Parents

Bullying Among New Moms Is Common, And It's A Problem

The so-called parenting village can be a pretty vicious place.

It takes a village, as the old saying goes, and parents today often seek out that support network, whether it’s through playgroups, Facebook groups, or simply chatting up other parents at the park.

But, as we’ve all likely seen in the comments section of any parenting Facebook post (calm down, Brenda, not everyone thinks hot dogs are poison), these networks don’t always offer up the support and camaraderie new parents really need. Mom shame and judgment run rampant, both online and via the direct comments from other parents who disagree with someone’s choices.

Almost 70 per cent of parents even report being bullied by another adult, according to a survey by TODAY Parents, just for being different (one mom said she was bullied for being quirky, for instance) or making different parenting choices. For those on the receiving end of that treatment, the so-called parenting village can be a lonely and isolating place.

“I tend to just keep to myself now. But like, you always second guess yourself, and feel uncomfortable talking to people,” Hamilton mom Leanne Stephenson told HuffPost Canada.

Stephenson said she feels constantly judged because she breastfeeds her 18-month-old daughter overnight, and bed-shares with her. The judgment comes from all directions, she said, including family members, friends, co-workers, her managers at work, other parents, and Facebook parenting groups, where she’s been told it’s “not normal” for babies that age to still be waking in the night.

WATCH: The truth about baby sleep. Story continues below.

″(They) tell me I’m crazy, that I’m making a mistake,” she said.

“And it’s been suggested as well that I’m creating bad habits, that if I always sleep with my daughter she’ll never sleep on her own.”

Mom shame and bullying is a problem

Recent studies show that mom shaming is alive and well, with 80 per cent of millennial moms saying they’ve been shamed. Another 2017 study found that 61 per cent of moms with kids age 0 to five say they’ve been criticized for their parenting choices. Discipline, diet, and sleep were the most common topics of criticism, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

Half of those who have been criticized say they now avoid those unleashing the judgment (including family members, friends, other moms in public, and social media).

That self isolation is a problem, given that parenthood can already be an especially lonely time. Most new moms (82 per cent) feel lonely after having a baby, according to 2018 U.K. research. And loneliness poses risks to both your physical and emotional health, Psychology Today notes.

To help combat new parent loneliness, Psychology Today recommends reaching out to family and friends, and attending parent groups ... the same places where so many parents feel judged.

Yes, it is bullying

Marie Claire notes that even though it may seem contradictory that the same parents raising their children to be kind are bullying other parents, “it’s bullying 101: Belittling someone else’s choice makes you feel better about your own.”

And it’s common for people within the same social group (such as women with young children), to attempt to “gain stature by tearing down others.”

“Whether it’s a mom being snarky, exclusionary, judgmental, manipulative or outright cruel, it can cause major distress in the women on the receiving end of the behavior, and creates hugely unhealthy relationships,” Connecticut psychotherapist Heather Quinlan previously told Marie Claire.

Moms who are bullied can feel a lot of distress.
Moms who are bullied can feel a lot of distress.

Dr. Kathleen P. Allen told TODAY Parents that separating yourself from the bully may be necessary “for self-preservation.”

“In doing so, remember to also disconnect from these mothers on social media in order to protect yourself and the constant exposure to it,” she added.

After facing so much judgment for extended bed-sharing and breastfeeding, Stephenson tends to keep to herself. But she doesn’t regret her parenting choices.

“I can’t go on lack of sleep. Us sleeping together is how everyone sleeps and survives,” she told HuffPost Canada.

“I am living with my decisions and what I’m comfortable with. And that’s how I respond to people.”

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