What to Do When Someone You Love Shames You for Your Parenting Style

Wendy Robinson | Jun 21, 2017 Being a Mom

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One of the first lessons you learn as a mom is that everyone -- no, seriously, EVERYONE -- has an opinion about how you should parent. It can feel like no matter what parenting choice you make, someone is going to think you're doing it wrong. 

It can be easier to brush off the shaming from strangers, like every single little old lady who scolded me for not putting socks on my baby. In June. In Arizona. (Okay, maybe I'm still a little annoyed about that.)

But what can be harder to shake off is when your mom-style gets judged or shamed by someone you love and trust. I talked to 15 moms who felt the sting of loved ones snarking on their parenting choices and how they tried to bounce back. Check out some serious cases of judgy mother-in-laws, sisters, and friends -- and how women handled them.

  • Let Go of the Guilt

    1

    "My dad doesn't understand why I work. Especially because my husband has a good job so I don't 'need' to. But I want to. I love my job. I worked hard for my career. But it still hurts to hear him spout off stuff like 'Why did you have a kid, if you are just going to let your nanny raise her?'

    "I'm really trying to not fall into the working-mom guilt trap, but it is hard when someone you love is so open about judging you. I try to remind myself that I'm role modeling for my daughter that women can have great careers too." -- Martha D., Seattle, Washington 

  • Stay Self-Confident

    2

    "My mother-in-law is convinced I'm trying to raise a 'sissy' because my son is still nursing (he's only 14 months!) and because I am quick to comfort him when he cries. She is part of the old-school, 'don't spoil the baby' breed. 

    "Thankfully my husband and I are on the same page, and I just remind myself that I am the mom, not her, so she can judge all she wants but she can't change who I am as a mom." -- Heather H., Virginia, Minnesota 

  • Shrug Off Outdated Beliefs

    3

    "I wore my first baby a lot in her first year. My grandma judged me all the time. Finally she couldn't handle it and bellowed, 'How do you ever expect her to grow?! She needs to lie on a bed or her legs won't grow.'

    "I was like, 'Uh, that's now how it works.'" -- Melanie H., Rochester, New York

    More from CafeMom: 16 Moms the Internet Mom-Shamed for Their Parenting

  • Remind Yourself That They Don't Get It

    4

    "My mom did not breastfeed. While she tries to be supportive and understanding (which feels so silly to write because it's the most normal thing in the world to me), she will try to cover me up or look around when we are in public and I'm nursing. Recently she asked, 'How are you ever going to wean him?'

    "And that really bothered me. She's pretty much the best mom and grandma ever except for this one very important piece of my journey in motherhood. 

    "In response, I will brush away her covers and explain that neither my baby nor I like that. Or say something like 'I'm not concerned with who is watching, I'm concerned about my baby being hungry.'" -- Ashley R., Lawrence, Kansas

  • Trust Your Instincts

    5

    "I've gotten shamed by my family for everything. Always. For example, we co-slept with our kids and still have an open door policy. My mom and dad cannot handle this. They say stuff to my kids and me about how 'unhealthy' this is, and 'She is too old to be in your bed. It's weird.'

    "I don't subscribe to any particular method; I do what feels right for me and listen to my instincts. That's my advice to any mama. Moms know their own children, and what works and feels right for them. It's gonna look different for everyone, but you do you." -- Allison E., Green Bay, Wisconsin

  • Stick by Your Choices

    6

    "We've decided to not share images of our son on social media. My husband is somewhat well-known (he is a news anchor) and I just want my son to have some privacy, since a lot of people feel like they know who we are and who my husband is. 

    "I didn't think this was a big deal but the grandparents are SO mad about it. They want to post his face all over Facebook and think we are being ridiculous about it. I get it -- he's cute and grandparents love to brag -- but this is the right choice for us. I'm 100 percent sure one of them will break the rules at some point and it will be some drama." -- Name withheld by request

  • Ignore the Negativity

    7

    "My mom gave me three parenting books for Christmas a year ago. It was especially hurtful because she is an early education specialist. Apparently she thinks my kids are spoiled. I didn't read a single one of them." -- Jessica Y., Saint Paul, Minnesota

    More from CafeMom: 9 Types of Moms We All Want to Avoid

  • Tune Out the Noise

    8

    "I had a home birth with my first two kids (followed my midwife to hospital practice for my third) and so I was shamed from the beginning. As if I was choosing to bring my baby into the world in an unsafe way, everyone shook their heads and tsk tsked at me. 

