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01/18/2018
Unplugged – Part 1
03/29/2018

The Psychological Effects of Mom Shaming

A trend that is unfortunately common with individuals and mothers in this generation is “Mom Shaming,” which generally speaking is criticizing a mother for making choices for her child(ren) because they differ from the choices the criticizing person would make. A negative result from mom shaming is the mother feeling inadequate or flawed, making her feel like she is not being the best mother she could be.  A sad statistic is that over 80% of women have been shamed for how they chose to parent their children (Rodriguez, 2017).

Why does mom shaming currently exist? One reason being is the rise of social media.  Prior to social media becoming popular we would not know how every mother was choosing to raise her children.  However, now that we put intimate details about our lives online, the world can see how you are parenting. The worst to come from that is people in your life, as well as strangers, now have free reign to comment on your choices.  Unfortunately, the aftermath of this is the age old saying, “You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.”

Do you breast feed or bottle feed? Do you allow screen time or restrict it? Do you give your child a sleep schedule or chose not to? Does your child go to day care or stay home?

No matter how you answer all of these questions there will be an individual to shame you on your response.  But what happens to moms psychologically when this happens? According to Richard A. Honaker, MD, FAAFP, “Mom shame is often carried for many years, and this can ingrain abnormal brain chemistry. The cultural expectations of American mothers, when high, will make shame stronger and emotionally deeper and more difficult to treat” (Richmond, 2017).

It seems that expectations of mothers have grown higher in this generation and are looked at under a microscope.  With higher expectations parenting has become more intense and we have seen an increase in anxiety and depression in mothers (Walton, 2012). Rizzo et al. (2013)  defines “Intense Parenting” as, “The belief that everything you do (as a parent) matters so much,” and went on to describe five factors that encapsulates this definition:

  1. Essentialism: The feelings that mothers, over fathers, are the more “necessary” and “capable” parent.
  2. Fulfillment: A parent’s happiness is derived primarily from their children.
  3. Stimulation: The mother should always provide the best, most intellectually stimulating activities to aid in your child’s development.
  4. Challenging: Parenting is just about the most difficult job there is.
  5. Child-Centered: The child’s needs and wants should always come before your own.

The study found that the higher the mothers rated on their 5-point scale the more “intense” their parenting style, which resulted in higher rates of depression and anxiety.  It turns out our mental health was affected more by the WAY we parent, versus just BEING a parent.

There is a correlation between over-parenting and our general mental well-being.  Over-parenting would include trying to score high on all 5 factors by doing things such as signing our children up for too many activities at once, which would in turn limit their free play time which can then lead to affecting the child’s mental health. Mom shaming has become so common that over-parenting has become a “norm” even though it is not healthy for mother or child.

Remember the old saying, “It takes a village?”  Well, that saying can be applied to the parents as well. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to help the parents.  The saying does not go, “It takes a village to shame the mother,” so why should we act as if that were the saying? There is no such thing as perfect parenting.

It is important that we make sure the mental well-being of our mothers and every mother that comes after is taken care of instead of shamed and degraded at every level. It is also important to remember that our own mental health can affect our children in the long run, and we cannot be good mothers without taking care of ourselves first.  We need to stop shaming mothers for doing their best.  In replace of shaming we should instead ask the mother, “How are you doing today? Are you taking care of yourself? Do you need help with anything?” These questions show the individual that we care and are empathetic to how busy they are with their role, and that if they are mentally drained that we would help them instead of shaming them. Let us start by supporting our friends, neighbors, and even strangers, instead of judging and degrading them.  Let’s be good role models for our children and show them what being a good human looks like.

If you have any questions or concerns feel free to contact Kelly at klaporte@napervillecounseling.com.

 

References

Richmond, C.T. 2017 May 20. What Happens in Your Brain When You’re Mom Shamed, the Effects Are Real. Retrieved from https://www.romper.com/p/what-happens-in-your-brain-when-youre-mom-shamed-the-effects-are-real-59035

Rizzo, K.M., Schiffrin, H.H. & Liss, M. J Child Fam Stud (2013) 22: 614. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-012-9615-z

Rodriguez, A. 2017, May 11. Mom Shaming: What is it and what Mom.life is Doing to Stop it Retrieved from http://mom.life/stop-mom-shaming-mom-life/

Walton, A.G. 2012, July 6. The Better Mother: How Intense Parenting Leads to Depression. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/07/06/the-better-mother-how-intense-parenting-leads-to-depression/#65b722ae76b2

 

 

 

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