From brutal mommy-message-board comments to that random stranger who acts like your child is abandoned when you’re literally standing ten feet away, many mothers will tell you that they’ve felt criticized by others for their parenting skills. And now, a new survey shows just how widespread that harsh judgment actually is, as nearly two-thirds of mothers reported feeling “shamed” by people in their lives for the way they’re raising their children — especially by members of their own family.
The small survey, conducted by University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, polled a nationally representative sample of around 475 mothers with kids ranging from newborns up to 5 years old. They found that 61 percent of mothers reported receiving criticism about their parenting choices — largely from their co-parent, their in-laws, or their own parents. Surprisingly, mothers reported receiving less criticism from their friends, other mothers they come across in public, and even social-media commenters than their own families.
Additionally, 62 percent of the survey participants said they believe mothers generally get a lot of unhelpful advice from others, and 56 percent believe they get too much blame or not enough credit for how their child behaves. Most of the mothers said that they were criticized for how they discipline their child, while around half were shamed over nutrition and sleep patterns. Almost 40 percent received negative feedback about their choice to breast- or bottle-feed.
Luckily, most mothers seem to be taking the commentary in stride, as 67 percent reported that criticism merely made them feel more confident in their parenting choices. Yet 42 percent of the moms noted that occasionally, having their parenting abilities questioned does make them feel insecure about their choices.
The survey’s co-director Sarah Clark pointed out in a statement that most of the time, the criticism just ends up being more hurtful than helpful. “Our findings tap into the tensions moms face when parenting advice leads to more stress than reassurance and makes them feel more criticized than supported,” Clark said. “Mothers can get overwhelmed by so many conflicting views on the ‘best’ way to raise a child. Unsolicited advice — especially from the people closest to her child — can be perceived as meaning she’s not doing a good job as a mother. That can be hurtful.”