When advice isn’t supportive

Every generation thinks they did it best. It’s a classic, comical divide that can be applied to most any topic up for discussion. Insert parenthood, and you have a perfect storm of generational differences pouring into growing families’ homes. 

Mom shamingAs wisdom is passed down, science progresses, which sometimes counters family wisdom. New parents balance this with their own intuitions, creating a trifecta of knowledge that works as a checks and balance system.

I saw something recently that made me reflect on this. A parenting blog described some otherwise minor playground incident – a clickbait story, really. But sure enough, in the comments section, there was so much generational shaming. “Moms today” are “too distracted,” followed by contradictory critiques on how “moms today” are “too engaged,” failing to create future leaders who can handle the real world. Ouch.

Beyond the interwebs of online trolling, I fear this concept of comparing to critique is more of a common occurrence than any of us want to admit, leaving moms today carrying a heavy weight of how to find our voices in respectful balance with shared wisdom and new research. Turns out, I was onto something, and there was  a recent survey done about this.  Four out of five moms raised their hands to being mom shamed for simply making decisions on how to best parent their kids – decisions we are all entitled to.

This isn’t happening because of the Internet, which would make it easier to ignore. It’s happening in our circles, and then it’s being broadcasted online as an additional slap in the face.

And yet, there is actually so much that we have in common. Regardless of the kind of labor we had, we have all brought our babies into this world with unbelievable strength. Whether we train our babies to sleep in a crib or co-sleep in our rooms, we have all survived the nighttime witching hours. Regardless of whether we bottle feed on a schedule or breastfeed on demand, we have all dealt with the highs and lows of either route. So why is it our first reaction to question these intimate choices?

It needs to stop being about why we do something, because to question why a mother makes the decisions she does for her child is to question her very being as a mother. “Why are you switching to formula? Why are you still nursing? Why do you put him down in your bed? Why don’t you just ….  because if you don’t … “ These so often get lumped under “well-meaning advice,” but all this does is put us in positions of justifying what we’re doing.

Sharing wisdom isn’t supposed to look like that. It doesn’t spread doubt. In its intended form, it can be a beautiful gift. It is uplifting and free of expectations.  It allows room for new information AND for the mother to find her own voice. 

Instead, let’s be the kind of women and mothers who recognize our differences and have the grace to embrace those differences in deserved faith that we are all doing the best that we can. The kind of women who uplift one another as valued voices who deserve to make decisions without constant justification. The kind of mothers who help to break down the many barriers – old and new – that only hinder the already challenging job of motherhood.

Mom shaming happens, and it’s petty, but if there’s one place it should never exist it’s within our own circles of trusted and admired loved ones. Be mindful of the difference between giving advice and casting doubt. Be just as quick to notice and celebrate our victories as you are to point out and navigate our struggles. And for every moment you catch yourself questioning a mom out loud, ask yourself when was the last time that you simply gave reassurance?

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