Mom Shaming Is The Worst
No one enjoys being the subject of mom shaming. And I think it's probably also true that most people don't intend to mom shame another mom. But it happens. We all have moments when we say something hurtful or opinionated without intending to inflict shame or pain on another person. It kind of comes with the territory of having a mouth. But being on the receiving end of mom shaming is awful, especially when it's done publically, either to your face or online.
It Happens To All Of Us Eventually
A few weeks back, while visiting the Japanese Gardens in Portland, Oregon, I was doing the responsible mom thing and applying sunscreen to my four- and five-year-old daughters prior to our ninety-degree walking tour. As I sprayed sunscreen on their arms, slightly away from the crowds (I'm not a monster), I heard a woman's voice. "Stand back, dear. Those spray sunscreens are filled with terrible chemicals. I don't want you breathing any of that." It wasn't even a badly masked whisper. Nope, full volume, baby. My husband was parking the car and my mother-in-law was chatting with another person in line. I might be the only one who really heard her, but I wouldn't really know either way. I didn't look up.
It was a careless comment from a complete stranger. One that wasn't even directed right at me. I tried not to let it get to me, but I still felt it. How could I not? She was complaining that I was dousing my kids in harmful chemicals. Read into that just a little bit and it becomes, "What kind of terrible mother poisons her children and all the innocent people around her?!" I wasn't about to let this woman ruin my day. I wasn't going to let that comment be the thing I obsessed about instead of enjoying the beauty of the gardens. So here's what I did.
What To Do When You're Being Mom Shamed
The first thing you need to do, or rather not do, is react. Keep cool. Don't look up. Don't engage the person passing judgment on you. You can't please them all and you don't have to. If your shamer is someone you don't know, then ignore them completely. Who cares what they think? If you do know your shamer, don't respond immediately. Give yourself time to calm down, let your cheeks stop burning and your face unclench. Breathe.
Gain Some Perspective
While you're busy not reacting, try to put yourself in their shoes. Did they mean to belittle you with their comment or were they just talking? Were they trying to be helpful and just accidentally came off sounding like a jerk? Sometimes people speak out of fear or ignorance and you just have to let it slide. And girl, if it was a comment online, just shake it off. Trolls don't give a rat's nasty backside how their comments make you feel so why should you care about that bully's opinion?
Whether they had good intentions or ill, you gain nothing by hanging onto the hurt. Let it go. Forgive them for their carelessness/tactlessness/stupidity/well-meaning-but-uninvited-advice/downright-cruelty. Whatever it was, it's not your problem. It's their heart issue and you can't change other people. You can only control you, girl.
Respond--ONLY IF It Benefits The Situation
Before you respond, ask yourself these three questions:
Is the shamer online or in person? If they're online, don't waste your time or energy. It will only leave you more frustrated and the chances of showing the troll the error of their ways are slim-to-none. Don't bother.
Is the shamer someone you know? If not, don't respond. Just walk away or continue with your day. You don't owe them anything.
Will a response encourage the shamer to do things differently next time? We don't respond in order to make sure they know how much their comments hurt us. We respond to address inaccuracies, encourage more gentleness in the future, or thank them for trying to help. Yeah, I said that. Sometimes, after we've had time to calm down and gain perspective, we realize they were right. It's okay to say "Thank you for pointing out how I could have done that differently/better. If you have the opportunity to share that info with another mom in the future, maybe you can try it this way instead."
Once you've done all this, it's time to move on. Remind yourself that you're doing your best, you're comfortable with your decisions as a mom, and no one knows your kids better than you. Brush off the whole experience. Talk to a good friend or your partner if you need to vent or get it all out of your head. Do something that makes you feel stronger, wiser, more grounded. That moment or that comment do not define you. You are a good mom. You are a great mom.
Remember Everything You're Doing Right
My kids were covered in sunscreen. I protected them from skin cancer that day. (And you know what? I've tried essential oil sunscreen and it made both my kids cry their eyes out because it smells so terrible. You do what you have to do.) I spent the day with them, touring gardens which emphasized another culture, talking about the differences and similarities. We laughed and played, we jumped over 'lava' rocks and sang and danced on the way, and we had a great time. Chemicals aside, I was a great mom that day. I gave my daughters a memorable, fun adventure. And I don't regret a thing.
