Study: We're Getting The Most Mom-Shaming From Our Own Damn Parents

by Julie Scagell
Image via Shutterstock

It turns out most moms feel the most shame from people in their immediate family

Is there a parent around who hasn’t been given unsolicited parenting advice? Whether it’s from well meaning (or not so well meaning) strangers, friends, colleagues, or social media, criticism about how we parent can leave us feeling frustrated, confused, and sometimes like we want to punch that person in the face. But when it comes from your immediate family, it can feel even worse (also because the whole punching thing is definitely out of the question).

According to a new study conducted by the C.S.Mott Children’s Hospital Poll, parents are finding the majority of criticism is coming from within their own families. In fact, six in ten mothers of children ages 0-five say they have been criticized about everything from discipline to their children’s sleep to breast feeding. Not that we don’t enjoy pretending to listen when our parents talk at us, but it’s also not helpful in the least.

The study, conducted out of Children’s Health at the University of Michigan, based its research on responses from a sample of 475 mothers nationally with at least one child between ages 0-five.

The most frequent offenders tend to be the mother’s own parents. Thirty-seven percent of mothers polled have felt second guessed by their mother or father. And while their advice can be well meaning, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it can leave many of us feeling upset, especially at a time when we are already naturally second-guessing ourselves.

Is this just a phenomenon we pass down generationally, like varicose veins and stretch marks? Like, my mom told me I suck and if I had to put up with it, so do you?

“Mothers can get overwhelmed by so many conflicting views on the ‘best’ way to raise a child,” poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H. said. “Unsolicited advice — especially from the people closest to her child — can be perceived as meaning she’s not doing a good job as a mother. That can be hurtful.”

According to the study, 70 percent of mothers had been criticized about how they discipline their child, followed closely by “diet and nutrition (52 percent), sleep (46 percent), breast- vs. bottle-feeding (39 percent), safety (20 percent), and child care (16 percent).” Seriously, unless your kid is sending theirs to bed with a can of Coke and a cigarette, shut your yap. We take that back, just keep your mouth closed regardless.

The study believes new information about child health and safety standards may challenge generational practices other family members used themselves as parents. “Family members should respect that mothers of young children may have more updated information about child health and safety,” Clark says, “and ‘what we used to do’ may no longer be the best advice.” My own mother used to let me play with Lawn Darts when I was young, so really, who is she to be offering any advice?

Worst of all, nearly half of those surveyed said they simply avoid people who are too critical, which may be fun for your significant other who now doesn’t have to avoid their in-laws, but “it’s unfortunate when a mother feels criticized to the point where she limits the amount of time she and her child will spend with a family member or friend,” Clark said.

Mom-shaming isn’t harmless, and when it’s coming from your own family it can be impossible to avoid. Solidarity to all the moms out there whose own mothers are driving them up a wall and questioning all their parenting decisions.

We feel your pain.