Photo: Mimi Thian via Unsplash

You don’t have to look very far (or for very long) before you see something on your news feed that amounts to mom-shaming. Yet, the more I read about mom-shaming posts going viral, the more I get a mix of emotions.

While I’m thankful there are people in the world who are reading between the lines and who urge others to stop judging parents, another part of me feels guilt and frustration because although I hate being mom-shamed, I do (shamefully and oftentimes unknowingly) partake in it myself. The more I read about mom-shaming, the more I remember that shamers are out there, “doin’ their thang.” And honestly, the less likely I am to share with other parents my stories, for fear of being perceived as THAT parent—a.k.a., the one who lacks proper judgment.

Mom shaming is not my problem, but a lack of esteem and community are. 

All parents will have preferences and many people with different preferences will take issue with any opinion on parenting that’s different from their opinion. My point isn’t to say mom-shaming is a good thing—but it exists and I’m not sure how effective “shaming the shamers” really is. How much can we combat mom shamers by telling them, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all?”

I’d like to think this works, but if someone is mom-shaming me either through their words, their glares or they’re pretending I’m not there, I’m certainly not going to rebut by saying, “please play nice.” Because how effective is it to mom shame…the mom shamers? “Listen here mom or regular person, you should be ashamed for shaming another mom.”

What should we do to combat mom-shaming, other than trying to shut shamers up? In more and more of the positive self-help books I dig into, it’s clear that one of the secrets to being great is learning to tune out the noise, to empower ourselves—to accept criticism when it leads to self-improvement and to leave behind the comments that are degrading. In Jen Sincero’s book, You Are a Badass, she proclaims that:

“Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team for lack of skill. Steven Spielberg, a high school dropout, was rejected from film school three times. Thomas Edison, who was dubbed too stupid to learn anything by a teacher, tried more than nine thousand experiments before successfully creating the light bulb.”

We as parents would benefit a great deal by building our own confidence in a world of nay-sayers. We would do the world a disservice by listening to bad-talkers. The world needs our diversity, our amplified voices, and opinions and we need to repel negative comments directed at our parenting st‌yles in order to keep doing what we believe is best for our children.

We moms empower mom shamers by listening to them, prioritizing them, and by internalizing their negativity. So, while building our own sense of self can help us achieve a greater sense of clarity and esteem in our own parenting choices, how do we help build up other parents too, instead of shame them (back to basics here: two wrongs don’t make a right)?

Here are some ideas to build a community of confident parents who embrace their differences: invite other parents/kids for a tea and play-date. Be a community. Compliment and look for the good in them and help them shake off negative comments and articulate feedback in a way that is geared towards their betterment, not their destruction. Seems pretty simple, yet it takes perseverance and dedication.

To recap: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a theme presented by many successful life coaches and urges people to stop letting others’ negative, harmful opinions influence us or prevent us from achieving greatness. As a parent, a parent-professional and a leader: we parents are leaders. Moms and dads need to embrace this, too. Taking the wisdom of author Brené Brown, a vulnerability and shame researcher: if you want to combat the negative effects of mom-shaming in others as well, allow others to be vulnerable with you and help them see their inner hero.