You are a great mom. Don't let anyone take that away from you. Be you. Mom on.
We All Know The Scenario
"Well hello, aren't you adorable! How old are you?"
"I'm three. Do you have a baby in your tummy?"
The 50-year-old man looks at you and chuckles uncomfortably. Meanwhile, you melt into a puddle on the floor.
Kids Say The Darndest Things
If you have kids, I guarantee this has happened or will happen to you at some point. Kids don't think about people's feelings before they speak. They just say what's on their mind. Their innocence is part of what makes them so adorable. So the next time you find yourself in this situation, remember these 3 steps.
How To Handle That Embarrassing Moment
Step 1: Smile and Take A Deep Breath
Didn't we just go over how every single parent ever has experienced this moment? That means even that overweight man your child just insulted has very likely been on your side of this situation. Smile at your child's victim in an apologetic sort of way and take a deep breath. Don't overreact. Heck, don't even react. Let the moment slide by and give your cheeks a few seconds to stop burning. Usually, the person your child's just slammed is every bit as embarrassed as you. No one wants to be called fat, even by a three-year-old.
Step 2: Say Something Nice
You can apologize briefly and quietly if you must, but don't make a big deal out of it and DON'T force your youngster to apologize. It will only embarrass her and make things more awkward. Instead, I like to change the course of the conversation by offering a genuine compliment or asking a question of the offended person. Something like, "I really like your hat. Is that your team?" This does three things: First, it takes the focus off that awkward, and usually true, thing your kid just said. Second, it provides that poor guy an opportunity to walk away from your encounter with something other than the embarrassment to remember you by. Third, it sets an example for your child about polite conversation starters. So they know. For future reference.
Step 3: Talk About It LATER
After you've left the grocery store/barbecue/funeral/etc. and you're in a place where you and your kid can have a comfortable and genuine face-to-face, bring up the comment. DO NOT attempt to have this conversation if you are still feeling at all embarrassed or upset. Using your I'm-not-mad-this-is-just-a-normal-conversation voice, you can gently explain to your child that we don't ask people if they have babies in their tummies or say they smell funny or ask if they just farted. Only use this conversation to go over your kid's current offense. There's no need to rehash old offenses unless they specifically ask you about them. This can be very simple: "Honey, it's not polite to ask if someone has a baby in their tummy. Maybe next time you can say/ask..." They'll have questions. Good Lord, will they have questions. Do your best to answer honestly and completely. "Why? Well, asking if they have a baby means you think their tummy is big and that can sometimes hurt people's feelings."
Remember, Your Child Will Grow Out Of It
Sometimes your kid will come up with more questions and that's great. Answer as they arise. My daughter went through a phase where she would whisper what she wanted to ask in my ear before saying it out loud (she's always been a total rule follower). I'd either nod or shake my head and she'd proceed accordingly. These scenarios are super common and don't have to be a big deal. Most of the time, the people your children talk to are going to be perfectly reasonable adults who've been where you're at and they'll give you loads of grace. If you run into someone whose feelings genuinely get hurt... well.... they're a grown-up. I'm not sure it's your job to help them work through that.
Things You Should NOT Do:
Don't make a scene by yelling at or hitting your child because of their comment and don't embarrass them in order to show them how it feels. That's just mean.
Don't force them to apologize for their innocent words
Don't try to explain away your child's actions to the other person. This only keeps the awkwardness going.
Don't run away. Stick around and show your child how grown-ups interact.
Don't discipline your child for their comment, at least not the first three times. If they keep saying rude things despite knowing very well that it's not okay, well then...
Don't try to deal with the situation while you're embarrassed. Wait until you get some separation and perspective to talk about it. I promise you will laugh it off eventually.
Forgive and Don't Forget
Kids are great because they're kids. Let them be little, for this time is so very short. Forgive them easily. I promise they don't mean to embarrass you or others, they're just genuinely curious about literally everything. The fact that your child feels comfortable enough to ask a stranger if they're pregnant is a sign that he's developing well. And don't you forget this moment (not that it's likely to happen) because someday the one gaining a few pounds or trying to quietly relieve some bloaty pressure may be you. And it will be up to you to laugh it off and smile knowingly at that young beet-red mama.