    "After the birth, they said I was too quick to hold the baby. Then they said I wasn't discreet enough about nursing. Then I was too soft for not doing cry-it-out. I finally learned I just had to tune out the noise and do what made sense for us." -- Andrea S., Tucson, Arizona

  • Look for the Positive Effects

    9

    "We live in an affluent neighborhood with schools that are considered very good, so a lot of people, including my sister, are very confused about why we choose to home school instead. My sister is a public school teacher so she is extra salty about it. She just doesn't understand that I've thought about it a lot, and the schools here are almost all white students. I don't want my daughter being the only kid of color in her class, so I joined an African American homeschooling group, and I am beyond pleased with the experience so far. My daughter is learning and growing and not having to deal with the institutional racism that is VERY REAL in the educational system. 

    "The haters can deal. My kid is flourishing." -- Maxine D., Edina, Minnesota 

    More from CafeMom: What Country Should You Live In Based on Your Parenting Style? Try This Cool Tool

  • Do What Works for You

    10

    "It's just me and my daughter. She had a crib. She could sleep in it just fine but getting up out of bed to nurse just seemed stupid. And we both seemed to sleep better when we were close. 

    "Cut to years later and she still would rather sleep with me. She has her own room and bed and uses it just fine when she wants to, but mostly we snuggle up and talk about crazy cool stuff or life sucks stuff or let me read you this cool part in my book. She's 12 now and I figure at some point she'll want her space.

    "We have the most calm and drama-free mornings I've ever seen, and she is strong and independent and pretty damn secure in herself. 

    "We're doing us, and my family with their raised eyebrow of judgment and snarky comments can shut it." -- Jennifer O., San Diego, California

  • Explain Why

    11

    "My dad, who is a great dad and grandfather, always tells me I let my daughter do too many dangerous things, like climb trees and scale rock ledges. I know he is just worried about her, but I had to tell him to just leave her be. I know what she is doing (I was a huge climber too), and she will too. I also had to explain how she is learning problem-solving skills and how to trust her mind and body to know what to do. He has since stopped telling her not to climb." -- Renee W., Saint Paul, Minnesota 

  • Have Someone Else Tell Them to Butt Out

    12

    "My childless aunt told me many times that I was too hard on my daughter, which, honestly, I was not -- it's called parenting. She is the fun, give-you-any-treat-you-want person, which kids totally need in their lives, but they need a mom that will also redirect and/or discipline them when necessary. I told her as much and when she said it again, my mom told her to butt out and let me do my job." -- Diana W., Oakland, California

    More from CafeMom: 12 Parenting Choices We'd Get Shamed For -- but Our Moms Never Did

  • Remember: They Don't See Your Side of It

    13

    "We had a difficult time with breastfeeding, with my daughter rejecting the boob at three months and me pumping exclusively for the next nine months to reach a year of breast milk. This resulted in struggling with low supply, taking medication, baking lactation cookies, and the whole nine yards.

    "The amount of 'breast is best,' 'you need to just try harder,' and the other criticism I got for this was amazing --  even from women who you would think would have been the most supportive.

    "Also, the number of comments like 'Oh, that's good for you but I really wanted my child to get the intelligence/health benefits/etc. that can only come from direct breastfeeding,' like I would actually make the conscious choice to not want these things for my kid." -- Beth F., Toronto, Ontario 

  • Try Not to Take It Seriously

    14

    "My family, especially my grandmother, are really shaming me about the fact that we didn't baptize our kids and that we don't go to church. My family is super religious but my husband and I just aren't. Like, at all.

    "We feel secure in our lack of faith, but it still stings to hear my sweet Nana ask why I want to risk my kids going to hell. Sheesh, Nana, lighten up." -- Georgia D., Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Don't Let It Get to You

    15

    "My son is often very anxious and has a 'freeze response' in group settings, which often includes not talking or making eye contact. People interpret this as an active choice to be rude and have told me I need to teach him some manners. 

    "He's just a kid!" -- Jenna L., Saint Paul, Minnesota 

    More from CafeMom: 12 Celebrities Who Were Body-Shamed Post-Pregnancy

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