The Disturbing Judgment of Other Mothers....

I knew before I got pregnant that parenthood came with a lot of shame; I had read about it over and over in Brene Brown’s books. I had the unpleasant opportunity to experience such shame when I wrote about my experience with my sexuality and pregnancy and a small placenta issue several weeks ago.

When my doctor told me to refrain from sexual intercourse, I was distressed. I wanted to talk about the medical necessity of it--I wanted facts. My husband and I did our research, weighed the facts and decided to follow to the doctor’s advice while remaining positively optimistic about this being a temporary situation. In the meantime, we got creative in the intimacy department. Oh, and BlogHer picked up the piece I wrote to feature in their family section (fuck me, I was actually excited!)

That was when other mothers started weighing in on my story. I was called selfish. I was told that my child would never know a loving home. After someone else reposted the BlogHer piece on, women commented in that they wanted to “cunt punch” me (that was a new one) as well as  many, many other nasty things I dare not repeat. All of this for merely considering that I had any type of sexual needs. All of this for wanting to be spoken to by a doctor like the educated, insightful woman that I am.

Mother after mother came out in the comments section to tell me just how awful I was-- already a failure as a parent-- for wanting to simultaneously maintain a little autonomy while being a parent. They said that I should be there to serve my children and that they should always come first. I guess these things work for them, and so that is how every mother in America should function. Step out of line with that rhetoric and you’re likely to catch a case of cold hard shame in the very worst ways.

When I became pregnant, I knew that dipping my toes into the mommy blogging world was going to come with some controversy. When it comes to parenting, people feel very strongly about their views. It’s a deeply personal journey. But I resolved to be candid, and to try my best to be nonjudgmental toward other women and their personal views because, frankly, as those commenters showed me, there is enough shame to go around.

What I keep coming back to is why? Why do we, as women or mothers, feel the need to vehemently defend our parenting choices by downgrading others and being generally disgusting human beings? If something works for one woman, but is vastly different than what we do, why do we automatically feel  threatened? Why is it that when one woman is in distress, and expresses her vulnerabilities, she is seen as selfish and the question of who comes first is never “the mother?”

Why are mothers so goddamned judgmental toward other mothers? Where is our sense of sisterhood?!

For me, it’s very much like feminism...(which you can read about HERE)...we are so busy being self righteous that we lose sight of the fact that we can embrace diversity and support one another in the process. We shouldn’t reject something because it’s different from what we do. Can’t we just say, “I don’t feel the same way” without having to call names or feeling somehow personally affronted? Is there really only just one way to be a parent or a mother for that matter?

And while I’m on it, what in the world is so bad about suggesting that parents deserve a life of their own outside of parenting? Some of the most successful parents I know (who have been married the longest, by the way) subscribe to this belief. They take date nights. They send the kids to grandma’s house once a month. They let their children cry it out a little (sometimes a lot). They set clear boundaries with their children when it comes to adult time. And their children are happy, secure and well adjusted.

For me, it is no better or worse than the soccer moms out there who devote time to their children and feel that “being mom” is their number one job in life. If it works for them, who am I to say otherwise? We aren’t all the same and one way of doing things won’t work for all of us. But we are all sharing a universal experience of parenting, right?

As a writer, it’s tough to walk the judgment tightrope. As a woman, and a new mother, I’m learning it’s even harder than I imagined. What I have learned so far is that being pregnant is an incredibly vulnerable experience. I imagine that being a parent will find much of the same...but what I don’t understand is why other women pick up on that vulnerability and seek to crush it with searing shame.

Is there really not a moment when these women said to themselves, “Gosh, I know I am pregnant but I really want to feel like a sexy woman?” Can they honestly dig within themselves and find no compassion for  a woman who feels like doctors sometimes bark at her and tell her about her own body as if she had no knowledge or intuition?

I had this fear of being a parent before I got pregnant...I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to take the leap. Once I found that faith in myself to do so, I dove in wholeheartedly and with abandon. But I think, looking at this particular situation (which is seemingly small in the scheme of life) that some of my fears about joining the mom-club were justified, especially the fears that revolved around other mothers. Sometimes other mothers are the ones who we come to fear the most, and perhaps with good reason.

