In advance of the discussion, we reached out to the HuffPost Parents audience to ask how mom-shaming has affected them. We received hundreds of stories of times real moms have experienced mom-shaming in their lives.
And what we learned is no surprise ― the shaming stretched into every area of women’s lives as parents, leading to them being judged for breastfeeding too long or not breastfeeding at all, giving birth at the hospital or giving birth at home, having too many kids or too few. They were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t.
Read on for some of most powerful stories they shared.
1. “What is it with strangers and being obsessed about your kid’s eating habits?”
I was at Cracker Barrel with my 1-year-old and my mother, and an older waitress came to take our order. We gave her our order, which did not include food for my son. She frowned, and asked if we would like to order him some applesauce, or water or juice? We said no, thank you. She frowned again, and said, “I’d bet he’d like something to eat, too.” I turned to her and sharply said, “He has a gastric feeding tube and isn’t allowed to have food or liquids, but thank you vey much for your intrusiveness.” I understand her not knowing about his medical issues, but it was not her place to push and insert her opinion on me feeding or not feeding my child. #WhatIsItWithStrangersAndBeingObessessedAboutYourKidsEatingHabits ― Rachel Engel
2. “I can’t believe you walk your children on leashes like dogs!”
I’m a single mother of twins. When they were about 2 or 3 years old, they had those backpack leashes on while we were standing in line to check out groceries. The lady behind me says “I can’t believe you walk your children on leashes like dogs!” I turned to face her, and in the same disdainful tone retorted, “I can’t believe you judge me out loud in front of all these people! ― Traci Roberts
3. “Not breastfeeding my baby was a big one for me.”
Not breastfeeding my baby was a big one for me. Family, friends, strangers, nurses, even my own mom shamed me into thinking I was somehow harming my child. Everyone had an opinion. She’d get sick, wouldn’t do well in school, would have a whole myriad of allergies, I wouldn’t ever bond with her and as a consequence she’d have personality disorders (wtf, right?!?). ― Kristina Nadeau
4. “My first real experience with mom-shaming came in the hospital, about 12 hours after giving birth to my son.”
My first real experience with mom-shaming came in the hospital, about 12 hours after giving birth to my son. The nurses were trying to get my baby to latch even as the doctor was stitching up my episiotomy... even as I was crying for more meds or numbing agents because I was feeling everything.
My kid latched immediately, but he was only happy while attached to me. I paged a nurse when I was close to breaking down, and she asked how long he’d been suckling. I replied... non stop for 6 hours.
I asked for a pacifier, and was scolded. The nurse even told my husband not to buy one because it would confuse the baby... even though he was obviously a pro. I asked if I could let him suckle my finger and was told not only would that confuse him, but would slow my milk coming in.
For two days, I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t put my son down. I went topless because he was ALWAYS latched, and the side he wasn’t attached to hurt too badly to have anything touching it. My nipples cracked and bled. I broke down on the last day and requested formula, I was scolded again and made to sign a stack of paperwork indicating that I had been informed of what a horrible decision this was. My son drank the formula, threw it up, and we went back to nursing. I felt like a horrible person. I was near suicidal with hormones and the feeling of shame. I resented my son. He was hurting me, and the nurses and doctors acted like the problem was me. I told my husband this was a mistake and I couldn’t be a mom. I told my husband to look into adoption because I was unfit and was struggling to bond with my newborn. I was a wreck.
We stopped on the way home from the hospital and bought one of every kind of paci. My kid took to the first one, and I finally slept. I healed (physically) and my kid breastfed without issue or confusion. He spit out his paci at 3 months and never looked back. My son is 4. I have a 2-year-old daughter. The memory of my treatment at that hospital still causes a strong reaction in me. It was scarring. ― Helen Owen
5. “I told her I was scheduled for a caesarean.”
I was expecting my second child and another mom asked what my due date was. I told her I was scheduled for a caesarean. She looked at me with a dirty look and said, “Really”? Back then I felt I needed to let her know it was for medical reasons (now I wouldn’t bother) and her response was, “Oh, well that’s OK then.” Like at that point she deemed it as acceptable. Whatever, lady. ― Shannon Holt
6. “Is her Dad around?”
I get shamed pretty often as a single mom. I always get asked, “Is her Dad around?” “Who keeps her while you work?” “Does he pay child support?” And people generally think I’m not equipped to care for my daughter on my own. ― Ashley Swan
7. “You won’t give her a sibling?”
I’m questioned a lot about only having one child: “You won’t give her a sibling? What if she gets sick? Who will take care of you when you’re old?” etc. Nunya business! ― Sara Helterman Shaddix
8. “It was so rude and meant to be so hurtful.”
My niece’s other aunt (opposite side of the family), when introduced to me, asked what I did. At the time I was a stay-at-home mom with a 2-year-old and 14-year-old. Her reply: “Well, that’s fine if you don’t mind your family going without because of you.” She didn’t know where or what my husband did for a living and whether or not somebody had to go without. It was so rude and meant to be so hurtful. ― Katrina Grote
9. “I had a man yell at me I was a horrible mother.”
I was walking my kid home from daycare; she was 3 at the time. She tripped over a patch of snow and fell and started to cry. I had a man yell at me I was a horrible mother, and he’s glad I wasn’t his. I was so scared I started taking a different route after that just to avoid that spot. It was even hard to go outside because you could see that corner from the porch. Absolutely terrifying. ― Ailim Hazel
10. “The total lack of support for mothers here in the U.S. is appalling.”
A month after I nearly died in childbirth, and after delayed recovery from surgery I received at that time, several people, Americans, who were fully aware of my birth story, shamed me for not-having returned to work by then! 4 weeks postpartum! I am originally from Canada, and the total lack of support for mothers here in the U.S. is appalling. The expectations placed on us, without adequate support, is... I don’t have words... insane? One of the biggest reasons we are failing as a society? ― Autumn Arundel
11. “I was amazed at what people, other moms, would say.”
As the mom to three children who needed speech services when they were young, I was amazed at just how many people asked me if I spoke to my children enough. It got to the point that I started saying, “You have to talk to them?” I was also shamed by some after we found out our daughter had brain damage. People wanted to know what I did to “cause” it. Or who in my family had issues. Or, didn’t I have an amino? I was amazed at what people, other moms, would say. ― Kathy Radigan
These quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.
HuffPost hosted a panel discussion about mom-shaming on May 4, 2017 in New York City, sponsored by Beech-Nut. Logistical and promotional consideration was provided by our sponsor. Content that appears on this site was produced exclusively by HuffPost.