The Mom Shame Game
Mothers have got it hard. Like real hard. The circus like day to day cliché is all too familiar, juggling life, children, work, cooking, cleaning, and the list goes on. But the showstopper in our arena isn’t the balancing act but rather combating the never-ending mom shaming.
Let’s be honest here. As soon as you read those two words, sure enough, an image of a certain mother or experience popped into your mind.
And that is where the dilemma lies. Mothers are often victims of mom shaming by none other than other mothers. And more often than not, the mother who was a victim of mom shaming has probably shamed a mother or two in their life. Whether it was publicly or privately, passively or actively. But why? Why does a woman who lives and breathes the trials and tribulations of motherhood find it okay to bash or judge another mother who is probably facing the exact same challenges? Since when did the entity of motherhood split and end up on different teams?
Just a couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a mom who assumed I was mom shaming full time working moms by stating my personal choice to work part time and give more time to my children. Clearly, I had no intention of the sort, but ironically, in that moment I felt like I was the one being judged and shamed for a personal choice. Looking back at it, it was a laughable matter, really. Here we were, two moms struggling to be the best version of ourselves for our children but each assuming that one was judging the other.
Without a doubt, motherhood is a highly emotionally charged topic. Every mother wants to know they are right, and every now and then they have the urge to check and compare themselves to other mothers and receive reassurance that they are indeed still the “fairest in all the land.” And those that threaten their reign to the most wonderful mother in the kingdom are given a taste of the poisoned apple of shaming.
But there is no perfect way to mother a child. There is no manual that lists the exact qualities a woman must hold to become a mother. No two mothers are equal. Each mother is different. And while they are all different, they are all the same. And this became evident to me on my last visit to Pakistan.
While I was in Pakistan, I had the opportunity of meeting a mother who lived her life as a “maasi,” a woman that cleans houses. Naturally, she was not very educated and for around $20 a month would work five to six days a week from eight in the morning until two in the afternoon. One day she showed up late to work in a state of panic and worry. That day, although she didn’t know me very well, she spilled her heart out to me. That woman was a mother of a child who was described to be mentally challenged. She told me how everyday she had to make sure to be home on time to be there for her son when he came home from school. But the day before she wasn’t. The day before, she came home late from work only to find a stray dog had bitten her son. The woman was not educated, but she was a mother and that mother did not need education to tell her what she needed to do. She took her son and fled to the hospital, as she knew the imminent danger that could be awaiting him. She went to three different hospitals to look for a vaccination that would cost her three months of salary. But it did not matter to her if she had to ultimately stay without basic necessities to pay for his medication because her basic necessity was him.
By God’s grace she found the help she needed but as she retold the events that took place in the last twenty-four hours, she looked at me, overcome with desperation; and asked me to pray for her son. And in that moment a mother who spent her days working endlessly to provide for her son was more present to her son than I, a part time working mom could ever be. In that moment we were not educated or uneducated women, we were not full time or part time working women, nor were we pro breastfeeding or pro formula women. In that moment, we were mothers. Our hearts fabricated from the same love intertwined with the same passion. She and I were one in the same. We are all one in the same.
Each of us has a unique approach to life, a particular way of parenting, a specific pet peeve but at the end of it all we are all striving towards the same goal. The way we choose to parent does not change the love we have for our children. The way one mother parents does not make our parenting style inferior and regardless of how strong we feel about our mothering skills it does not make us superior.
We, mothers, are all different bodies encasing the same vulnerable heart.