What we perhaps SHOULD be ashamed of, is the shame machine itself and our own participation in it. I am guessing that if I have experienced it already, that there are lots of other women who have, too. These other women who are out there saying nasty things are the commentators; they are, as Brene Brown says, the critics. They aren’t in the arena...they aren’t putting their own stories, fears, mistakes and triumphs out there for me to comment on. They are just the ones saying they want to “cunt punch” me for being honest and authentic.

So, if you want to reject the shame machine, join me in the comments section and tell me YOUR SHAME STORY. Tell me about a time when someone tried to shame you (mother, non mother, whatever) and how it made you feel. By talking about these things, our shame magically dissolves and has no place to live. Take that! Hahah!!! 


  1. Billie, it's unfortunate that people feel the need to be so judgmental. I am so sorry that you have encountered such venom. However, I don't think that these nasty remarks you have encountered are saved specifically for pregnancy. I'm seeing this sort of attitude exhibited in all areas of life. I am beginning to believe that there are some you delight in being mean and nasty. What I am wondering is what makes these people feel that they are so superior as to be in a state that they feel qualified to judge, tell others what they need to do, and how to do it. It's a sad day when people have lost the ability to show understanding and tolerance. Perhaps it's time that the masses move back toward showing respect for others feelings and treat others as they would like to be treated. As far as doctors, I can't tell you how upset I am with them. This new medicine is for the birds. Doctors don't/can't spend the time to get to know you, they diagnosis without taking the time to evaluate your condition and aren't willinng to explain or answer questions. I find this distressing. I am having surgery next week and apparently will not meet the surgeon before the procedure. I have only seen his PA and have the feeling that I am in a meat market and being shoved through. The only reason that I am going thru with it is that I trust the doctor who sent me to the surgeon implicitly. He tells me that the guy is the best and has seen the test results that indicate that the surgery is necessary. All I can say to you is that you are a bright, beautiful lady. You will make a fantastic mother. I totally agree with you that to be a great mother you have to maintain a well rounded life as wife, mother, and an individual person. If you don't you'll wake up one day with without a life and wonder what the hell happened.

    1. I certainly agree with you that this judgment is not reserved for pregnancy or parenthood! People often feel entitled to be quite awful toward others, especially when they are protected by the anonymity of their computers. Individuals have to make a conscious effort to rise above that.

      I hope your surgery goes well next week!!! I sympathize with feel like being "pushed through." I wish that healthcare could feel more personal and tailored. Some of this, I really believe, has to do with our location (in a small town) and that limits our resources....even though you might think the opposite, right?! Lucky for people like you and I, we are aware of medicinal alternatives and take charge of our healthcare experiences. It's important!!!

      Thank you for your kind words!

  2. You already know how I feel about anonymous women wearing the passive-aggressive bitch hat, but I've been thinking about it more and more, and reading this post made a few things clear for me. First, I'm not a mother, so I'll be the first to admit that I have no idea what it's like. However, I'm a logical person, and I've come to a pretty crappy realization. People bitch constantly that this new generation of kids are total shits who will bring on the apocalypse with their selfies and snapchat and terrible behavior. Where did they learn it from? My guess is the moms who did make their child the center of the family, and become a servant to their child. You can't raise a kid with a " high?" mentality and not expect them to assume that the world revolves around them when they get older. Babies are (seriously) these little cosmic miracles that are created from two minuscule pieces and a lot of love. However, because every person started out this way, every kid needs to be taught that although they're super awesome, they are one of a multitude, and should act accordingly. This whole mom shaming thing is total bullshit. Mothers experience something that no one else has, they should be supportive and thoughtful, and open respectful dialogues to help educate each other so they raise productive, happy, considerate kids. It's so sad that these women, who have done miraculous things (like push another person out of your body) are so insecure about themselves that they have to be so hateful. Billie, you're already an awesome mom, and I have a lot of respect for you because you've taken so much shame and pettiness with grace and humor.

    1. Thanks Jillian!!! I love so much of what you've said here. I agree with you that you don't have to be a parent to logically understand the principals of parenting. There are TONS of teachers who aren't parents and they do a fabulous job of managing like 30 of those buggers for hours on end (while still managing to teach them something!)

