No Matter What Moms Do, We're Doing It Wrong

by Melissa L. Fenton
Yusuke Murata / Getty Images

Another day, another mom-shaming post on the internet. It doesn’t even shock me anymore — the lengths to which people will go to shame a mother. They will take a picture of a complete stranger (a mom) doing something they may find unbelievable (on her phone at the park?) and spread it around social media as if it’s the most abhorrent parenting moment they will ever witness. If they’re really feeling troll-ish (and evil, but hey, what’s the difference here?) they will add some hashtags — maybe a #parentingfail or #motheroftheyear, and my personal favorite, #shameful.

Enough already, people. Can we leave all the mothers alone as they go about their day parenting in whichever way they see fit? Can you just not with the judging and shaming everywhere from the damn playground to the grocery store to the doctor’s office to the airport? Here’s an idea, how ‘bout you keep your cellphone camera in your purse before you decide to infringe on someone else’s privacy, let alone their parenting? Things like this make me so grateful that I raised small children long before cellphones were around, because — holy shit — the less-than-favorable parenting pictures they could have taken of me would have blown up the damn internet.

I was telling a new mom recently how relieved I am to not have to raise small kids right now, when she shared something so shocking and brutally honest that I truly felt sorry for this new generation of parents. She said, “Sometimes I’m afraid to leave the house because of the potential for someone in public to see me having a bad moment and take my picture, and make me famous in the worst kind of way. I’m afraid of how I would be treated, how they would instantly blame and shame me. I am literally afraid to parent out in public sometimes because of all the trolls out there. The world isn’t a scary place for kids, it’s a scary place for mom.”


Sad doesn’t even begin to describe that comment. Disheartening, tragic, and pathetic are more like it.

Since when have we become scared to parent in public? Are social media hate, shaming, backlash, blaming, and all the perfect parents out there now actually keeping parents from leaving the house? It sure is, and the recently published book Shame Nation agrees. In fact, there is an entire section devoted solely to parent shaming, and the bully mob mentality tactics of people who go after parents online with the sole intent of publicly shaming them for their parenting.

How on earth did we get here?

I often wonder when my older boys go out for bike rides in the neighborhood — who are very capable of riding alone, I might add — if someone will stop and ask them where their parents are. Will a concerned neighbor who sees them playing at the park without an adult snap their picture, share it on Facebook, and then call the police?

And when we’re out in public together, and they accidentally get hurt on a playground, at a theme park, or anywhere else for that matter, will my parental supervisory skills automatically be questioned? Of course they will, and then in an instant I will go from receiving empathy to defending myself against unwarranted accusations.

Parenting scared and afraid of shame is no way to parent.

Kids kept inside homes because the world is seemingly some tragic and dangerous place is no way to raise confident, courageous kids. But the fact we’re keeping our kids inside our homes because we’re afraid to parent out in the world is a twisted and somber irony. The consequences of helicopter parenting go beyond the damage it allegedly does to our children; now it has seeped into our view of modern parenting: Watch 24/7, or you’re an unfit parent! Accidents don’t happen! A parent wasn’t doing their job!

Bottom line, they’re your kids. Parent them how you see fit. Don’t parent scared, doubt your decisions, question your intentions, or entertain all the statistically improbable what-ifs in life. It will just leave you exhausted and bitter.

Yes, it takes a village to raise kids, but when some village members bring pitchforks, it’s time to send them to another village. Don’t let them for one second keep you from exploring your village. Your kids deserve to experience the world without your fear of sanctimonious assholes holding them back, that you’re not a perfect enough parent to let them, or shame from social media. That type of fear should never be in any parenting equation.

Don’t let the vitriol of strangers dictate how you parent and you explore the world with (or without) your kids.