Our Five Ring Circus: Motherhood Shaming

Friday, July 29, 2016

Motherhood Shaming

Motherhood shaming is at an all-time high right now.  We've all done it to some extent, and most likely, many of us have been victims of it. It's so easy to unfairly judge a mother without knowing the whole story, and according to the internet, it's ALWAYS the mother's fault when something goes wrong.

Why is motherhood shaming so prevalent these days? Even though we say we don't do it, we all do it at one point or another. Just step back and listen in your social circles. I guarantee you'll hear motherhood shaming. Is it a way to build ourselves up and make our lives seem better or is it simply because that's what we do to connect other moms? I'm not quite sure, but one thing is certain: It's getting out of control!

I have a personal experience with motherhood shaming. Shortly after Liam was born, one of my posts about having a child with Down syndrome went viral.  Bloggers and writers are always warned about one thing, and that is don't read the comments. And it is absolutely true. Although most of the comments were very positive, there were a few from internet trolls just trying to start a fight. There were also a few genuinely hurtful comments. One sticks out the most: "The child is not retarded. The parents are retarded for bringing a child who has Down syndrome into the world. There's prenatal testing for that." OUCH.  But here's the thing. That person did not read beyond the title. He judged me unfairly without even reading that it was never detected through blood tests and ultrasounds. I think we can agree that in many cases, we judge other mothers at first glance, without seeing the big picture.

 I recently had the pleasure of watching a pre-screening of Tallulah, a movie written and directed by Sian Heder.  The story follows Tallulah (Ellen Page) who is a young woman with no direction in life. After Tallulah's boyfriend leaves her, Tallulah finds herself in an incredibly tough situation where a seemingly unfit mother leaves her toddler in the care of Tallulah while she goes out for the night. When the woman returns and passes out drunk on the bed, leaving her toddler to fend for herself, Tallulah makes the decision to take the toddler from her mother.  Tallulah turns to her boyfriend's mother (Allison Janney) for help, even though she was the first woman her boyfriend ran away from.  I'm not going to give away anything other than the basic synopsis. This incredibly well written and well acted movie deserves to be seen!

After viewing the movie, I had the amazing opportunity to join a Google Hangout with four other Netflix Stream Team members for an interview with Sian Heder, the talented writer and director of Tallulah. It was such a great experience and I loved getting the behind-the-scenes scoop. The plot was loosely based on an experience Sian Heder had as a nanny at a hotel and several of the scenes were inspired by some of her personal experiences and relationships.  I loved the movie the first time around and I can't wait to watch it again now that I have the inside scoop on the some of the scenes!

I could go on and on about the incredible actors, the well written script and the way the storyline draws you in and touches your heart, but what I really want to focus on is the underlying theme of motherhood shaming. My immediate reaction was to support Tallulah's decision, because in my opinion, that mother didn't deserve her child. But on the other hand, it isn't morally right to kidnap a child. Was that child better off with her own neglectful mother or better off with Tallulah? If Tallulah hadn't reacted in that manner, would the child's life be at stake? Although I found myself in favor of Tallulah's decision, my reaction and judgment was a classic case of motherhood shaming.

I think we can all agree that it isn't fair to judge another mother without knowing all the details about the situation.  I tend to believe that life isn't black and white. There are lots of shades of gray in between.  But is motherhood shaming warranted in some situations, like the situation Tallulah faced? 

I will say that because of my own experience, I try not to judge other mothers. I believe in offering encouragement and support, and even defending mothers who are being judged unfairly in certain situations. I believe that it's better to offer help instead of jumping in on the motherhood shaming. I believe in unity. I believe in forgiveness. I believe we must always have an open mind. Most of all, I don't believe there are any perfect human beings, that there isn't a right or wrong answer in most cases and that mistakes happen. The storyline of Tallulah encouraged me to see both sides of the picture, but I still find myself judging some mothers in the most extreme cases. But is that really okay to do?

