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Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
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May 27, 2024

May 22, 2024

Navigating Mom Shaming: How to Lean on Your Values and Overcome Toxic Mom Culture

E:
226
with
Renee Reina
Host of The Mom Room Podcast

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

  • What Contributes to Mom Shaming and Toxic Mom Culture
  • Social Media and the Rise of Mom Shaming
  • Why We Need Our Values as an Anchor for Our Choices
  • How Values Can Help with Mom Shaming
  • Filtering Who We Listen To (and Opting Out of Mom Shaming)
  • Ways to Turn Down the Noise of Mom Shaming

In a social media-fueled world, you might think that moms have the chance to come together, find friends, and lift each other up. And yet, what many of us experience is the opposite—a toxic culture full of mom shaming, judgment, and criticism. 

Of course, this doesn’t just happen online—many of us hear unsolicited comments and judgments of our parenting even from strangers in the grocery store or other parents at the park. 

Surveys show that 80% of moms report experiencing mom shaming or judgment, mostly from other moms. 

So how do we cope with this toxic culture? How can we find our own way when we’re constantly being bombarded by other people’s opinions?  How can we turn down the noise in a world where we feel both isolated and constantly connected? 

It isn’t easy to feel confident in a world that tells us we’re not good enough. When moms are already feeling lonely and unsupported, disconnected from their friends, and unsure about their abilities, this pressure and criticism can take a real toll on their self-esteem and their mental health. 

Today, I’m joined by Renee Reina, Ph.D, host of The Mom Room Podcast, to discuss mom shaming, toxic mom culture, and how we can break away from the pressure and carve our own path in motherhood. 

What Contributes to Mom Shaming and Toxic Mom Culture

The very idea of toxic mom culture is hard to pin down—it feels so massive and abstract. We have almost all experienced it—and we know it when we feel it. But what exactly is it? And what causes it? 

It’s essentially the idea that there is one right, best, true way to parent—a “perfect” goalpost we should all be aiming for—and it’s the act of putting down other moms who make different choices than us while we strive for this impossible bullseye. 

Renee pointed out that we’re mothering in a perfect storm for mom shaming and toxic mom culture. We’re expected to be 100% on the ball with our careers, our relationships, and our parenting—and we don’t have resources or support to help us work toward these unrealistic expectations. 

We’re mothering in a perfect storm for mom shaming and toxic mom culture.

We’re left feeling like we’re failing or that we’re not doing enough no matter what we do. 

This culture is fueled by:

Renee pointed out that her mom didn’t experience this need to be more and do more or this constant overwhelm and burnout, even though she was raising three children. But she didn’t have the internet or social media—it was just her, figuring things out, with her sister (who also had three kids) as a sounding board. 

She had to make decisions as best she could and feel confident in them—and the expressions of motherhood she had available to compare herself to were limited. 

Now, moms have hundreds of other moms at their fingertips on social media—but instead of making them feel more empowered, they’re left feeling insecure and unsure what the “right” parenting decisions are. 

It can feel like we’re torn in a million different directions—and instead of making decisions and doing the best we can, we’re chasing expressions of motherhood that don’t align with our values, trying to do it all. 

Social Media and the Rise of Mom Shaming

Social media can be a positive thing—especially when we’re feeling isolated at home with little ones and we want to stay connected to other people. But there’s also a negative side that breeds comparison and leaves us feeling pressured to keep up with others. 

Renee pointed out that there is a big difference between scrolling social media for an hour and seeing everyone’s highlight reel of smiling faces and family outings, and spending an hour at mom friend’s house. 

When we see other people in real life, we see them cleaning up messes or struggling with toddler meltdowns or fussy babies—the same situations we are going through. We often feel validated, knowing we are all in this together. 

But when we see curated social media feeds, we’re often left feeling inadequate. We aren’t sharing the struggles on social media—the tantrums or the whining or the pile of toys that hasn’t been cleaned up. And with influencers and content creators, the curation is a part of their jobs—you have no idea what’s going on beyond the camera. 

Renee pointed out that we also often follow influencers in niches—maybe one is a nutritionist, one is great at organization, one does makeup, and one creates great crafts with children. But when we see all of these things, we often feel that we have to meet all of those expectations—even though most of the content creators are really only focusing on one of those things. 

She also said that the end result of the social media pressure to do it all is that we have no confidence in ourselves when it comes to being a mom. This feeling of inadequacy breeds a negative cycle, making us more likely to leave negative comments or judge other moms as a way to achieve a temporary self-esteem boost. But a better approach would be to break away from the pressure that is leaving us feeling inadequate in the first place. 

Why We Need Our Values as an Anchor for Our Choices

One of the best ways to break the cycle of mom shaming is to do the work to uncover our personal values—the principles that are most important to us on a deep personal level. 

Our values can serve as a guide for our decision-making, dictating what matters to us, what feels wrong to us, and where we want to focus our time and mental energy. But when we aren’t clear on our values, we often pick up decisions from everyone else around us. 

When we aren’t clear on our values, we pick up decisions from everyone else around us.

