So I was sitting there in the dark again this morning waiting for baby to settle for his nap (which can take a loooong time) and to amuse myself I was browsing through Facebook when I came across an article about celebrities who have been shamed on social media for their parenting (yes I know it was click bait and no, I’m not ashamed I clicked on it…).
I had a little read and was gobsmacked at what ridiculous things people had criticised them for. A few of the things on the list were;
- giving a 4 year old a dummy
- drinking decaf coffee whilst pregnant
- doing a baby carrier up wrong
- calling someone’s children ‘obviously nutritionally deficient’ because they were ‘too thin’ (they really weren’t)
- letting a boy wear a dress
- bottle feeding
- breastfeeding in public
And the list goes on (you can read it here).
It goes without saying that I think judging or shaming mums is something that is not OK (and you can read my post on is true judgement free support for mums a myth). And yes, I will go out on a limb and say that I do hate people that do it. It’s unnecessary, nasty and critical.
But why do people do it? Why will some people feel like they have the right to try and publicly humiliate another parent? And I’m not just talking about celebrities now, I’m talking about all mums. I’m a member of a few mum groups of Facebook that proudly state they are a judgement free zone but the actual comments show a very different story.
Perfect strangers think it’s OK to accuse other mums of endangering their children because they are getting them vaccinated. Or they aren’t getting them vaccinated. Whatever. For every parenting decision made there is someone who thinks it is wrong and has no issue with proudly stating exactly why someone should be ashamed of the way they parent, all over social media.
I have a few theories on this and before you hang me out to dry over them, just remember that they are only my opinion and based on some of the training I’ve had over the years in psychotherapy and how not to be an arsehole.
#1 – it’s an ego thing
The undertone of any parent shaming message is this – my way is right, your way is wrong/dangerous/misguided/stupid. There is a definite ‘I know more than you and you are ignorant’ vibe when most people criticise other peoples parenting. There is also an element of ego in what shamers do/say because they do it publicly. They want recognition for being right. They want people to see that they know better and that they aren’t afraid to say it. Because otherwise they’d do it in a private message or, if they really thought a parent was endangering or mistreating a child, they’d quietly raise the alarm with social services.
#2 – it’s an insecurity thing
Confident parents know that there are many ways of parenting and that what works for them might not work for someone else. They are secure enough in their own parenting that if other people do it differently they can just say ‘great, whatever works for you.’. They don’t have to spend hours writing comments to prove that their own parenting is, in fact, the right way to do it. Unconfident parents might be more likely to seek validation for their own decisions by calling out someone else’s and hoping others back them up. They might subconsciously be looking to get approval for their own views (albeit by trashing someone else’s). I’d suggest that the more violent the protest against something, the more insecure they are. But that’s just my opinion.
#3 – it’s an uneducated thing
Sometimes people aren’t aware of research or haven’t kept up with current thinking/evidence. Sometimes they don’t think things through or take the time to find out the right facts. And sometimes they are just a bit stupid. I often see people throwing around statistics to back up what they are saying (which is usually that someone else is being really stupid because they don’t know x/y/z). But the thing about statistics is that they can be misleading. Research can indicate something significant but the level of significance might only be half a percent change. I once got told that I would definitely give my baby meningitis if I gave him the new meningitis vaccine. Because it was listed as a side effect on the leaflet. But this person sorely lacked any context or real understanding of the information. She had read something and leapt about 20 conclusions away from what it was actually saying. And then used this information to criticise anyone who mentioned that they had vaccinated their child. It was pretty ignorant and showed a real lack of awareness of the facts. Sadly, this is not uncommon.
#4 – it’s an ‘I’m just a bitch/idiot/nasty vindictive cow’ thing
I really do try to understand and be non-judgemental when I read comments shaming other parents. I try to understand that someone might have had a different upbringing, that they might be projecting their own insecurities or issues. Or that they might not be as educated as they could be on certain things. But sometimes people are just dicks. And there’s no excuse for that. Some people just seem to get off on putting others down. On pointing out perceived flaws, weaknesses, mistakes or bad decisions. Perhaps it makes them feel good (which would then make it an ego thing…) or maybe they are just that nasty.
I’m not saying that we should all be perfect and never make a snap judgement against another parent because that’s not realistic. It’s never going to happen. I know I sometimes judge other mums without realising (especially when they are trying to shame other mums…). But what I am saying is that we should recognise when we are being judgemental. And we should certainly refrain from stating our opinions on social media. We will never know what parenting is like for someone else so we should never try and criticise the decisions they make. We need to make sure we have enough humility to know that we do not know everything. We’re not the experts and we don’t know better than everyone else. Lastly, we certainly need to focus more on supporting, encouraging and celebrating every diverse parent that there is out there because that is what will make us better parents ourselves.
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