You hear all the time about things like fat shaming and body shaming and all those horrible instances of one person making another person feel bad about themselves. Recently a woman named Nicole Arbour gained a great deal of infamy due to her “Fat Shaming” video where she basically insulted overweight people everywhere. Now I understand that she felt that it was a bit of satire, which I almost always enjoy, however it was done in very poor taste and while MAYBE her intentions were to give some ‘tough love' to people who struggle with their weight it ended up simply pissing a lot of people off. (I will not be posting a link to the video because it is really quite offensive – but I'm sure you can find it if you really want to search for it.)
But this brought up a topic that I have found to be a huge problem in the parenting community.
And by parent shaming, I am talking about those individuals – be they parents or not – whom feel that they need to make another person feel bad about their style of parenting, or the choices that they are making as a parent. I'm talking about the lady in line at the supermarket who takes a look at your toddler sitting in the buggy and tells you that you really should buy one of those buggy covers so your child doesn't get any weird germs on them. Or the person who a few years back took one look at my son having a meltdown in the middle of Target and told me that I should really learn to discipline my child. Not knowing that my son had a traumatic brain injury and was having this melt down because the seams of his socks were bothering him and he couldn't take his shoes off until we got to the car or that the Halloween costumes scare the living daylights out of him and so he freaked out because he went into sensory overload and couldn't handle it. (Yes we had multiple incidents of people telling me how horribly my son was behaving in the store).
Now it used to be that these incidents of parent shaming were simply a local thing, something you only had to deal with in your local store, or home, or school or playground, but with today's social media platforms you now can be shamed by the entire WORLD for your parenting choices! Isn't that just freakin' fabulous!
Recently this became more national news due to celebrities like David Beckham, who was criticized becuase his 4 year old had a pacifier in her mouth. Many went after him stating that it was wrong, and he shut them down rather brilliantly.
My son had sensory issues and needed a pacifier to sleep until he was almost 5, because it calmed him and helped him feel secure. Is he unbalanced now because of it? NO. Does he have dental issues? A little but nothing that braces won't fix. Did having a ‘binkie' to help comfort him enough so that he could sleep when nothing else would work cause him irreversible damage? NO! – and to be honest it saved us all many sleepless nights and my sanity thank you very much!
Then just a few short months later Alyssa Milano took on fire for a throw back picture that she posted for her daughter's birthday. It was a beautiful picture of her nursing her baby in the hospital after she was born – I have one JUST LIKE IT. I am certain that most mothers do.
However, because she is a celebrity and posted it on social media she was attacked in droves by people outraged that she would post pictures of her nursing. To be fair she also received a TON of support but come on people – why is this such a problem? I mean it is a natural and wonderful thing and if people want to post a picture of it, who cares! And it seems that Alyssa feels the same way, her response was EPIC.
Milano says she doesn’t understand why her images draw negative reactions, but Miley Cyrus‘ VMAs nipple slip garnered little attention.
“Everyone’s fine with her nipples being out,” she explains. “I think people are more comfortable sexualizing breasts than relating them to what they were made for, which is feeding another human.”
Now these are just a few of the more recent and ‘famous' instances of parent shaming but it happens to everyday normal people all the time.
Breast or Bottle Feed
Cloth or Disposable Diapers
Helicopter Parents or Free Range Parents (Yes I'm aware it makes it sound like I am talking about chickens). Speaking of helicopter parenting – if you haven't seen this you have to watch it. The Holderness Family made a hysterical video about hovering parents. It's AWESOME!
But all kidding aside, it seems that it has just become standard for people to feel like they have every right to tell another person the best way to raise their children. I run into this a LOT with my son due to him being special needs, and the way I have learned to deal with it is simple: I remember that they are coming from a different place than I am. They don't know everything there is to know about my child, they can't possibly understand it – not really. So when someone tries to shame me for the way I parent, or the way my son behaves I simply remind myself that they can only see from their point of view, they can't see from mine – and no matter what I say or do they never will REALLY be able to. And with that understanding comes a level of acceptance for me and I don't take it personally.
I will say though that many times when I get parenting advice from other parents with special needs children it is ACTUALLY in the form of advice and not presented in a way where they are shaming my parenting style. It comes from a more “Oh your son won't stop licking the walls, yeah I've been there and here's what worked for my kid.” place rather than one where they are telling me that my son should be in therapy and I must clearly be wrong for not putting him there.
Now I do realize that there are many times where safety becomes an issue in this discussion and that presents differently because it isn't about making the other parent feel bad it's about protecting the child. I personally have to deal with a situation where the other parent and his new wife have a very clear drinking problem. In this case, yes I am going to step in and say something about that when it comes to parenting our child because it effects our child in a very negative and unsafe way. But let's be clear – there is a huge difference in what kind of diapers a child wears and whether or not it's ok to slam a 6 pack and then drive my daughter around. In that case it's not a matter of shaming but rather a matter of safety. The same would apply for a parent who had a drug dependency or was abusive – that's not shaming the other parent – it's keeping your child safe from potential physical and emotional harm.
That being said, it would be really amazing if we would stop trying to make others feel that they are wrong for these minor little things when it comes to parenting. I mean in all reality we are all just trying to do the best we can to raise our babies to be good people with as little dysfunction as possible right? Now whether that means they wore cloth or disposable diapers or were nursed or not nursed in the end does it really matter as long as they have good childhoods? Why as parents can't we just allow others to parent the best way they know how and just give each other a big ‘ol high five for surviving the process at all?! And if your child is SAFE, healthy and happy – then you are winning the fight and no one should try to make you feel bad because of that.
Here is the most recent Single Mom Success Podcast where I discuss this topic further! I hope you enjoy and please let me know if you have ever experienced Parent Shaming and how you dealt with it.