Care to share your stories? It's always great to know we're not alone in this Mama journey. Share with us in the comments!
It's been a while since you've heard from me. We just wrapped up an awesome month filled with amazing and helpful advice from other moms around the world. If you missed out on any posts, I've got them all stockpiled here so you can refer back to them anytime you need to.
I have to admit, I really missed being the one doing the writing! It was a great series, but it feels good to be talking to you again :)
How To Get The Most Out Of This Mother's Day
I have a story to share with you today, one I'm actually kind of embarrassed by, but I'm betting some of you can totally relate. Last year, I ruined Mother's Day. I know! It's Mother's Day, how could I, the mom, have ruined it? I'll get to that later, but for now, just know that I did... and I felt terrible afterward.
Mother's Day is a national holiday designed to help us remember and appreciate our mothers. But once you become a mom, it's a balancing act of appreciating your own mother, mother-in-law, grandmothers, etc. and being appreciated by your kids and, if he's a good one, your husband or significant other. Last year, I swayed way over to the me-me-me side of things. I bought my mom and grammy a hanging basket or something and then sat around waiting for my husband and two young daughters to make my day. And let me tell you, I spent the whole day feeling let down and guilty. I was disappointed because my priorities were all kinds of out of line.
Granted, I was in a much different mental health space a year ago than I am today. I was desperate to be seen, to be known and to know who I was meant to be. My health issues were at the root of my entitlement, but I wish I knew then what I know now. Mother's Day isn't the only day of the year to be appreciated. You are valuable and important, Mama, and your family wouldn't function without you on any other day of the year. So here are simple tips to get the most out of your day in May.
Cut Your Hubby Some Slack:
Your husband is working just as hard as you are, just in pretty different ways. He is not a mind reader, nor does he have the ability to change who he is for one day. Accept him as the man you fell in love with and try to appreciate the work he does put in. Don't give him a hard time for his last minute attempts or nag him to get you just the right thing. Here's my challenge to you: Don't even tell him what you want unless he asks.
Last year, I told my hubby exactly what I wanted for Mother's Day. As a result, he spent all of the Saturday before traipsing from one store to the next with our kids in tow looking for my very specific request. When I got that thing I asked for, it wasn't special. It just felt like he ran an errand for me. I was left feeling disappointed, and the worst part of it was he's naturally a really incredible gift-giver. He probably would have come up with something way better if only I had given him the chance. This holiday isn't about getting that new purse or a mani-pedi from your man. It's about being with your family and letting your kids love on you.
Lower Your Expectations:
If you pre-plan your whole Mother's Day in your mind before it happens, I promise you will be disappointed no matter what they do or don't do. Try to dismiss those expectations so that you can enjoy the day for what it is. So your kids made you breakfast in bed and it's soupy and burnt at the same time? They made you breakfast! How cute is that!? Let those moments become precious treasured memories rather than disappointments.
Hug Your Babies
The other thing I did last year to ruin Mother's Day was ask... are you ready for this, cause it was really stupid... for time alone. I did! I asked for time alone on Mother's Day. My kids were confused and, I didn't realize it until later, felt like they'd done something wrong to make me not want to hang out with them on the day they'd been told was their day to love on me. Don't make my mistake. Ask for time alone on a random Thursday. On Mother's Day, stay in bed a little longer and cuddle with those precious beauties. Let them brush your hair and massage your hands. Croon with delight over their drawings and hand-made gifts.
They'll only be this little right now. One day, they'll have babies of their own and your gifts may be limited to a call or mail order flowers. Hug them close today, while they're all yours. Cherish those memories while they're still moments to be lived.
Give Your Mom the Mother's Day You've Been Hoping For
If you've pre-planned your whole Mother's Day, take those plans and make them happen - for YOUR mom! Just because her kids are grown and moved out of the house doesn't mean she doesn't have these same wishes and desires for her Mother's Day. And just because you're grown and have your own kids doesn't mean you don't still owe your mom a debt of gratitude. I appreciated my mom a thousand times more after having kids of my own!! So this year, I'm doing for her what I wish my kids and hubby would do for me.
