How to Fight Mom Shame
Y’all, my heart is aching today. I’m watching some of my mama friends walk through some of the valleys- nay, ABYSSES of motherhood and I’m having all of the sad and angry feels. One of them is a first-time mom whose little one wouldn’t nurse like she’d hoped and now she’s dealing with postpartum depression and struggling to find a med that works for her. Another just found out today that she’s having yet another miscarriage.
As if the pain and grief and worry and stress isn’t enough, I’m also watching them wrestle with another aggressive and just plain nasty emotion: shame
“Well if I had just…”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“If I had only known…”
“I feel like such an idiot for hoping…
Anyone who has been in one of the many pits of despair that can mark the motherhood journey can tell you that when a CHILD is involved (or even just the dream of or desire for a child), we cannot help but have moments of blaming ourselves. One of the deepest emotions in motherhood is the desire to be able to exert our mom-ness over everything, to be able to protect and to nurture and to smooth the path for our babies, for our families, for ourselves as their moms, and when that is taken from us, it triggers something deep inside that I could not even begin to explain to someone who hasn’t walked the past.
We can sit with them in these moments and offer platitudes like, “Sweetie! It’s not your fault!” and even give directions like, “Don’t blame yourself!” And we SHOULD say these things. We need to speak these words to them, they need to hear them on repeat and WE need to hear them on repeat when it’s our turn down in the pit.
But anyone who has been in those dark moments knows that being TOLD not to feel shame and actually succeeding at releasing it are two very different things. And we can’t do it for them, even though we wish we could.
But each of us has a very powerful weapon at our disposal, a shame-blasting missile that can chip away at the thoughts of guilt and despair that encase our sisters in these dark seasons:
Our Very Own Stories
See, Shame is like a toxic, caustic fungus that works best when left all alone, tucked away in the dark, stagnant, recesses of our hearts.
Shame wants us to believe we are the worst mom ever and we are all alone. Shame does its best work when we think no other mom has ever been where we are.
As soon as light is introduced, as soon as the air around it starts to move, the atmosphere starts to shift, Mom-Shame starts to recede and lose its grip. And NOTHING shines brighter than the story of someone else who has been there letting us know we are not alone.
When I’m in my dark moments and someone else tells me her story, tells me she’s been there, walked through the same valley or had similar struggles in a different valley, all of a sudden I can actually FEEL my heart lift.
Our own stories and experiences, those we can tell to other moms in their dark moments, are weapons so powerful that shame doesn’t stand a chance. When we are brave enough to share our own darkness with others, all of a sudden EVERYONE’S world gets lighter.
Sharing our stories can be scary. Often, our own stories of struggles still have a hefty dose of shame clinging to them, weighing them down and threatening to erode our peace whenever it gets a chance. It can be easier sometimes to take a deep breath and pat ourselves on the back for not being there anymore and just keep it moving.
And truthfully, sometimes telling our own stories can be re-traumatizing, too real and painful. We should NEVER compromise our own well-being.
But when we can muster the courage, telling our stories is a powerful weapon with which we can wage war on behalf of our sisters. We don’t even have to be telling it to someone down in the trenches in the moment, speaking of our struggles shifts the atmosphere whenever it happens. Because someday, someone will be going through what I’ve been through and will be able to say, “Oh, I remember when she went through that. I’m not alone” or someone will tell her, “Hey, you’re not alone, I have this thread.”
So, TELL THOSE STORIES, LADIES!!!!! They are weapons against darkness. When we sit beside our sisters in their dark moments, we will wish to heck we could take their pain away yet know we can’t. But we can do a heavy-duty dose of shame-blasting by telling her YOU ARE NOT ALONE! IT HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF US! And by doing that, we can put her a step ahead in her journey of healing.
So, when you see a mom in the dark, you run to her and shine that light of yours. When we all shine together, Mom-Shame doesn’t stand a chance.