How To Respond To Mom Shaming
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.