I got mum-shamed last week.
A work commitment meant I was in a taxi early on a weekday morning. The driver and I were bantering about the World Cup, and I made a crack that maybe, when my son grew up, he’d be the next Tim Cahill. Unlikely. I was making conversation.
“How old’s your son?” the cabby asked.
I told him that my little boy is two. His ball skills leave a little to be desired.
“Where is he now? Who’s looking after him?” he asked.
The rest of the ride was, let’s say, a little chilly. Cue a long explanation about how he was home, with my partner, but then he’d be going to Family Day Care for the rest of the day.
I got a grilling about how long he spent there, how many days a week, finishing with the line, “Don’t you really think he’s a bit young to be in Daycare?”
I’d say that taxi driver mum-shamed me. He roundly judged my lifestyle and my choices. It irritated me, but it didn’t ruin my day.
He doesn’t know me or my children, my experiences are far from his, and he’s entitled to his own opinion, even if a better choice would have been to use his inside voice.
So mum-shaming is real. It happens. But do you know who has never mum-shamed me?
Today, headlines were made when Brisbane obstetrician and the former president of the Australian Medical Association Queensland Dr Gino Pecoraro called out ‘mum-shaming’ as ruining the experience of modern motherhood.
“I am all for removing the guilt from having babies. We seem hell bent on making women feel guilty about everything to do with having children, leaving it too late, how they conceive, how the baby comes out and then how you feed it, how much time you spend with it.
“It is the most natural thing in life, central to all of us, so why do we keep beating women up about what they do?’’
I could not agree more. But what I object to in the discussions around guilt is the assumption that it’s mothers judging each other. Because in my experience, it is not.
Grumpy taxi drivers, yes. Strangers in cafes who’ve forgotten or never experienced what it’s like to live a life dominated by the needs of a little person, yes. A tired and irritated medical professional, even, yes. But not other mothers.
My experience has been entirely the opposite. After I became a mum, I joined a group. And thank God I did. Because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and those women kept me sane through the early days of parenthood.
We were diverse. The first time we sat around and shared birth stories – sorry, non-parents, that does happen – there were tales of emergency c-sections, scheduled c-sections, women who had had ALL the drugs, women who had had none.
Women who had been in private hospitals, women who had been in the local public. Midwives, doulas, expensive obstetricians. Some mothers were breastfeeding, some bottle feeding, some struggling with either or both.
And I don’t remember any judgement. Not a bit. Just a lot of laughter, tears and support. Some tentative advice offered, notes compared, a ridiculous amount of banana bread consumed.
Other mothers, in all their messy diversity, were the glue that held me together through those tough first months.
Somehow we’ve got to a point where if a woman says her baby sleeps, she’s shaming those whose babies don’t. And if a woman chooses to stay at home, she’s judging a woman who’s in the workforce.There was comparison – how could there not be, when you’re all in the middle of the same profound experience? There was sometimes a little envy. But we were all working from the assumption that everyone was doing their best, and sometimes, it was your turn to just have a really shit week.
But don’t have to give into the illusion that because we’re different to one another – making different choices, dealing with different challenges – that we don’t LIKE one another. That we don’t have one another’s backs.
I choose to reject the notion that mothers are bitchy and judgmental and are torturing each other with shame.
It is not my experience. If it is yours, I’m sorry, but there are mean-spirited, closed-minded people of all stripes, and some of them are parents.
I choose not to see judgement everywhere I look. I am not a cake-baking, craft-making kind of mum. When I see a Friend’s Facebook post of her incredible teeny-tiny cupcakes in the shape of racing cars I can choose to feel shame because I have not done the same. Or I can choose to celebrate the fact that she can do that, and that she enjoys doing that for her children, and move on.
When I went back to work when my baby was six months old, I could choose to react to the raised eyebrows of those who didn’t know me, didn’t know my family, or I could just get on with it. Get on with making sure my family was happy, that they were thriving and loved.
I want to hear views on parenthood from all corners. But expressing an opinion about mothering, or sharing a genuine experience that you have had as a parent, is not shaming anyone.
It’s just talking about stuff. Stuff that matters.
And there’s no shame in that.
These mums are putting a stop to mum shaming through ‘Non-judgement parenting’ on Pinterest, take a look how:
This post was originally published on iVillage Australia, but has been republished here with full permission.
Have you ever been mum shamed by someone? Share your experiences below.
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