• September 19th, 2020

Raising Naneni - Are you being mom-shamed instead of receiving support?

From the moment you bring your bundle of joy home from the hospital, almost every visitor, sometimes without even doing a thorough investigation of your situation, will find something to criticize. There is always something a new mother is doing wrong, if not everything!

These mom-shamers do not come to clean for you, wash for you or offer to hold the baby while you take a power nap, they come quickly – criticize you – and leave just as quick as they came. As a new mom, your ability to rise above the criticism is crucial because if you allow yourself to dwell on these comments about your parenting choices, you may just believe them and develop long-lasting feelings of inadequacy.

Millennial moms with careers and especially those of us who grew up in urban areas are at the mercy of mom-shamers, especially from those at the village. Apparently, just because we are kama educated and are mbwitis, we are automatically bad mothers. I was once with my daughter on a cloudy morning when an older woman said to me, “I was just telling this man about mothers of today, you are dressed in a long sleeve shirt while your daughter has a T-shirt on. The child is not warm but you are.” She said this in Oshiwambo. And for Oshiwambo speaking millennial mothers, you know how much it stings when someone says, “oomeme vopaife”?

Respectfully, I responded and said that Naneni is fine. I said this with a smile. However, she was adamant on making a point and she continued. To which I responded and said, “a person’s character is what determines whether they are good or bad parents and not necessarily their age. Some women may be older but possibly not good mothers.” She was shocked at my response. The idea was that, because I was younger, I wouldn’t have anything to say besides agree with her and possibly walk away in shame. 

Of course her observation was accurate. Naneni had a t-shirt on, I was wearing a long sleeve shirt and it was a cloudy day. And equally so, her unsolicited advice had merit too. But the fact that she was condescending and judgmental is what didn’t sit well with me. I had a long sleeve shirt on, not because of the weather but because it was an official uniform shirt for work. Naneni had a t-shirt on because she cannot stand heat plus she has eczema. Any exposure to heat and she would develop a nasty rash. Thirdly, she was leaving the warm confinement of our home and into an equally warm classroom, there was no need for a jersey. This was information the “meme” didn’t have yet she was too quick to mom- shame me.

I have raised my daughter with little to no help, I know what I am doing. I may make mistakes along the way but I wouldn’t make silly mistakes on purpose simply because I do not care. Silly careless choices like letting my daughter freeze her cute butt cheeks off? No meme. 

I almost do not understand the culture of mom-shaming mothers, especially those who just recently gave birth. At a time when they need the most guidance and support, new moms are overly criticized. As parents, we have many hurdles to overcome on a daily basis and someone making negative comments about your parenting is very hurtful. There was a time Naneni was ill, she was continuously vomiting. While at home, everyone had their own diagnosis, which is normal. A relative then offered to drive us to the emergency room. Naneni was placed on intravenous therapy (IV) and the mere sight of a nurse searching for a vein with a needle was heartbreaking. We were fortunately discharged that very night. Just as the relative placed the car key into the ignition, she asked what the doctor said. Silly me, at that moment I thought this was a moment of comfort but instead it turned out to be another form of mom-shaming. In a blink of an eye, she aggressively said, “Yes, that is what I was telling you!” Her need to say “I told you so” was greater than actually being glad that we were treated, being concerned about a two year old being on IV or simply realizing that, that was a time to give genuine emotional support rather than criticism. 

The best solution to dealing with mom-shamers is possibly to pay them no mind, distancing yourself from them or respectfully letting them know that their constant criticism is hurtful and advice them to find healthier ways to communicate their advice. Whatever you do, do not fall into the pity trap of feeling inadequate and sorry for yourself because your child is watching you.  I once read that it is easier to build strong children than it is to fix broken men. 

*My name is Paulina N. Moses, mother to my four-year-old daughter, Naneni. This column hopes to create momentum for positive parenting by candidly discussing everything about parenting, while creating a network of millennial parents who support and cheer each other one. 
– soljett@gmail.com

Staff Reporter
2020-02-21 12:03:43 | 6 months ago

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