Is it? Is it really a thing? Is it really a thing, where folks, of the not parent persuasion shame people who are? Let’s look at it shall we?
More and more in recent years the face of motherhood seems to be changing. Less and less we see mothers hiding their insecurities, trial and general parenting hard knocks, from the world behind a facade of smiling fake family photos and generic non-committal answers to questions that allude to the cracks in the June Cleaver mold we are all supposed to fit in. I would think that this is a step in the right direction.
For me it has always been a kind of underground club, you would find a kindred stressed-out Mommy and rant at each other over the rigors of “your calling”. It was sad that we had to hide, but it was such a relief to know I wasn’t the only failure of a mother out there. Then at a presentation of the local theatrical offering: ‘When A Woman Moans”, a piece was performed that changed my perspective, it was from the perspective of a new mother, very overwhelmed and very frustrated, who was seriously contemplating throwing the child out a window. I think the performer even threw her fake doll baby into the crowd. She then asked to audience if they didn’t have the same feelings?
We the women in the crowd looked at each other, as if asking for permission to say yes. It started with a shrug here and there, a nod in some placed and finally it snowballed into a roaring applause. Yes we were overwhelmed, yes we got frustrated, and we were all communing in that fact. Yes we were human and yes it felt damn good to admit it.
So why then, are so many of us still hiding? Why do we still feel so uncomfortable about breastfeeding, even in the clinics when we are surrounded by women doing the same thing? Why did I feel, when I went to pick up m y breast pump, after my last child, like I was smuggling contraband? Why am I reluctant to tell anyone about the times when my frustration, with dealing with the developing communication skills of my three year old, the precocious questioning of my 9 year old, and the puberty of my 10 year old get me down? Why do I look on in envy as my childless and even some of the child-ful friends parade their time affluent lifestyles in front of me?
Because Mom’s aren’t supposed to feel those things, I am not to feel those things. It’s because that’s where all the glamour is. It’s where all the excitement and all the adventure is. Isn’t it?
It isn’t bad enough that sometimes I fear my own home, because I dread the sound of children screaming wailing and fighting. It’s not bad enough that I look around my home and feel so overwhelmed that it’s not even nearly picture perfect. It isn’t enough that when my brain and body both say a unanimous “Hell NO” to doing anything else after a long days work and a longer afternoon trying to move something, anything off my home docket, that I hate it. Hate my own tiredness, my weakness, my slovenly-ness though really and truly I love everything in it’s place.
No none of that is even remotely enough. The media, the society, the people in my circle, constantly remind me of my Mommy-shortcomings. It comes from friends and family too. It doesn’t always come as the very overt “I know you’re tired but, how about you try to do more?” or “You’re not raising them right, stop everything else your doing and just watch them.” or my personal favorite. “I know you don’t have the skills to raise your children, it’s not your fault.But I’ll teach you.” because, you know, the whole time they have avoided major disease and manage to look and smell like people, while being well housed and fed is something I’m doing by luck.
It sometimes comes in subtle remarks in “civil company”: “Ewww breatmilk, gross.” or “I would never be a mother, that is the end of the good life.” or again a favorite. “Why are you even thinking of going back to school, that’s not for you, that’s for people with ambition.”
The fact that I do all I do for family, means little in the face of this rhetoric, it mean little that I understand that crying can sometimes be something kids need to do, or that even when I’m not at work, or working a second job, or pulling unpaid teacher overtime, I’m doing it to secure a line of income for my kids. It doesn’t matter that the food I make at home for 20 bucks, is more delicious and nutritious than that 200 dollar, 4 oz plate you posted in your foodporn album, it doesn’t even matter that you the bearer of foul words cannot begin to relate to the time I’ve spent with these kids.
It matters that in your eyes I am less for being a mother. My victories are less because they involve my offspring, and my struggles are marginalized because I gave birth.
So yes Mommy Shaming is a thing. But the great thing is, as the mommy identity finds itself and acknowledges that it is not perfect, the tools of shaming get less relevant.