Make A List of All The Good Things The Last Year Has Held
If, despite all this advice, you find yourself still feeling deflated come Mother's day, ask your family for a few minutes in time out (for you, not them) and retreat to a quiet bedroom. Make a list of all the things that happened in the last year which you're grateful for. Spend just 10 minutes practicing gratitude and I guarantee you'll come out of that room refreshed and back in the right mindset for the rest of the day.
But Most of All...
Take a second to thank each of your kids and your hubby for trying. Whether they got you a full day at the spa or a new toaster, say thank you. Smile like you mean it. If your family is anything at all like mine, they show you how much they love and appreciate and need you on more days than just this one. Let's not make our families feel guilty for trying, even if they failed.
Have you ever ruined Mother's Day? I'd love to hear about it in the comments, if for nothing else than to make myself feel a little better! ;)
How To Start Exercising Again After Baby
Being a new mum is both exciting and exhausting. Recovering from pregnancy and birth takes time. And with the physical and emotional demands of being a new mama, I’m sure you’re very aware that you’re quite often running on empty.
How do you realistically cope with fatigue and the demands of babies and children so you can get active, fit, and healthy again? Taking the first steps back into structured exercise can be daunting.
This post contains affiliate links.
Exercise Where You Can, When You Can
Remove the barrier of having to meet structured exercise guidelines to get results. Don’t even try to pick up where you left off. Now is the time to embrace a much more flexible approach that can fit into your day-to-day schedule around multiple demands.
Don’t underestimate the little things. We have so many opportunities each day to increase movement. A bit of activity on its’ own may not feel like much but a mere 20-minute walk after lunch each day can burn an additional 700 calories per week.
Set Smaller, Achievable Goals
A 20-minute walk is achievable, right? I started with walking around my neighbourhood with a colicky, premmie baby screaming at the top of his lungs. I had one wheel of the pram on the footpath and the other on the grass either side of my path. The gentle jostling helped soothe my baby to sleep, and the walk got me out of the house so I could clear my head. Trust me; you don't want to be indoors with a screaming baby for hours on end.
Before you get going, remember that making a choice to do something for yourself, like a bit of exercise or activity, is great for your mental health as well as your physical health. Having a small break helps you cope better and feel more positive. Let’s face it – we love our babies, but every one of us can benefit from a break from the same thing all day, every day.
How To Get Started And Keep Going
Plan activities you love: Start by planning your day. Choose activities you love doing. Don’t try to run, for example, if you hate running. It won’t work.
Have a backup plan: For the nights you don’t get any sleep or baby is sick, try a shorter walk instead of a 20-minute yoga session.
Change your mindset about exercise! Remember, activity is cumulative – so 3 x 10 minutes bouts of something equal 30 minutes of exercise per day. Every movement you perform COUNTS towards your daily total.
Mix it up: Plan activities you can do on your own, like a swim at the local pool, and some you can do with your baby, like a walk in the park.
Go slowly and build your confidence: Note how many steps you take when you start exercising. Then use this as a base to incrementally increase the steps taken or the distance walked each week.
There are many ways to get active by tweaking what you’re already doing. I recommend tracking your progress with an app on your phone or an activity tracker – both are a great way to see how much you’re doing! My Fitness Pal helps you track your activity and food to create a caloric deficit. And even if you don’t have a Fitbit, you can purchase the app (for Google or Apple) that will count your steps and track workouts and meals via your phone.
Easy Activities To Get You Started:
Dancing for five minutes with baby burns 29 calories.
Half an hour of Gardening can burn around 200 calories.
20-minute Lunchtime walks with a loaded pram burn an additional 700 calories per week.
Standing instead of sitting when you’re on the phone burns 50 calories an hour.
5 minutes of Pilates burns 25 calories
Wall squat for 2 minutes as you clean your teeth burns 10 calories
Bench push ups for a minute as you wait for the kettle to boil burns 8 calories.
As you go along, you’ll find more ways to move than you thought possible - especially if you enjoy it. And it's too cute when you find your babies and toddlers joining in too. It makes every little bit of effort worthwhile.
You don't need to work harder, you need to work smarter!
