Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mommy shaming busybodies...

I have a good friend I know online and off.  He's a good guy who cares about other people.  I don't have any kids myself.  He is the father of four, two adult sons and two little girls.  Yesterday, he asked on Facebook if he should say something to a mother of a small child whom he thinks is underdressed for the weather.

My answer was "No."

It's funny, too, because I had just read an article about "mommy shaming", a phenomenon with which I was previously and gloriously unacquainted.  One of the situations in the article was about a mom who was "shamed" because people thought her son was underdressed for the weather.  What they didn't know was that she and her son had been fighting over what he would wear outside for ten or twenty minutes before they went outside.  Because they had to go out, she finally relented and let him go coatless.  She rightly figured that he would eventually learn to dress appropriately for the weather.

Granted, in this situation, the child was very young.  But who knows?  Maybe she has "sensory issues".  Maybe she was wearing a coat and it got wet.  Maybe the child is unusually hot natured and doesn't get cold.  The point is, you don't know... and unless the kid is in obvious danger or distress, your mommy shaming comment is unlikely to do anything but piss someone off and ruin their day.  If you're out and about and you see a kid who is what you'd consider underdressed, what do you expect the mom to do about it?  Do you think she's carrying a coat and should put it on her child so you'll feel better?  Frankly, it's not really your business.

When I was a kid, I hated wearing shoes.  I would not wear them in the house or out.  We lived in England and I used to run around the neighborhood barefoot.  I'm sure lots of people thought my mom was nuts for letting me do that.  But as I got older, I eventually learned why shoes are important and I grew up to be the stalwart woman you know and love now (kidding, of course... most people reading this blog don't actually know me and probably wouldn't love me if they did).  I still rarely wear shoes unless I'm out in public.  I even go outside barefoot in winter, mainly because I'm too lazy to put my shoes on.

Another man on my friend's Facebook piped up and said my friend should have said something.  Then he commented that he saw a guy with an 18 month old child strapped to him while he was snowboarding.  The guy got away from him before he could say anything to him, questioning his parental judgment.  If I were the snowboarding dad, I might have told the guy to fuck off.  Or I might have given him a tight smile and gone back to what I was doing.

I'm not sure I'd ever take a toddler snowboarding.  For one thing, I don't know how to snowboard.  For another, I don't have kids of my own and would never risk the health and safety of someone else's child.  But it's not my place to tell someone what they should and shouldn't do with their kids if there is no law or rule against it.  Everybody's situation is different.  Maybe the guy is a master snowboarder.  Maybe the kid is an adrenaline junkie.  Who knows?  If you aren't acquainted with the people involved, you probably don't know.

While I don't think it's wrong to speak up if a child is in clear danger or distress or is doing something illegal, I do think sometimes people are too free with their opinions about someone else's parenting decisions.  Moreover, sometimes when you get up on your moral high horse and judge other peoples' parenting skills, karma gives you a smackdown.

A funny look at Mommy shaming...
Of course, there is the camp that says parents should insist that their kids bundle up when they go outside.  And frankly, I think that's fine, too.  If you are a parent, you have the right to impose your will on your kids to a reasonable extent.  Just don't try to apply your parenting standards to other peoples' kids.  This blogger pretty much explains how I feel about this... and she's actually a mother herself!

Incidentally, I just found this hilarious blog called I Saw Your Nanny...  A woman is ranting about seeing a sick, underdressed kid at the post office.  People are saying that sick kids who don't want to dress for the weather should be forced to stay home.  As someone with an advanced degree in public health, I would say that bundled up or not, a sick child should stay home.  Keep your viruses to yourselves, please.


  1. i'm inclined to agree with you regarding mommy-shaming behavior. My dad is so skilled at conversation that he could probably work the topic into the discussion in such a casual way, implying that it's interesting that some children as well as adults are cold in certain attire while others would be excessively warm, and the parent would probably take it at face value it such was the case, and if she truly had under-dressed her child, she might think twice. My mom would never even attempt such a conversation, though. and she's the psychologist of the two of them. The bottom line is that we know that short of outright hypothermia, being cold does not cause illness, and if a child is cold, he or she will speak up unless it's a 10-year-old trying to prove a point, in which case the kid deserves to be a bit uncomfortable.

  2. I just think it must be so hard to be a parent these days. People can be so judgmental. Granted, I say this thinking Bill's ex wife is a horrible mother. And I did tell her I think that, too. I wouldn't have done that, though, if she hadn't asked for it by riding a moral high horse all the time.

    I did once get very sick after being underdressed in cold weather. I was on a fox hunt in the winter time and had dressed in a polyester riding coat. We had to dress appropriately for the hunt and I didn't have a wool coat. I had put on long johns and panty hose under my breeches, but I still got really cold. I think I ended up with the flu and I was knocked out of commission for several days. I remember my riding coach had to call her husband to come pick up me and my pony and drive us back to the barn.

    Of course, I likely already had the virus before I got so damn cold.

  3. My dad and my profs would agree with you that being chilled for an extended period may have lowered your resistance but that the virus was what made you sick.

    1. Yeah... and though I didn't feel sick at the beginning of the ride, I sure did afterwards. That was one of the worst sicknesses of my lifetime. I distinctly remember being huddled under blankets and shivering for days. I also remember trying to go back to school too soon and being sent home to deal with my parents, who were not happy to have me there.


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