Is Mommy Shaming OK?

I recently witnessed an interesting conversation in a Facebook group I belong to. The group is managed by a well-recognized entrepreneurial guru, a woman who recently became a mom for the first time. She shared a less than flattering opinion about Barbara Corcoran’s comment in an interview that she taught her children “unless you’re dying, don’t call me at work”. And WHAM! the community responded with passion.

The Criticism Was Naive

I was actually surprised that the comment was made in the first place. I’m a mom of two kids, now teenagers. Having self-employed parents has always been a part of their reality and I’ll happily admit that I chuckled when I first came across Ms. Corcoran’s comments lighting up a firestorm on social media. Through the lens of personal experience, they seemed pretty innocuous – the kind of sardonic comment dozens of my girlfriends have made privately over wine or coffee.

In my house the words were slightly different (Is there blood? Is the house on fire? Then it can wait.) but the message was the same, “When you are calling me at work, please be sure that it is both urgent and important that I deal with you right now. If I can focus 100% on work while I’m here, I can focus 100% on you when I’m home.”

The funny thing is that it doesn’t really matter what I say, the 3:20 phone calls and texts still come in. As long as I’m not in a meeting or on a call, I will usually take them. I’m not always happy about it though. And that’s perfectly OK. Which, I suspect, was exactly Ms. Corcoran’s point.

Part of being a parent is teaching your children to respect boundaries. That includes knowing when is it ok to call mom at work, when is it not. In the process, they also learn to set healthy boundaries of their own. Trust me – that’s a very important skill when they mature into teens who need to set boundaries with their own peers and renegotiate boundaries with their parents.

The Community Seems to Agree

The members of the community quickly and decisively made it clear that moms have rights too. The overall response was supportive of Ms. Corcoran’s choice, and more importantly, her right to choose how to raise her children, how to be a good mom within the context of her life and family relationships and how to handle interruptions at work.

One shoe size doesn’t fit all feet. One parenting style doesn’t fit all children.

And one set of rules doesn’t fit all families.

Mommy-shaming is never ok.

Motherhood is a journey fraught with guilt. No one ever knows what’s really going on inside someone else’s home; what’s really happening with another woman’s children or family relationships. But we do know that most moms love their children more than life itself. Most moms will do anything if we believe it will help our kids become better adults. Most of us are doing the best we can, with the tools we have at hand. Just as our mothers did before us, and our daughters will after us.

So no, mommy shaming is never ok. It says more about the woman passing judgment than the woman being judged.

Somehow, social media has given us permission to put aside the common courtesies of everyday life. We think that because we can peer through a lens into another’s private life, we are somehow obligated to pass judgment on what we believe we know. It is a poisonous and dangerous trap.

Before you judge another, consider the situation from her perspective.

The woman who criticized Ms. Corcoran had children later in life. She had already established a very successful business that affords her the luxury of help at home and help with childcare, not to mention a staff at the office. Her children are also still quite young, so the demands they put on her time are quite different than what she will experience down the road as they grow.

In short, while she may be an experienced business owner, she is completely inexperienced at the delicate art of balancing children and business, without crippling either one. She isn’t really qualified to comment on the choices of a woman who is further along the parenting path.

Entitled to her option? Absolutely.

Entitled to disagree with the choice made? Of course.

Entitled to drop everything when her children call? Most definitely.

Entitled to pass judgment? Nope.

Ironically, I doubt Ms. Corcoran really cares. She was once a new mom too. I’ll bet she judged more than one other mom, as did I. That is until the day I found myself walking through a fancy downtown department store, writhing toddler over my left shoulder screaming at the top of her lungs “Mommy, pleaaaaase don’t hurt me” while every head in the store stared me down with critical disapproval.

What was going on? I had refused the request to buy an expensive trinket. Darling daughter had pitched a spectacular fit right there in the jewellery department. I said, that’s it we’re leaving without the ice cream you were promised. She refused. I picked her up and started to walk. It was her first (and last) public tantrum and she didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, neither did I.

We both survived embarrassed and unharmed. She learned that public tantrums weren’t a good negotiating strategy. I learned that I could do the right thing as a mom, even in the face of overwhelming disapproval from the community at large. And I learned that I didn’t really care too much what people thought, as long as my kids turned out ok.

I’m proud to say, so far, so good.

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