Mom-Shaming…. hang your heads, you’ve (we’ve) all done it (hangs head).
You see her there, handing her toddler a baby bottle, full of soda in it as she strolls through the mall in her high-heels and shorts. Your eyebrow goes up, the corners of your mouth go down, and a swell of superiority goes over you as the words, “I would never…” start to form in your brain.
You’ll be at the playground, watching when suddenly, you see her, in her un-fashionable sun visor and high-waisted Bermuda shorts, awkwardly jog-stepping towards her well dressed muffin, who has once again fallen and gotten playground on his face. Your eyes involuntarily roll as she wipes his precious face clean and you think of how much better you are for letting your kids get dirty.
It’s strange isn’t it. We are all still animals, and let’s face it, we all want social dominance and superiority… it makes us feel better.
But why? Why does it make us feel better?
I’ll tell you why.
BECAUSE RAISING KIDS IS FREAKING HARD AND THERE IS NO INSTRUCTION MANUAL!
So even a small win feels like a major victory and you can tell yourself, “well, at least I’m not as bad as that mom.”
Caught myself doing it the other day to a mom friend of mine (hangs head).
I was tired and staring at her as she cut up two large bowls of fruit covered in honey for her 2 & 4 year olds, right before bed. This was her nightly routine with them. I’d watched her do it several nights in a row, and tonight as I watched again, my brow began to furrow and instead of hearing my own superior mom-voice in my head… I heard it out-loud.
“That’s a lot of sugar,” I thought out-loud. It wasn’t even nice or in the form of a question… it was just a statement of fact with a sprinkling of judgement on top.
She stopped chopping and looked up at me. “What?”
Clearly, the impulse control lever in my brain was faulty because I took her what as an open request for my opinion and explanation. “Fruit has a lot of sugar in it… for right before bed.”
Justifyingly, her face formed the WTF look as she retorted calmly, “oh, now fruit is bad?” (She goes to great lengths to make sure her kids eat healthy foods.)
Instead of becoming aware of the fact that my thoughts were OUT-LOUD… I shamelessly continued with comments about how diabetics have to be careful about how much fruit they eat because there is so much sugar babble babble babble, and so on… (are you cringing yet at my behavior? You should be).
As she shook off my comments and continued chopping, I became aware of my mom-shaming behaviors and stumbled quickly over some excuses about how tired I was and how think out loud when I’m tired… and well, it was a mess. I do remember apologizing at some point for my foolishness, and we are all good now – (closure).
My stumblemom behavior reminded me that not only are all kids different, and all moms are different, but there never has been and never will be a formula for how kids are supposed to work.
Speaking of formulas… When I was in my MBA program, and even now in the business world, the industry is flooded with so many formulaic books on how to do business RIGHT, faster, better, cheaper and more competitively than the other businesses. There are so… many… formulas… It is the same with parenting books. We want to know the right way, and being responsible for a human is terrifying.
Best carrot cake recipe, best bed-time routine, best way to travel with kids, best way to introduce foods, best way to teach kids how to read, best way to discipline, best way to do chores, learn responsibility, talk about sex, and SO ON!
I like formulas. Formulas are clean, cut and dry. No areas of grey, no “what-ifs” no flexibility. 2+2 always = 4. No negotiation. Feels good to get the answer right. I like to be right.
Math is not kids.
Kids are small humans. Small humans are messy. What the hell…. regular sized humans are messy! Love is messy, cooking is messy, life…. is messy. Science has been trying to figure out the human brain since it’s discovery. We try to divide it into sections so we can say FOR SURE that THAT is where this thing happens. It makes us feel better. But, I have news for you, the human brain is a big ball of electric cheese, and we will never be 100% right about it, because it is MESSY.
If you are an art lover, or an artist or even just an art enthusiast, you will know that there are certain rules to it, but the true artist (not me) is able to appreciate art in almost all forms of it’s expression. (Book recommendation: Willow). Art, like life, can be messy. Messy, and at the same time beautiful.
I have read many How-To-Mom books in search of the formulas that will work. They really do have a bunch of good stuff in them, but none of them 100% works on my kids. I have to “salad-bar” it. Take a few things from here and there, and just keep trying stuff until SOMETHING works for a week or two.
So what are we to do?
I’m reminded of a rat experiment from my undergrad years. We should all be familiar with the “fight-flight-freeze” responses that can happen in an emergency situations. Have you ever heard of the “tend and befriend” responses? There was an experiment done where they removed the male rats and only put in the females. When aggression was presented (aka: rat mom-shaming), the more mature mom rats would essentially teach the other, more aggressive rat moms by tending to them and befriending them. They dissolved the bad behavior by becoming friends, and helping them feel safe, and helping with their young. Hu…. how about that.
I’m going to stumble forward and try to do the TEND & BEFRIEND method. Or how about the mind-your-own-business method? If you haven’t seen this video… you should.