21 June 2017

Most mothers have been victims of 'mommy-shaming'

Criticism of parenting skills usually comes from family members – on topics from discipline to diet.


"You're doing that wrong!"

Sound familiar, moms? It should! A new poll finds that six out of 10 American mothers say they've been criticised for their parenting skills.

There are no available statistics in South Africa on parenting skills and shaming.

Parents main source of shaming

It's called mommy-shaming, and it goes viral when it happens to the famous. Actress Reese Witherspoon was shamed for giving her toddler cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and model Coco Rocho was judged for giving her baby formula.

But a nationwide poll of 475 American mothers finds it's a familiar experience for most with kids under age five – and the source of the shaming is most often a woman's own parents.

A previous Fin24 study has shown that 53% of working mothers in South Africa are single, leaving them financially more vulnerable and generally worse off – and on top of this, many have to endure shaming.

Even though there are no available statistics in South Africa on parenting skills and shaming, it’s a common occurrence.

Major areas of criticism include:

"Our findings tap into the tensions moms face when parenting advice leads to more stress than reassurance and makes them feel more criticised than supported," said poll co-director Sarah Clark. The new report is from C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan.

The criticism usually comes from a mother's own parents (37%); a spouse or child's other parent (36%); and in-laws (31%).

Mothers said they were far less likely to be criticised by friends, other mothers they meet in public, their child's doctor, a child care provider or on social media, according to report.

Taking action

While four out of 10 moms said criticism has made them feel unsure about their parenting skills, it also has led them to take action. Many said they reacted by asking a health care provider for advice. Sometimes, that led to changes, but other times, a mother's parenting decisions were confirmed.

"Mothers can get overwhelmed by so many conflicting views on the 'best' way to raise a child," Clark said in a university news release.

"Unsolicited advice – especially from the people closest to her child – can be perceived as meaning she's not doing a good job as a mother. That can be hurtful," she added.

Clark pointed out that new information about child health and safety often clashes with long-held beliefs.

Advice may not always be the best

"Family members should respect that mothers of young children may have more updated information about child health and safety, and 'what we used to do' may no longer be the best advice," she said.

Clark said discipline is especially apt to create opposing views – spanking versus timeouts, for instance, or setting strict rules versus giving kids the freedom to explore.

Half of the mothers polled said they avoid people who are too critical of their parenting.

"It's unfortunate when a mother feels criticised to the point where she limits the amount of time she and her child will spend with a family member or friend," Clark said. "To guard against that situation, advice to mothers of young children should be given with empathy and encouragement."

Read more:

Are you pushing your kids too hard?

Parenting a child with ADHD

The secret ingredient behind motherly love


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