About The Author
Justine Guest is the Founder of an online fitness site at SMART Body Project and has been a passionate coach for over 15 years. She’s also a Star Wars obsessive, cephalopod lover and paronomasia collector (not necessarily in that order). Find her on Facebook or at www.smartbodyproject.com.
Today was a blue day. Yesterday was a blue day also.
Even though I see a therapist every month and I make time for self-care every day, these blue days still sneak up on me occasionally. Yesterday was even worse than a blue day, it was a numb day. You know the kind. You don't feel sad or weepy, but you don't feel happy or excited or anything else. You just want the day to end so you don't have to NOT feel anymore.
How To Deal With Blue Days
The first thing you HAVE to do is give yourself grace. Don't heap mom guilt on top of that already towering pile of yuck. Let yourself lay in bed if you can. Allow your kids to watch a movie. Let yourself cry. Usually, my numb days are made worse when I try to fight them or keep myself from going blue. But sometimes going blue can actually help me get out of the funk and back into the right mindset.
If you've seen Disney Pixar's Inside Out, you know what I mean. When Joy steps aside and lets Sadness control things, Riley is able to get those feelings out in the open and let them go to some degree. My husband came in today to find me with half-dried tear stains on my cheeks. He asked if I needed a hug and I did. And you know what? It didn't make the sadness go away immediately, but it did enable me to get out of bed, go downstairs, and eat dinner with my kids.
Prepare For The Days Before They Happen
My therapist gave me this excellent advice: Prepare ahead of time for the return of your sad days. Depression isn't something you deal with once and then never again. Like clouds across a sunny sky, it will come back. Hopefully not as intense, but it's good to be prepared just in case.
The ways you prepare for a blue day are dependent on you and what makes you most energized, fulfilled, or relaxed. Prepare a playlist on Youtube or Spotify with music that makes you feel like dancing. Have essential oils on hand which you can diffuse to improve your mood or energy levels. Talk to your spouse about what helps you so that he can partner with you. I can't tell you how many blue days have been shortened by my husband recognizing them and sending me out for some self-care. You know the things that make you feel better. Make a list and keep it handy, because it's not a matter of if you'll need it but when.
Choose One Go-To Thing
Hands down the most difficult part of a blue or numb day is to peel yourself off the couch or out from under the covers and do that first thing. Once you're up and moving, it's often a lot easier to drum up the motivation to do another thing on the list. So find one thing that's easy to do that will help you start. Maybe it's the music playlist, and you can pull it up on your phone and feel the good energy flowing through you. Whatever one thing you can do, do it and move on from there.
It's All About The Baby Steps
Your mental health is a delicate balancing act. Start small. Take one tiny step. Then another. Then another. You can do it! Even though you will fall back again sometimes, it's okay. If you have to take that very first baby step over and over again, it's okay. I've been there. I am there. You are not alone.
None of this advice will help if you haven't managed your mental health. If you have more blue days than not, please reach out to a doctor for recommendations on a good therapist in your area. Therapists are not for crazy people! They are for hurting, exhausted, lonely moms who need someone to talk to. Don't allow anything to keep you from getting the time and help you need.
If you find yourself thinking suicidal thoughts or wondering if your family would be better off without you, please ignore this whole list and call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Using a Bullet Journal to Track My Mental Health
I have always been prone to bouts of anxiety and depression so, after a difficult pregnancy, I knew I was going to be a prime target for those pesky postpartum blues that could potentially turn into something more serious. Knowing this about myself ahead of time, however, gave me time to figure out exactly how I was going to keep track of my moods so that I would recognize when it was time to seek help.
My bullet journal has been my go-to for pretty much everything: grocery lists, daily/monthly/yearly calendars, reading lists, and meal and weight tracking. So, of course, my journal would be the perfect place to start tracking my mental health as well. I always have it with me so I can easily make note of my mood anytime.
What Is Bullet Journaling?
If you have never heard of Bullet Journaling before, I encourage you to look into the original system and to browse Pinterest for inspiration. It's a wonderful way to keep different parts of your life organized, especially if you are a fan of pen and paper lists and calendars but haven't found that one date book that really works for you.
