I’m Over the Mom Shaming
Amidst the rampant spread of COVID-19 in our communities, some people still find time to criticize others.
If you’re a mother like me, you have undoubtedly experienced some level of mom shaming.
You didn’t breastfeed your kid. You didn’t supplement with formula. You’re not organic. You are organic. You’re not cleaning with only essential oils. You’re not wiping everything with Clorox wipes. You haven’t started your kid on a second language. You have them learning the wrong second language. You don’t socialize your homeschooled kid enough. You over socialize your kids. You are letting them play football. They aren’t involved in sports.
No matter what you do, You. Can’t. Win.
You will never be free of the glares from judgy mothers who think they know better than you about how to raise your kid.
Beginning the first day of 2020, I spent 53 hours in complete agony after my teenage daughter ran away from home. Most of that I endured in silence, afraid to socialize my suffering because of the mom shamers, inevitably filling in the reasons why my child made this choice:
“She works too much.”
“She needs a boyfriend so that kid can have a father figure.”
“She doesn’t spend enough time with her kid.”
“She should be more strict.”
“She should move back to be closer to family.”
All of these unspoken comments echoed in my head as I paced the floor, repeatedly checked my daughter’s phone for a response from her friends as to where she might be. When I finally had the guts to post and ask for help, there was one comment that ripped me in half — a friend of a friend commented that my post sounded “fishy” because I wasn’t panicked enough.
She had no clue how panicked I was. She didn’t know that I hadn’t slept in two days and that I hadn’t eaten and that I hadn’t even told my family what I was going through. She didn’t even know me or any of the series of trauma that had let up to the outcome of my thirteen year old child leaving home.
Ironically, I had spent a lot of time crafting that post so the semantics were just right and that people would care more that I was agonizing over not knowing where my child was and not focus on the fact that she had most likely run away. Because of judgement like this.
As the coronavirus pandemic started impacting our community, the first worry I had was about my daughter possibly bringing this virus home. Once social distancing was put in place, I knew that life was about to get much more difficult for me and my willful teen.
Having a teenager who responds to stress and pressure by running away, a child whose answer to disliking my rules is to overtly disobey them, a daughter who answers the question, “why did you run away?” with “because I don’t want to be here,” I knew that getting her to respect social distancing was going to be a battle. And one that I’m not fully equipped to fight, in spite of our two months working with an intensive behavioral therapist.
So as posts started popping up on Nextdoor about “disrespectful teenagers running the streets,” I listened, but bit my tongue. I agreed that the teens needed to be staying home, but also recognized that sometimes, it’s just not that simple as saying, “STAY HOME.” With my daughter I reiterated the importance of staying at home and gave her suggestions on how to stay in touch with her friends safely and told her that she is not to leave the house. Telling a kid who hates to be at home that she’s stuck there indefinitely because the world outside was far more dangerous did not go over as easily as I had hoped.
She listened and stayed home for three days. And invited all of her friends to our house. I told her that she could not have friends over. They still came. I lost my shit and threw everyone out, not caring that I sounded like the psycho mom. They stopped coming over. It felt like a win.
But then my daughter started leaving again. And I started to worry that one or both of us will end up sick soon.
As I sat on a town hall call the other night, I wished I had the opportunity to respond to the woman who talked about all the “horrible parents” who continue to “let” their teenagers go out and put us all at risk.
I’m not sure I can adequately replicate the tone of her disdain with my words here, but you know the type. The high and mighty holier than thou who looks down her nose at the “lesser” parents — those whose kids don’t have perfect grades or aren’t all stars on the team. The one who doesn’t get what it’s like to be a parent to a challenging child, or one with severe trauma, like mine, where more traditional parenting approaches simply don’t work.
I have a hard enough time keeping my child home on a regular day, but this time we are in is game on. It’s a fight every day and even though my asthma puts me at a higher risk of getting sick, and I’m a single parent who is fortunate enough to have work right now, my daughter still thinks I’m overreacting about everything. The fighting wears me down both emotionally and physically, making me even more susceptible to getting extremely ill.
I give my kid information and send her links to articles and beg her to stay inside. And still, she leaves.
I tell her where it’s safe to go and how she can get outside and maybe even socialize with a smaller group of friends. She ignores my suggestions and they gather in groups at the park.
I plead with her by explaining the cost of the risk she is putting us in if I can’t work or if I end up in the hospital. She does not share the same level of concern over these possibilities.
Take a seat, Karen. I’m doing the best I can with the child I’ve got. I’m not going to chain my kid to the walls like some sort of prisoner and I’m not going to wrestle her to the ground if she tries to leave. Neither of those will have positive outcomes.
The person you should be shaming is my kid, who despite the best input, still chooses poorly. You’re welcome to come yell at her yourself. She might even listen to you.
But leave your judgy comments about me out of it.