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I’ve been thinking a lot about mom shaming lately. And don’t get me wrong, criticism happens to dads, grandparents, and everyone else too, but mom-shaming has become such a part of our culture that when you say mom-shaming, we all know what you mean.
I experienced a lot of mom-shaming when my eldest was little. He has an “invisible illness” and was diagnosed with some physical and speech developmental delays around two, anxiety at three, and sensory processing disorder shortly after; people didn’t get why he behaved the way he sometimes did.
I’ve experienced it with my second one, who was diagnosed with ADHD at four and anxiety at five. So that’s a fun cocktail!
And I have to admit, ashamedly, I’ve done my fair share of mom and parent shaming. Something I’ve spent the last few years trying to stop. And believe me; I know it’s easy to look at a situation with a grain of sand of information about the entire beach exploding in front of you and say, “If I were her….”
But the problem is you’re not her. You’re you. If you were her, you’d probably be doing exactly what she’s doing because you’d have her experiences, toolbox, and mental health capacity to handle the situation.
It’s hard enough being a parent without feeling like everyone around you, even your family and closest friends, are judging every parenting decision you make. It was doubly hard for me because, as an early childhood educator, all my peers saw how I parented close up. After all, my children attended the preschool where I taught, albeit not in my class.
And truthfully, not everyone understood my choices because they didn’t know my child like I did. They didn’t understand the frustrations, fear, and anger I had at home sometimes because they only saw part of my children’s behaviors.
I still deal with mom-shaming. However, a lot of it is in my head now. I’m pretty proud of how my kids are turning out, but of course, the work isn’t over yet.
I feel guilty that they use electronics as much as they do.
I feel guilty when I say no to a game of Monopoly right now because my mental health can’t handle it.
I feel guilty when I say we can’t read another book because I need some quiet time.
I feel guilty when I let my kids eat dinner in front of the TV, I know I shouldn’t, I really, really know I shouldn’t, but I do.
I feel guilty when the 500th question my child asks me makes my brain want to explode, and I say, “I don’t know,” instead of helping him find the answers.
I feel guilty that my youngest lives on a diet of mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, and fruit snacks most of the time.
I feel guilty about all these things because society has told me I should love being a mom every second of every day. Society has told me I must sacrifice everything for my kids, including my mental health. Society has told me that being a mom means being perfect.
And I know I’m not the only mom out there who struggles with feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and simply not being enough. I am not the only mom who feels the demands of life are just too much sometimes.
I make no secret that I deal with depression and anxiety, and some days are tough. Some days I want to crawl into bed and never come out. Some days I’m anxious from the moment I wake up until I finally, mercifully, fall asleep, only to wake up to the same anxieties.
I’m really good at being down on myself, but I rarely give myself credit for the good.
Instead, I mom-shame myself because it’s a learned behavior.
But what about the fact that I should feel proud that both my kids have a sport they love and are good at? I take time to get them to practice, classes, and games and cheer them on. Most afternoons, when the weather is nice, they go outside after school and play for several hours because I’ve encouraged outside play since they were babies.
I should feel proud that a game of Monopoly is on my floor right now that’s been going on for a week, so it’s ok. I didn’t want to play the one afternoon. I’ve spent hours playing with my son and having fun.
I should be proud that I read with my son every night and have always encouraged reading and that I value myself enough to take some time just for me.
I should be proud that I can provide my children with food and a comfortable home.
I should feel proud that I take them to the zoo, museums, aquarium, and library so they can learn and discover.
I should be proud that my youngest also loves fruit and eats fresh fruit with almost every meal.
I should feel proud that I am doing my best and understand that my best is not anyone else’s best. My best on one day is drastically different from my best on another.
As moms, we spend so much time in our heads, thinking we’re not enough. Thinking we’re not doing enough, giving enough, trying hard enough.
But I’m here to tell you, you are. You are enough. Hell, I need to tell myself I am. I am enough.
So, check on your mom-friends. Remind them and yourself that you’re doing a great job. Let them know they are seen. A lot of us are struggling. But we are enough. I promise.