Before social media, mom-shaming wasn’t really a thing. You would never go up to someone in person and say “Hey Susan, are you breastfeeding? You aren’t co-sleeping, are you? What sort of soap do you use for his bath?” You would say “cute baby” and maybe ask how the delivery went. Everyone loves sharing their opinion on things, especially when you are doing something they think is wrong. Well, how would they even know what you are doing unless you were posting it online? We post everything nowadays like pictures of our children eating, pictures of WHAT they are eating, check-ins at the places you take them, and even honest questions you ask in the middle night when you are exhausted and feeling desperate. Social media is is a great place to share our journey as moms, but also the main reason that mom-shaming has become a trend and there are a few aspects that are most responsible.
On almost all social media platforms it’s appropriate to talk to strangers, almost normal. You also have the computer screen to hide behind which gives people all kinds of confidence they would never have before. It used to be that Facebook was the only platform used to message others through “chat,” which later has developed into Facebook messenger. In the past few years, almost all social media platforms have added direct messaging to them. This allows strangers to not just strike up conversation on a public post, but also reach out through a private message. So now if you see a snap of a mom giving her toddler juice you have the option to shame directly or publicly. It’s a huge boost of confidence from hiding behind a computer screen that really drives mom-shaming. In fact a lot of times moms will find that the person who is telling her she shouldn’t be working out while pregnant is a private profile named YourMom123 and the profile picture is of a Chevy Impala, so are they even a person? Most likely just an internet troll who uses the computer screen to protect their identity.
Facebook being one of the largest social media platforms has a huge impact. Facebook has facilitated in the creation of the perfect platform for shaming, called “mommy support groups.” These support groups often have a general theme to them such as “stay at home moms,” or groups specific to one’s location. In the groups, moms most often post questions having to do with motherhood, in which the thousands of other moms in the group respond to and almost always there are tons of comments that are less than helpful. Constantly woman are shaming each other for the answers they reply, the questions they ask, and arguments always ensue. Rather than offering support most women receive shame. This is happening in such a large scale that almost all groups have admins who make it their full time job to monitor the page and put a stop to the shaming. Most of the time the pages are more about trying to prove to other moms how great of a mom they are, rather than help someone who has a question.
If you post anything to social media you could be a possible target for mom-shaming, but even more so if you are a celebrity. Celebrities have mass amounts of people following them on any given platform. A simple reality TV Star from MTV has a few million, while a celebrity like Kim Kardashian has around 58 million. That is a huge audience to open yourself up to and many celebrities have more than one social media platform like snapchat, twitter, Instagram, etc. Snapchat is one of the most personal social media platforms because it is used for very raw footage and photographs of someone’s life. Many celebrities share videos of their children eating, riding in the car, taking baths, playing , etc. This is literally like handing over footage to the public eye to be shamed about. Before social media, Brittany actually had to be caught by paparazzi with her baby in the front seat to be shamed.
4 Ways to stop mommy shaming:
1. Don’t mommy shame yourself
As a mom, I think it’s natural to want to help other moms. If you breastfeed and believe that the breast is best, you are going to want to tell others moms why. Or if you have heard that popcorn is a choking hazard you are going to want to warm others. To make sure you don’t become a mom-shamer yourself you have to make sure you inform not shame (see #3)
1. If you are shamed, don’t engage ( a lot of times people shame because they like the reaction and the argument it can create)
2. Help inform not shame
It’s one thing to insult a mom for co-sleeping and boasting about how your children never co-slept. It’s another to say “hey I found this article about the dangers co-sleeping, thought it was interesting. Every mom’s journey is different, but I thought I would share!” Keep your words positive, informative, and kind.
1. If you see someone being shamed, stand up for them. Being mom-shamed is just like being bullied. Think about a mom with postpartum depression who is already doubting herself…after being told she is a bad mother by a stranger on the internet it could really affect her. This is just one scenario out of a hundred. Please stand up for the victims of mom-shamers!
We have to remember that as moms we are all on the same journey. We are all new moms and none of us are experts. Even if you are about to have your fourth child you are still a new mom, because you have never been a mother to that specific child before. Every child is different and is going to require different things. Our job as mothers is incredibly difficult and tiring which means we have to stick together and support each other.