INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Breastfeeding or formula. Stay at home or work outside the home. Co-sleeping or cry it out. Everyone has an opinion on the “right” way to parent and there's no shortage of critics ready to pounce.
FOX59 sat down with Hoosier moms to talk about their experiences with other parents who give their unsolicited opinions on social media.
We talked to a group of women with Indianapolis Moms Blog. These women say they now feel like they can't do anything right.
"We had to supplement with formula and I had no clue about the mommy milk wars. It was definitely disheartening, heartbreaking and just kind of very discouraging," said mom Candace Boyd-Wiley.
Candace says the shame caused her to shy away from visitors, only allowing a select group to visit her newborn. She says the ridicule of bottle-feeding she faced intensified her postpartum depression.
"And it's hard and it's depressing and it's sad, so I would tell them ‘look at how you're treating other moms. Would you want another mom to treat you this way?’" Candace said.
Much of the hotbed of shame comes from social media.
On Indianapolis Moms Blog, they share their parenting experiences from uplifting posts with tips and tricks to harder topics like divorce and grief. The comment section on their blog is screened, but not so much on many other sites. Several of the women say they've had to leave other mom groups because of vicious attacks and harsh criticism.
“It just got so negative to the point where I was like ‘I can't do this, it's stressing me out,’" said mom Kait Baumgartner.
In a recent national poll of moms with kids under five, 61% say they've been criticized about their parenting choices. 42% of those shamed mothers say those harsh critiques made them feel unsure about their parenting choices.
The internet can be a cruel place, leaving many moms desperate to find a safe space. Parent coach and therapist Merecedes Samudio encourages moms to find their tribe. She calls it a shame proof parenting village.
"If you've heard a piece of advice that doesn't sit well with you, go talk to someone in your tribe and say ‘hey does this make sense to you? Is this something you've heard? Is this something you've seen me do? Are these things that you think I might need to change.’ And let that person that you trust and love and care for, let that be the person that helps you sort through some of that unsolicited advice that you might be feeling or having," Mercedes said.
Mercedes is the author of "Shame Proof Parenting." She says if you find yourself getting angry or worked up, put the phone down and close the social media app. And before you wage war on another mom, think about how you would feel if someone shamed you for just trying to do your best.
"I just wish that moms would embrace each other's opinions rather than shaming them for something that they believe in. I think it has to be more about acceptance than anything," said mom Lauren Schregardus