Remember when people used to say it takes a village to raise a child? It's true. But in a world like ours now, mothers are raising children by themselves afraid to ask for help from the village, scared to open up about their parenting challenges for fear of getting ridiculed, shamed, and judged.
We sat down with five moms who shared their worst parent shaming experiences and gave them a chance to say what’s been in their hearts all this time.
“They say I’m too permissive and that my children lack discipline because my two kids can’t keep a routine and often speak their minds.” Single moms who play the role of both mom and dad often have to work double time to provide the needs of the children. Most of them, aside from caring for the kids, have to step up and become breadwinners too. This is the case for JR Bustamante, a freelance writer and single mother of three. Being a single parent gets tough with parent shamers around.
“In our village, the old church-going women and their self-righteous children always have something to say,” she says. JR feels she is often up against power-trippers who often criticize her parenting style.
“They accuse me of being too lax with my children and that my kids lack discipline. They get dirty a lot too and that’s another pintas,” she shares. “But since I’m a single mom and I have to work really hard I am often very busy. I can’t afford a yaya as a freelancer. My kids speak their mind and are independent, which is common for home-schooled children like them. I wish I could maintain a routine but I come home late at times and write at odd hours , so their routine and sleeping time varies too,” she explains.
“I hope people can just mind their own business, especially those who aren’t even moms, because they don’t really know how hard it is. People don’t know how difficult it is to be a single mom who’s the sole breadwinner of the family. We are doing the best we can to raise our kids on our own, and these people who live to criticize are not helping at all,” she explains.
“Someone once told my daughter while I was carrying her ‘oh malinis ka ngayon ah (you look clean today)’ and then proceeded to lecture me on how I should tie my daughter’s hair all the time like what she does to her grandchildren.” Working mothers are often torn between the pressures in the office and the responsibilities at home. Juggling both and pressuring themselves to strike a balance is next to impossible, which is why at times mommy Jane Cabanlig doesn’t even have the time to tie her daughter’s hair in nice little buns, the way other moms do. That, and the little girl just doesn’t like having hair ornaments on her head.
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“We have a neighbor who would sometimes bring her grandchildren over to my place to let them play with my kids. One time, she saw me carrying my daughter and so she told my daughter ‘O, malinis ka ngayon ah [you look clean today]' which I know was really directed towards me,” Jane shares.
True enough, the woman proceeded to lecture her about her child’s hair. “She told me I should tie my child’s hair all the time, because that’s what she does for her grandkids. She said ‘Tingnan mo apo ko lagi naka ipit ng maayos’ [look at my grand daughter her hair’s always neatly tied]'. She would also at times criticize what I feed my kids even if these are often just fruits. She would say, ‘Malamig yan sa tyan, wag papakainin ng ganyan,” she continues. Jane hopes women will find another hobby and stop comparing their kids with others’.
“A woman once told me ‘dumedede pa yan ang laki na, wala nang sustansya yan’ because she found out I was breastfeeding my toddler while I was pregnant with my second child” Having a child and raising a family while you’re abroad away from your friends and family is a tough job. Trying to raise a family a continent away from your support system is challenging, to say the least. Parents have to deal with the usual challenges that come with having a baby -- which is already difficult, to begin with -- while they’re adjusting to foreign culture. Mommy Shirley Solis has had to face such challenges and, on top of that, deal with parent shamers.
“When this woman found out I was still breastfeeding, she told me I have to stop it because I was pregnant with my second child. She said ‘Wala nang sustansya iyan’ [your breastmilk doesn’t have nutrients anymore]', and that it would be bad for the baby in my tummy,” she shares.
“I checked with my OB and she said it’s fine [to still breastfeed] as long as there’s no problem with my pregnancy,” Shirley shares.
She now has two healthy, happy, children whom she intends to raise in Canada. She feels pregnant women shouldn’t have to succumb to the pressures dictated by people who feel like they’re experts on things. Moms should always check with their doctors and trust their instincts.
“A woman told me ‘Pang-dalaga lang yan (that’s only for single women). When I was a young mom like you I stayed home with my kids all the time. I never went out’” With the seemingly insurmountable responsibilities that come with being a parent, it’s important for them to get all the support they can get, as numerous research have shown. Friends are like a lifeline that you can lean on in times of need, which is why mommy Tomnie Susa finds time to have dinner with her officemates every once in awhile.
“I would sometimes go out to dinner with my officemates and friends. My husband has no problem with this, but there are people who disagree. One woman told me ‘Pang-dalaga lang yan’ [that’s only for single women]', and that I shouldn’t be going out with friends because I already have a husband and kids. She even went as far as saying that when she was my age and also married with kids, she never went out with friends because it was inappropriate for a mother to do so,” Tomnie shares.
“But it’s not like I go clubbing! I just hang out and have dinner with friends sometimes. And it’s not even as often as she’s making it out to be; it's more like once every quarter,” she explains.
Tomnie hopes people will understand that parenting from decades ago might not be the same as parenting now. Parents now might be burdened with a different set of challenges and have different circumstances. She hopes people would understand that maintaining friendships is important so we can have social support as we go through the challenges that come with being a parent.
“My daughter’s former teacher once told me ‘Had your daughter been given proper attention and discipline at home she wouldn’t be misbehaving,’ -- it was so loud all the other moms heard her!” No mother is perfect, and our children don’t come with a ready manual. Most of us learn along the way, and might take awhile to have this whole parenting thing figured out. But most mothers try their best given the circumstances. That’s why it hurts when you hear criticisms about your parenting, or worse, about your children. This is what happened to Nessie Ventura at her child’s previous school.
“I noticed that my daughter had a big bruise on her thigh when she got home, and when I asked her about it, she said that her classmate kicked her. The next day, I went to her school to talk to her teacher to see if she was aware of the incident. She said she wasn’t sure how my daughter got the bruise, so I got upset and reacted like any mother would. When I asked why she wasn’t aware that the kids in her class were fighting, she didn’t answer the question but instead pointed out that if my daughter was given proper attention and discipline at home she wouldn’t be misbehaving. What made it even worse was that it was so loud, it echoed in the gym and the other moms heard it,” she narrates.
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“After talking to her superior, I had to go home and cry. She eventually apologized but I have never really gotten over what she did. Her words hurt me so bad. I told her I had to leave my full-time job so I can focus on my kids because it’s hard to find a good nanny these days,” she recalls.
“I know I am not a perfect mom and I’m still learning how to parent my daughters,” she declares. She feels that those who are quick to judge are often the ones who don’t know what challenges these moms are facing.
If you think you could be a parent shamer, think about this: the next time you are tempted to judge, remind yourself that you might not really know what this parent is going through.
Parenting is different for everyone; what might have worked for you might not apply to someone else, given her situation. You have no idea what goes on inside their home, and you have no clue about what she has to give up to raise her kids.
Before you open your mouth to say something, think first how that comment will make the parent feel. Evaluate your thoughts and your words.
Will saying your opinion help other parents? Will it matter? Is it something important, or are you going to share this only to make yourself feel better about yourself? Are you going to step on this parent, trample on her challenges so you can look better than everyone else? If that's the only reason (which might be hard to admit), better keep your thoughts to yourself. We all could use a little less negativity and judgment.