This fuels that pressure to “do it all.” We might think we need to do matching holiday pajamas, homemade Halloween costumes, nutritionist-level lunches with handwritten notes every day, keep a spotless Pinterest-worthy home, and sign our children up for every available activity. 

But the truth is that not only is it not possible to keep up with all of those pressures—but also many of them don’t even stem from our own values. 

When we tune into our values, we can choose what to let go of. For example, I value slowness—and as someone who stays very busy with the podcast and the platform, finding time at home to just be present is important to me. So I don’t want to sign my children up for multiple activities that keep us running around. 

Someone else might value competitive spirit or teamwork more highly—and that might mean they should invest their time and energy into more activities. Neither approach is wrong or right—they’re just based on different value systems. 

How Values Can Help with Mom Shaming

When we are strong in our values, we’re less vulnerable to mom shaming or the pressures of toxic mom culture. We can understand that we don’t need to opt into everything, and that others can make choices that can’t, and shouldn’t apply to us and our families. 

But standing strong in our values also makes us less likely to judge or shame other moms. We often don’t realize that the knee-jerk reaction to judge others stems from not being anchored in our values. When we aren’t certain of our decisions, we tend to either seek reassurance or try to “prove our rightness.” 

There are millions of ways to raise a happy and healthy child.

It’s important to remember that there is no one right way to parent—there are millions of ways to raise a happy and healthy child. 

Renee once heard that we have become so caught up in “best practice” that we forget that best practice doesn’t mean best practice for everyone. We should focus more on what’s best for us and our families in our reality—which might or might not align with “best practice.” 

As moms, we often want to know that we’re doing the “best job.” But we end up using a measuring stick that isn’t based on what matters to us. If we can reframe our viewpoint and evaluate what is best based on our values, we can break away from so much of the pressure, toxicity, and shaming involved in mom culture. 

This is often easier said than done. Renee said that a great place to start is by spending time thinking about:

  • What you want your life to look like (and why)
  • What makes you happy
  • What time of day do you feel the best, and what’s happening in that moment
  • What you want for your children
  • What you want for yourself
  • What you enjoy doing

This exploration can lead us to carving out our time intentionally rather than making decisions we don’t even personally care about. 

Filtering Who We Listen To (and Opting Out of Mom Shaming)

It can feel as if moms are likely to be judged for anything. But there are some common areas that are very polarizing, often becoming breeding grounds for mom shaming. 

These include things like putting your children in extracurricular activities, allowing screentime (especially in a public place), and how you feed your child. 

But it’s important to remember that we are the only ones who know the context behind our decisions or our situations. 

We might get judged or criticized for not breastfeeding, but there could be countless reasons why we don’t—from not physically being able to breastfeed to prioritizing our mental health

Someone might see your child on an iPad when out to dinner and judge you, but maybe you had an exhausting, overwhelming day, and this is the only way you can spend time with your spouse or eat without the additional mental load of cooking. 

Someone might think you should sign your child up for music class but not understand that your kid struggles with afterschool restraint collapse and needs time to just unwind at home. 

We know all of the factors that go into our decisions—other people don’t.

We know all of the factors that go into our decisions—other people don’t. And that’s why it’s also important to create some sort of criteria for who you accept advice or opinions from. 

A trusted family member might offer a constructive viewpoint. But a stranger at the store or another parent at school drop-off probably doesn’t have that same level of trust and credibility. 

We don’t have to accept or listen to everyone’s opinions. And we don’t have to view mom shaming as valid. We can choose to put up boundaries around who we let in, who we listen to, and who gets to offer advice. 

We might still get that initial gut-sinking feeling when we hear a mom shaming comment or criticism—but we can practice pausing and questioning the source, and choosing to re-anchor in our values and move past it. 

Ways to Turn Down the Noise of Mom Shaming

Another way to combat mom shaming and toxic mom culture is to find ways to turn down the noise and disconnect from the online world. 

There are so many great things about the internet—it’s wonderful to be able to find trusted resources and know that you are not alone. But there is a lot of unhelpful buzz as well. Finding times to unplug and disconnect can be helpful. 

In Renee’s household, for example, everyone puts their phones in a box between 5:00-9:00 pm. She and her husband both spend present, connected time with their son and with each other. And anything that needs to be handled can be handled later. 

This also sets a great screen time example for her son, who is learning that it’s okay to be away from screens for a while. 

Sometimes simple changes or making a deliberate choice to stay off of social media and break away from toxic mom culture for a while can help us recalibrate and recenter in our values, in our family, and in what matters to us. 

Struggling with decision-making, boundaries, or shame and guilt? Working with a mom therapist can help! Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consult today!

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Tags:

Mom Shaming, Values, Perfectionism

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

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OUR GUEST

Renee Reina
Host of The Mom Room Podcast

Renee Reina Grenon, is an academic turned podcaster. Her hobbies include being honest, making TikToks, and helping moms live life unapologetically as an imperfect mom.

After her son was born, Renee quickly realized that she had been preparing for motherhood all wrong. Everything she had been told about having a baby was not what she was experiencing. So, she decided to start The Mom Room where she talks and writes honestly about all of it.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.
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