people that moms are close with. This dynamic can weaken close relationships: According to the new survey, 50 percent of moms said they avoid people who shame them over parenting.
Because moms need a ton of support, especially when their kids are young, they need as much help and love from those close to them as they can get. With this new poll’s insights, everyone can better understand how moms feel, and how best to help.
Do you have a story about mom-shaming? Tell us about it on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty + Noam Galai / WireImage)