I want to hear YOUR thoughts about motherhood shaming in the comments below. Have you ever unfairly judged another mother? Have you ever been a victim of motherhood shaming? Are there certain situations that make it okay to shame another mother? What do you think we can do to stop it from spiraling out of control?

Tallulah is definitely a film that touches your heart, makes you think, and it just might change your mind about what you believe in the middle of the movie. Tallulah premieres on Netflix and in select theaters on July 29, 2016.  I highly recommend watching the movie and I would love to hear what you think!

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DISCLOSURE:  I am a member of the StreamTeam. As a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam I am provided with a subscription to Netflix and I also receive other products, special opportunities and exclusive information. All opinions are my own.


  1. I love this post so much! Motherhood shaming is something that has bothered me for a long time now. I'm not perfect and I know I've said things that I shouldn't have. What bothers me so much these days is that people aren't allowed to have an opinion unless it's the "right" opinion. Goodness people, none of us are perfect or the same. If that was the case than life and friendships would be pretty boring. I'm sick of people getting on their high horse or jumping all over someone for not agreeing not or believing exactly the way they do. Ugh! And I have been shamed before. My son had horrible separation anxiety at 4 months old until about 18 months. I actually had someone say "well maybe if you put him down instead of always holding him he would be more friendly" and "we'd like him if he actually let us." Wtf people? He was a baby and I wasn't holding him all of the time. It was just him and or pediatrician said it was completely normal.

  2. What an interesting post! That movie sounds good. Shaming in general is so difficult. I have definitely been judged both on my parenting and otherwise and it's so unfair to jump to conclusions on a person when you don't know their whole story.

  3. I want to watch this now. I do not like any type of shaming but feel it is super high right now too. :(

  4. Yes, I definitely have been shamed. My daughter has psychological issues that are hard to define to others...they think she's just "weird", but in reality she is on the Autism Spectrum, and also has multiple other issues. Because of this, we have to be VERY careful what we allow her to watch, read, and do, and even if she's having a conversation we have to keep an ear open that she doesn't go too far because she will just keep talking, saying whatever pops in her head, even if it's inappropriate. We can usually redirect BEFORE it gets to that point, so other people don't quite understand what the problem is.
    Well, we've been accused of being too strict, and more than one time have been told that our strictness is the reason for her being socially awkward. Sorry, people, it's the other way around. We give her as much freedom as we can. I know my kid better than you do and I most certainly care about her more than you do. On the other hand, I do see why they might think that... But I'm sorry I don't feel I should have to explain my child's emotional and mental health to everyone that I meet so that I don't get judged for it.

    I sometimes have thoughts that might be considered shaming, but I keep my mouth shut. I do see parents too absorbed in their own life to pay attention to their kids ALL THE TIME, and I think that’s why when something serious happens the parent gets bawled out (Like the gorilla incident. This mother might not have been guilty of it, but since so many ARE, this woman got reamed out terribly based on assumption. Even if it WAS her fault, it was an awful situation, so cut the poor woman some slack!)

  5. This is a great post and a very important one. I think in all areas it is important not to judge. People do not know what someone else is going through and the added stress of being judged can be devastating. This movie will go on my list to watch. I hope you have a great weekend my friend!

  6. I so agree that motherhood and parent shaming in general runs rampant. I actually wrote a post sort of about this awhile ago. How it's normal to judge to some degree, but there's a difference between judgment and condemnation. It's so easy for people to sit behind their computer screen and think they know everything and feel high and mighty. I've never been shamed, to my face, but I don't even want to know what people think about my parenting when I'm out and about with my littles in tow, lol.

  7. I always say you can tell who the strong ones are because they are the ones building others up. Its so much easier to tear others down. I'll put this in my must watch list.

  8. Tallulah sounds like a good, thought-provoking movie. I think shaming of any kind is at an all-time high right now and I think it's because it's so easy to put negative opinions out on the Internet. No one is perfect, and people need to be more supportive of each other.


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