      The mom shaming thing (as well as just shame in general) is such a crazy human thing. It's as though we want so badly to say, "no I'm different from you and you should feel bad about that!" I don't expect everyone else to be like me--I love that we have so much diversity, and I enjoy learning from it! I wish everyone else could embrace that notion of celebrating our differences as well.

      Most of all, I thank you for saying I've "taken shame and pettiness with grace and humor" because that is really part of my personal philosophy (and honestly, my job as a writer!) As I grow older, gain more experience, I want my experience to become more inclusive, not less, and I am HALLELUJAH happy that you share this state of mind :)

  3. Wow, where do I start? I was shamed for being a stay at home mom. I was shamed for dropping my c-section happy OBGYN (80% c-section rate, just for the record) like a hot potato and going with a midwife at a freestanding birth center, because I was low-risk and fortunately did not require any medical interventions. I was-and still am-shamed for breastfeeding my 9-month old daughter (in case you couldn't tell, I live in a state that has an incredibly backwards view of birth and health in general). I was shamed for doing gentle sleep training with my children. I was shamed for vaccinating my children. I was shamed for not wanting to homeschool my kids. My husband and I were shamed for baptizing our babies. The list goes on.

    You know, I can understand talking to someone if you genuinely feel they are making dangerous or irresponsible decisions with their bodies during pregnancy, or their children after they are born. But there's a world of difference between "I'm doing this out of love and concern for you" vs "You're not doing what I did, THEREFORE YOU'RE WRONG AND I WILL EDUCATE YOU!!!!"

    1. I am so sorry to hear that you have been shamed for your decisions! Good for you for standing in them and not allowing the shame spiral to overtake you! Brene Brown says that one of the fastest ways to neutralize shame is to give it a voice, and once you can talk about it, it shrinks exponentially.

      I am shocked that you would be shamed for breastfeeding a 9 month old! That's crazy to me. I have friends who breast feed and their children are two years old.

      I can understand that sometimes people feel others are being dangerous decisions and coming from a place of concern can feel warranted...but when people are just plain mean? Well, it gives me pause and makes me think, as Jillian (in the comment above) pointed out that they are deeply insecure.

      Thanks for your comments, I always really enjoy reading them!

  4. Theory on why bitches be trippin’: Pregnancy and parenting decisions are (1) hard to make and (2) extremely emotionally charged. People, especially mothers, invest a lot of their time and energy into researching, discussing, soul searching and generally obsessing to come up with the one that’s right for them. After spending all that energy trying to figure out the “right” answer, to see someone else question it or come to a different answer makes you (1) second guess yourself, even if it’s just for a second, (2) angry that you are now questioning your choice and (3) even more angry when you remember all that time/energy/soul searching you spent getting to your choice. How DARE someone not come up with the same answer! Don’t they know how hard you worked to get that answer??! Are they trying to say that you’re wrong?? That they’re better than you? Well fuck that! They’re wrong! And probably horrible people! And, and, oh yeah, and you feel sorry for their poor kids. Phew, that’s better.

    As a new mom with my fair share of insecurity about my own decisions, I can sympathize with the string of thought above, to a degree. But I do think it’s ridiculous that at some point rational thought doesn’t step in and, ideally, recognize the outrage as one’s own insecurity – or at the very least, prevent one from actually posting it in a comment.

    1. Emily, I totally know what you mean about the insecurity of decision making. It is hard to make decisions, even BEFORE the baby is here! I can imagine it will only get more complicated as the baby grows up.

      I think you are largely correct about the thought process behind it all. It is emotional, and unfortunately, for many people when emotion comes in logic goes straight out the window. (This is exactly why I meditate! Haha) Anger is, unfortunately, a wonderful salve for those emotions for a great many people....but as you point out, that just doesn't make it right.

      End result? Bitches be trippin' hard. LOL

  5. I just wanted to thank you for touching on these topics - both your original post and this one. It just seems so wrong to me how quickly women (especially groups of women on the Internet) jump to judging and shaming other women for their choices.

    1. I agree Elle!! But if we stick together and give it a voice, I think it makes it harder for that shame to least that's what I hope!!!