Have you been a victim of 'mum-shaming'?
I've written before about how our identity shifts when we become parents. There's also a shift - whether we like it or not - in how society sees parents too. This week, I spoke to the Parents website about the concept of 'mum-shaming', and the importance of mums having their own social network and social life away from the home. Click here to read the full article
The fabric of our society has changed in the past few decades when we think about traditional gender roles in parenting and childcare. Shared parental leave, double income families, wraparound childcare - this all means that in many cases we have moved away from the household with a male breadwinner and a female housewife.
However, one area where we haven’t necessarily caught up, is in our attitude to socialising and leisure time. It’s as if we assume that a mum’s identity has changed now that she has had a child, and that she might not want - or need - to socialise in the same way any more. We might refer to a dad as ‘babysitting’ while mum goes out - when he isn’t ‘babysitting', he is simply looking after his own children.
This might sound like semantics, but it’s a meaningful example of the different expectations that we place on different parents in the household. This can lead to what some people refer to as ‘mum guilt’, a sense of guilt or shame about their performance as a mum. This guilt can fester, and it might accompany other feelings like frustration or resentment. This might manifest in all kinds of different ways, such as angry outbursts, a sense of anxiety or depression. For the article, I was asked to think about the role of our social lives - how they are important for mums, but how mums might be judged for going out. When we think about friendships and socialising, we all have different needs. Some of us are introverts, some of us are extroverts, some enjoy big nights out, some enjoy quiet nights in. But if we are going to generalise, then let’s think about the connection between motherhood and our sense of identity. Becoming a mum is a period of transition. It can bring enormous joy and fulfilment but there can also be a sense of lost identity. Socialising plays an important role here. Being with people who appreciate your opinions, your ideas, your sense of humour. It offers an anchor, it helps to retain a sense of who we are. It’s linked to our self-esteem, as it’s a reminder that we deserve to look after ourselves.
Motherhood can be a time of worry and anxiety, as we feel a sense of responsibility for our child’s wellbeing and safety. For many people, the pandemic heightened these worries, as we became used to being told that the outside world was unsafe. This has led to an increased in social anxiety, which can make us feel withdrawn or isolated. If we are able to get out, to socialise, to connect, it helps us to retain perspective.