Mom shaming.

We've all seen it, we've all been the victim of it, most of us have probably been the giver of it at some point.  Unfortunately, with the advent of social media, many people feel they have been given carte blanche to tell others how to run their lives or manage their children.  Every day that I'm on social media, particularly Facebook with it's multitude of groups, I see women demeaning and belittling other women for their choices regarding their children or their lives.

The reality is, we were all raised differently, we all have different educations, different beliefs, different thought processes, and different ideas of how things should be done.  Just because something has worked well for you doesn't mean it will work for someone else.  I raised each one of my daughters slightly differently because they're wildly different individuals and what worked for one did not work for the other.

Before each session with my model moms, I warned them that we would be getting a bit personal, that I would be asking them questions, trying to dig deep, and attempting to bring some emotion to their portraits.  The responses ran the gamut from anger to deep pain in each and every woman.  In some cases, these women had reached out to others for help in a particular problem and had felt shamed for either being in that situation or having the audacity to ask and admit a need for help.  In their time of need, they were humiliated.  It's got to stop.  We have to stop placing our own desire to appear knowledgeable or wise above the NEED to be kind to our fellow human beings.

Serena and her daughters.  As a single mom having to work to provide the best life she can for her girls, this remark that she's heard probably more than once is stinging on a good day and heart breaking on a bad day.  When I asked her how a comment like that made her feel, it was hurt and anger.  We're all just doing the best we can to provide, take care of our kids and take care of ourselves.  Serena is a strong woman breaking herself to provide well for her children and teach them to be strong women.

 

Sammie and her kids.  I've been photographing her family for years, before her son was born.  I photographed him every three months for his first year of life and I witnessed, from somewhat afar, Sammie's struggle with post-partum depression and the decision to stop breastfeeding her son.  When I asked her how she felt during that time, she said overwhelmed, like each day was a black hole and that she was failing at the most basic tasks of being a mother.  While she was struggling through her depression, she was told that she was making a horribly selfish decision to stop breast feeding, that she wasn't doing the right thing for her son.  Mostly through text messages and Facebook because that's easier than saying those things to someone's face while they're falling apart.  Sammie is incredibly resilient and I'm sure her husband would agree that she is the center of family.

Randa and her daughters.  Again, someone I've known and photographed for years.  She was part of the stimulus for this project.  She and her husband recently purchased a home and Randa took a part time job in a daycare to help provide for her family.  The amount of judgment and grief she caught over her decision staggered me.  She recounted one instance of someone telling her, "you took a job taking care of other people's kids instead of being home with your own, good choice."  Can you even imagine how that would make someone feel?  Randa is one of the craftiest, most nurturing people that I know and she does a great job taking care of her kids.

Lacey and her kids.  Lacey's son has a developmental disorder.  He is, at times, rambunctious and difficult.  Lacey has faced criticism from all sides on her apparent inability to discipline her son, complete strangers have said hurtful things to her while her son is melting down.  I have to admit, I've been guilty of this same assumption on many occasions without stopping to consider what may actually be occurring is a young family dealing with an unknown condition.  We never know what is creating the situation that we are witnessing and should be more willing to lend a helping hand instead of a judging eye.  Lacey is caring, attentive, and loving with all of her children and is bearing a lot on her shoulders.

Carrie and her kids.  Carrie is driven to be a successful woman providing for her kids, she is open and honest about what her ambition has both given and taken away.  During her interview, she shared with me a story about moving up the ranks in the banking business, she was told once (by another woman) that she would be more successful if she wore more make up.  This absolutely boggles me.  I cannot conceive of a world where it's okay to tell someone that they way they apply their make up is wrong and is holding them back.  It's not okay, it's not okay to imply that someone isn't good enough just the way they are.  Carrie is strength personified, she is an amazing mom with a wonderfully open mind and heart allowing her children to be whoever they need to be.

We all have opinions, each and every one of us, it's built into our very nature.   It's my hope that through projects like this one, we can stop the process of tearing other people down, that we can begin to lift one another up, that we can share tips and ideas without the need to stand on a mountain and proclaim ourselves queen of all knowledge.

Words have a lasting power that we profoundly underestimate and once spoken they can't be retracted, that hurt can't be erased, and that mark we leave may stay with someone for the rest of their lives.  Make a decision before you utter something that could be hurtful, are you really trying to help or are you really trying to be right?