Creating a System That Works For Me
The most important thing for me to start tracking was my mood, but I was also interested in how it was being affected by my workouts and sleep, or lack thereof. I liked the 'year in pixels' idea so I adapted it for my needs by adding a few extra grids to help track exercise and sleep. Having everything on one spread makes it much easier to look for patterns and correlations between the emotional and the physical aspects of my health.
Adapting As I Learn
After getting started with the sleep tracking, I realized that I needed one more metric. I had all these pretty high numbers, sometimes 8 or more hours, but I was still feeling so sleep deprived. I couldn't figure it out. After taking a closer look at my sleep tracker (which is actually my baby's sleep tracker), I realized that I felt a thousand times better on the days when I got a continuous block of sleep that lasted for 4-5 hours rather than 2 or fewer hour chunks. As you can tell from my tracker, and the lack of green spaces in my sleep chart, I don't get as many of those as I would like.
Don't Make It Too Complicated
Originally with my mood tracker, I would use two colors if I felt multiple moods during the day, but I found that this wasn't that helpful and only made it harder to read. Now, I simply choose one emotion that made the most impact to my day and stick with my gut. I also found it incredibly useful to see, after the month is over, how many days were 'good' and how many were 'bad'. I can make sure that my orange, green, and pink days outnumber all the red, yellow, and blue days. If the bad ever outnumber the good, I know that it is definitely time to ask for help.
Using a Bullet Journal to Track My Self-Care
As a breastfeeding mama, it is very important for me to track things like water intake, vitamins, and medications, as well as make sure I'm eating enough to support not only my own body but my daughters as well. I track my self-care in the form of taking a shower and brushing my teeth which, as a busy first-time mom, I find myself forgetting constantly. With the amount of sleep that I get in solid blocks, caffeine is crucial for my early morning functioning, so I also make sure I drink one cup of coffee (or sometimes sub out for a coke). If I have a headache one day I can usually look back and realize I didn't have coffee the day before. I used to track what I was eating for my meals, but these days that takes too much time so, instead, I just check off which meals I've eaten to make sure I don't miss any.
Preparing For The Blue Days I Know Will Come
Whenever I'm feeling particularly stressed or depressed, I have trouble picking something to do that will calm me down. So I drew up some quick sketches of things I can use to re-center myself, like meditation or taking a bath. Now, if I'm feeling burnt out, I can just flip to this spread in my journal and pick something. I've also left space to add more as I discover new things that help me relax.
Can A Bullet Journal Improve Your Mental Health?
A bullet journal can be used in so many ways, and I've found it to be an amazing tool for tracking mental health and self-care. Busy moms often neglect themselves until it becomes a bigger problem then it could have been. It's far too easy to neglect your own mental health and self-care, but with a system like this, you too can make sure you're taking the best care of yourself.
About The Author
Kalen is a new mom and work-from-home artist and blogger at Nerdy Wife, Nerdy Life. Her blog has a variety of subjects ranging from motherhood and bullet journaling to board games and art. Kalen loves the freedom of working from home while still being able to take care of her daughter. Follow her adventures on Instagram @nerdywifenerdylife.
It's Time to Take Care of Yourself
What you do is important, draining work, Mama, so you've got to make sure to take extra special care of yourself. You're the only one who will! Join us as we journey through emotional, physical, and mental health this April. We've got 8 awesome Mom Bloggers from around the world and the web to give you easy to implement, FREE ideas and tips to speed you on your way. We know firsthand how difficult mom life can be and we'll be here every step of the way with you.
You work hard, day in and day out. Without you, your family would fall into chaos. (Don't believe us, try leaving for a weekend and see how they do!)
To be at the top of your motherhood game, you've got to make time for yourself. It doesn't have to be huge, but your self-care should be a top priority.
We'll show you how to make it easier.
Mom life doesn't have to be so lonely!
We can almost hear you scoffing at us. Trust me, we totally get it. The mere idea of packing all your kids up for a playdate is enough to land you on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. We've been there. Just yesterday!
But your relationships are important! Learn how to prioritize time with people who fill you up.
We're not talking about dropping pant sizes. We're talking about being healthy.
What your put into your body and how you use it are major factors in your mental and emotional wellbeing. That's why it's so important to make healthy choices. But we know it's hard. Especially when you've got tiny little people at your feet begging for something all the time.
We believe in you, Mama. You can do this!