Curious Parents

Mothers Feel Criticized For Their Choices, But Not By Who You'd Expect

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From #brelfies to nutrition shaming to whatever this is about, it seems like everyone on the internet has something to say about the way women parent their kids. But as visible as online mom shaming is, a national poll found that the place women feel the most parenting judgment isn't where you'd think. Forget the internet — the haters are coming from inside your house.

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To Grandmother's Shade We Go

In June 2017, the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital published the results of from a national poll of mothers with children five years of age or younger. The poll asked the moms about how they perceive criticism of their parenting, and mothers did not hold back.

Sixty percent of moms said they had been criticized for their parenting choices one way or another. But only 7 percent reported that criticism as coming from commenters on social media. By far, the biggest meddlers were members of a mother's immediate family: 36 percent reported criticism coming from their child's other parent, 31 percent from their in-laws, and 37 percent from their own parents. That's right: more criticism from their own mom and dad than the in-laws. Maybe the classic nagging in-law trope is just a smokescreen.

But when it came to the things people chose to criticize, well, those were to be expected. A whopping 70 percent experienced judgment for the way they disciplined their children. Diet was also a huge point of contention, with 52 percent of moms experiencing nutrition criticism and 39 percent feeling judged about their choice to bottle- or breastfeed their baby.

Haters Gonna Hate

For the family members who nitpick mom's choices, the poll had some choice words. "Family members should be willing to acknowledge that mothers of young children may have more up-to-date information about child health and safety, and 'what we used to do' may not be the best advice for today." They also point out that half of criticized mothers respond by avoiding the people they see as too critical — so if Grandma wants to see the little ones at Christmas, maybe she could stand to take a more positive tone.

Even so, 42 percent of criticized mothers said that judgment has made them unsure about their parenting choices. It's scary enough trying to raise a young child without the world second guessing your every move. Meddling can make mothers anxious, and that's no good for anyone. "Maternal anxiety, if prolonged or pronounced, is a problem for both mother and child, and for mothers struggling with anxiety, one seemingly innocent comment can become a tipping point into potentially harmful uncertainty," the authors write. Family members may mean well, but too much criticism does more harm than good.

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