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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Wallace, re-mom Founder

Shame on you, Mama.

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

The other day, I asked a thought-provoking question on our instagram page, that I've heard time and time again:

Why doesn't anyone ever tell you how hard motherhood is?

The responses were abundant, honest, and most commonly shared one theme: shame.

 

Brené Brown says, “shame is that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough.” In motherhood, shame is that quiet undercurrent beneath the surface of so much of the motherhood experience...everything from feeling shame around not being able to breast/chestfeed, to not feeding your child organic foods, to not doing Baby Led Weaning, to co-sleeping, to post-partum hair loss, to "bounce back" culture...society has done a pretty damn good job at making us feel small, and keeping us judging ourselves against unrealistic ideals of the "shoulds" of motherhood.


The responses to my question - as you can see from some of the responses in the photo below - seemed to focus on the fear of not "scaring" new moms, as well as the guilt around feeling incapable. I replied to a few of the comments, and conversations eventually surfaced that really oriented themselves around shame, whether the mother realized it or not. Let me explain.



 

I often hear of mothers holding back on telling the raw, unfiltered experience of motherhood in an effort to not "scare" a new mother. This can look like sharing only the socially acceptable challenges of motherhood, like how much your physical body changes, sleepless nights, and "fed is best", while withholding the "scarier" things like postpartum depression, loss of identity, relationship issues, or grieving your former life. While I'm always an advocate for sharing any advice with new moms, I'm going to poke a little at the concern around scaring new mothers and prompt a new thought...why would real experiences be considered scary?

Follow me for a moment while I connect some dots: experiences are only scary if we think they're scary. That sounds horribly obvious, but think about that for a moment (if you don't already know, I'm huge on "prompts & pauses" - a technique for deep thought and intentional response). If we normalized conversations on the motherhood experience and all of it's facets, then sharing all experiences would be just that: sharing experiences. "Bad" experiences can only be labelled bad if we're judging them. And in a utopian world where mothers openly share their experiences, most of which are shared experiences, no judgement can be applied to assign a "good" or "bad" motherhood experience. It would simply be an experience to learn from, and help other mothers learn from. They would be valid just for the mere fact that it was experienced. The fear around scaring other mothers wouldn't exist if there was no shame and judgement around your own experience of motherhood. Another viewpoint I'd like to offer: much of the judgement would be eliminated if we already knew about these situations and had support on how to handle them...which would require another mother openly sharing her experience (lightbulb!).


The guilt around feeling incapable is another theme riddled with shame. The notion of incapability implies there is a capability not being met - a measuring stick somewhere for what "good" motherhood experiences look like. While true incapability does exist in some cases around mental health/physical ability/providing resources and the basic necessities of life to raise a child, I'm not referring to those here. What I'm referring to here is the sense of incapability around "doing it all" as a modern working (or non-working) mother. Back to the judgement table we go, comparing our experiences to idealized versions of motherhood made known by social media, gender role expectations, and what our mothers did. Deep down, we don't want to share our perceived incapability because we feel ashamed that we aren't living up to some ideal standard of motherhood we expected of ourselves.


 

“If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.” - Brené Brown

I've quoted Brené twice in this blog, and that's for very good reason. She has excellent viewpoints on shame, this quote being one of them. We've already talked about the judgement part giving shame a reason to be around; it's the secrecy and silence that perpetuates the notions of fear and incapability.


When we openly share real lived experiences of motherhood, empathy can be further cultivated, helping mothers everywhere feel less isolated in their experience (isolation in motherhood is another hot topic). And, to state the obvious, the easier it would be to ask for, give, and receive help. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. To me, it takes a community to raise a mother - and in today's modern society, it takes intentional conversations to not let competition take over our need for community. This is the very reason I ask my audience tough questions, in an attempt change the narrative on motherhood, one "prompt & pause" at a time.

 

re-mom offers support for new working mothers that tackles topics such as shame, to help women thrive as mothers and as working professionals. To learn more about how we can help, visit www.re-mom.com/services, or email us at hello@re-mom.com to get the conversation started.

If you want to join in on intentional conversations on the working motherhood experience, join us on instagram (@re_mom_coaching) and keep an eye out for our prompts & pauses each Friday.



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