Pregnant Woman's Solution to Mom Shaming? Stop Admitting You're a Mom

pregnant woman mom shaming
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Like most moms I know, I spent a lot of time during pregnancy trying to decide what kind of parent I'd be: how I felt about breastfeeding and sleep training, how I would discipline my future spawn, and, most importantly, how motherhood would fit neatly into my preestablished identity as a modern, independent woman. In a lot of ways, I was just like pregnant writer Melanie Berliet, who irked moms all over the Internet this week when she published an essay about how she'll never identify herself as a mom in public bios -- like those on social media -- so she won't risk being seen as less of a person.

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Berliet writes in the Huffington Post that, at 35 years old, she's worked too hard to establish her identity to allow motherhood to eclipse the other important aspects of who she is. She says she's "delighted by the prospect of bringing a new life into the world" and "thrilled to experience the special brand of love that blossoms between mother and child," but she doesn't want to be seen as "mom" first and foremost, and she certainly doesn't want people using her status as a mom to shame her into living her life differently.

She writes:

Instead, I'd like to be characterized by the many things I've worked towards, plus motherhood. So you will never see 'mom' listed in my bio. Sure, being a mom will soon become one of my defining traits, and I don't plan to hide it. I will continue to celebrate my pregnancy and motherhood as I see fit, with the occasional related article or social media post. But I'm uninterested in being associated as a mom above all else. By self-identifying as a mother within the few sentences one gets to draft a brief bio, I worry that I would invite others to think of me primarily in that context.

After all, she adds, you never see men adding "dad" to their bios: "Is it a coincidence that 'daddy shaming' isn't really a thing?"

As if changing the way our society views moms is just that easy.

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Berliet's essay sparked a pretty strong reaction among the mom community online. Some applauded her strong stance and her desire to maintain her own identity outside of motherhood -- because that's something most of us want.


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Others took the opposite approach and said being a mom is the biggest part of their identity, and they're not ashamed to admit it.


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Like most women, I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I once promised myself I would always be a person first and a mother second. And, for the most part, I've stood by that promise -- I have a successful career, I see my friends regularly (sans children), and I maintain a number of hobbies and interests that have nothing to do with my kids. I think it's up to each individual to decide how motherhood fits into her larger identity. But, unfortunately, getting the rest of the world to acknowledge the complexities of your identity as a woman and a mother isn't always as simple as leaving the word "mom" out of your bio.

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Our ideas about motherhood are deeply ingrained in our culture. From the second we get pregnant, we become public property, with people telling us what to eat, what to wear, and what to do with our own bodies. Once we give birth, we're told how our bodies should look, how our kids should behave, and exactly what it means to be a "good" mom.

Men don't have "daddy wars" because, for the most part, we don't judge men for being fathers the way we judge moms for being mothers. Men are almost uniformly praised for performing even the most basic tasks of fatherhood. Put the kids to bed? You're a hero. Cook a meal for your children? Someone get this man a Father of the Year award, stat! And, of course, men who identify themselves as fathers in public never have to worry about being seen as less ambitious, less sexy, or less of a person.

Moms often have to work twice as hard as men and even childless women to prove that we're still capable of hard work and dedication, that we're still sexual beings, and that there's more to us than the roles we play within our own families. And, while I certainly understand the urge to try to opt out of having to overcome those hurdles, there's no amount of title-withholding that will change the way our culture views and interacts with women who are mothers.

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Blaming moms for taking pride in the motherhood aspect of their identities isn't going to fix the problem, and no woman deserves to be treated as less-than because of her motherhood status or how deeply she invests herself in the act of raising children. Change starts with asserting ourselves as whole people. That means challenging the idea that moms must look, dress, act, think, or behave in a certain way. It means demanding that parenthood is just as much a man's job as it is a woman's. It means challenging lawmakers and employers to make space for parents and invest in social programs that allow families to thrive. It means embracing the parts of ourselves that are forever changed by motherhood, but also refusing to let go of the interests and ambitions that make up the parts of ourselves that have nothing to do with our kids.

Motherhood is not the sum total of my identity, but it is an unavoidable part of who I am and something that's changed me in deeply significant ways. It takes a long time to wrestle with all the parts of who you are and figure out where "mom" fits in the puzzle. That's why you will see mom in any bio I write for myself -- because that role is as much a part of me as any other, and I've worked too hard to let society decide what makes me valuable.

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