Damned If You Do: Society’s Abysmal View of Mothers

I hosted a Live in my Facebook group early this morning. I was home alone with my kids because my husband was out for a meeting. My kids had been relatively calm and subdued, so it seemed like a good time to get on Live and connect with my community. Within a few minutes of starting the Live, my kids became incredibly needy. I felt torn — wanting on one hand to pay attention to my kids, and wanting on the other hand to teach them how to be patient and respect my time.

It sparked a very interesting conversation between me and my community, as the audience of the Live watched me walk the tight rope between being present with my community and with my kids at the same time. And before anyone begins the judgment that this blog is about to address, let me make something clear: social media is part of my job. I am home with my kids, but I am still working. I work from home doing multiple jobs — my consultation work, my blog, my social media, and writing a book. All of my jobs hinge on connecting with people. I enjoy connecting with my community, yes. But it’s also part of my job. I can’t always choose to ignore work in service of my kids.

Anyway, back to the conversation we had on my Live. My entire audience in that community is made up of moms. All of them could recognize the struggle I was having with my children and their determination to interrupt my Live. Moms in the comment section brought up how hard it is to try to do anything as a mom when you are being perceived by others. They talked about how it seems impossible to do the “right thing” as a mom because regardless of what you do, someone is going to judge you.

Society loves judging mothers

It really is true. I have learned this first hand through my work on social media. I share my journeys of marriage, motherhood, and mental health every day to hundreds of thousands of people. I discuss the hard stuff of motherhood often, showing other moms that it’s normal to be frustrated, exhausted, burnt out. I try to show the good stuff of motherhood, too, but sometimes I truly feel that moms need to see the hard stuff more. They need to know they aren’t alone.

But I’ve learned that I can’t speak about anything related to my kids without people — OTHER MOMS — criticizing my every move. And this isn’t just a me thing, it’s something that all moms deal with. No matter what choices you make for your kids and your family, there is a very loud chorus of moms ready to let you know that it was a mistake. And usually, you don’t even get the benefit of it being called a mistake, now that I think of it. No benefit of the doubt is given. It would actually be a dream to be accused of making an innocent mistake. Instead, we are accused of making willfully bad decisions for our kids. Doing “harm” to them on purpose. Because, according to strangers on the internet, they care more about our kids’ well-being than we do.

The problem with “taking nothing personally”

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two years studying the tenants of the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. One of the big points in the book is to take nothing personally. I completely agree with this idea; the only way to health and happiness is to not take the opinions of other people personally unless those people are in your trust circle. We can’t make everyone happy, so it’s better to just let other people have their opinion and make it none of your business what they think of you. My life has been fundamentally better since putting this principle into practice.

But like, maybe people shouldn’t be such enormous assholes? Maybe that’s something we could try out and see how it goes?

It is absolutely unconscionable how society treats moms. People think they have the right to lob judgment and criticism at us, as if they truly care more about our kids than we do. There is no grace given, no compassion. Moms whose kids have grown and left the house have forgotten the hard years, the ones where they themselves needed support and got none. Or, maybe they haven’t forgotten. Maybe they have held on to the bitterness they felt back then, and are spoon-feeding that bitterness down to the moms who are parenting little ones today.

Whatever the reason, it’s unnecessary. It’s wrong. And it needs to stop. It can’t be the responsibility of exhausted, worn out moms to always turn the other cheek. To “take nothing personally” themselves to death. It is time for society — and particularly older moms who have finished the journey — to put an end to the shaming and criticism. Motherhood is a hard, beautiful, exhausting, and rewarding journey. We are all trying our best. As long as our kids are safe, fed, and loved, that should be enough.

To the moms out there who feel discouraged and alone, just know you’re doing great. Your children feel loved and nurtured. You’re doing enough.

I promise.

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