Every parent brings up their child differently. Some of these ‘ways’ are however, always questioned by family, friends, and strangers. “Did you see how her child was playing with the phone? How can she allow her child to behave like that? How can she watch on as her child acts is rude to elderly people?” These are some of the ways the community judges a mother’s parenting skills.
Some of the most common mom shaming behaviour is brought on when a woman suddenly brings out her breast during a corporate meeting with fellow women and begins breastfeeding her baby. Though the women around may not say it, their exasperation will show on their faces.
Also, the few months after childbirth are a trial for new moms because they are judged by how they look and the shapeless clothes they wear. This is especially bad for women who seem to put on more and more baby fat, instead of losing it.
As a mother, you will be judged on your decision to breastfeed or not, how long you decide to go back to work after giving birth, what your children have for breakfast, what time they go to bed, and how much time you allow them to watch TV. If you are a celebrity, it is even worse, because your decision to show your children on your social media pages will attract all kinds of comments.
Condemning a mother
Mom shaming sows seeds of doubt into a mother’s heart concerning the way she is parenting her children. At the moment, Sophia Nankya is at crossroads, deciding whether to follow her mother’s advice or the whims of her six-year-old daughter.
“My girl loves to watch cartoons and if I do not intervene, she can sit in front of the TV for hours. She has always been a light sleeper even when she was a baby. Sometimes, by 1am, she does not want to go to bed. I have to tell her stories to entice her to enter the bedroom and sleep. Over the weekends, I let her watch TV until midnight. However, whenever my mother visits us, she is critical of this situation, saying I am too lax with my daughter.”
Nankya’s mother has now taken to giving her lectures on the proper way a child should be brought up. “She keeps on saying if she had not been strict with my siblings and I, we would not have turned out to be responsible adults. But, I do not want to alienate my daughter. We are constantly reminded of how we should give our children the freedom to flourish.”
When children run wild
Nankya is not alone. Stella Ndagire, a mother of a five-year old daughter, says she has often been misjudged for her parenting skills. “Whenever I go out with my daughter, she runs around, shouts unnecessarily and disturbs people around her. My relatives accuse me of not molding the child well; they actually allege that I am raising her up in a soft way.”
Ndagire says that the general perception is that a mother is more responsible for the child’s upbringing, and any strange behavior of the child will be attributed to her. “I think there is more of a culture around mom-shaming than there is around dad shaming, and all mothers need to learn how to deal with it.”
Build your parenting confidence
Some people who mom-sham are covering up their own insecurities so mothers need to learn to separate the instructive criticism from hurtful words. Mariam Tumusiime, a children’s counsellor, says it is hard to measure up to other people’s standards because every person has their own wishes of what they want their children to be.
“Focus on building your parenting confidence. You cannot stop people from giving unsolicited advice, but you can learn to tune it out. Most importantly, play and have fun with your child. The more you connect with your child, the more competent you will feel. Your child will appreciate the attention and continue to learn through your interactions.”
Nankya says, “The most amazing thing is that no matter how people keep on mom shaming, most of the children turn out well in the end. That is a real comfort to me. Those children grow up to be responsible citizens. So, I am confident in what I believe is the best for my child and I hope my mother can eventually see that.”
Besides, some people criticise for the sake of it because it makes them feel better about their own shortcomings and those of their children. As a mother, use your sense of judgment and do not be influenced by friends whose parenting skills seem to be perfect.
Not all that glitters is gold. You alone know your child, and what is best for your child so grab the good advice and follow it. When the unconstructive shaming comes your way, let it pass over your head.
Very few parents get by in life without being challenged on everything they do, so get used to the fact that people will always criticise you for your child’s behaviour. Mariam Tumusiime, a children’s counsellor, advises mothers not to shout back at the critic in anger but to respond with kindness.
“It is possible, in some circumstances, that the person trying to give you advice knows more about bringing up children than you do. However, there is a right way in which he or she can offer the friendly advice, instead of first condemning your parenting skills. In response, listen to them, and then, thank them for how he or she raised their children. However, make your needs clear as well, after all, the child in question is yours. Do not be tempted to get say angry words because you will regret them.”