There is a conversation about Shame that needs to take place, parents. It is a looong conversation but we have to start it at least because it’s EVERYWHERE.
In her book Daring Greatly (which I cannot recommend enough!), shame specialist and researcher Brene Brown writes; “Mother shame is ubiquitous (I looked that up. It means ever-present, permeating, abundant)– it’s a birth-right for girls and women.”
My commenter Michelle wrote after my post, “This is exactly what discourses of motherhood do to us. It sets us up for feeling like failures. Perfection and this planet does not gel. This is the planet where we come to experience the opposites. We have to change these constructions of motherhood. ”
I don’t know about you but I am tired of feeling shame about parenting. Like there’s a way to get it right and a way to get it wrong.
There are so many voices in our society telling us ‘How To Be’. Our parents, our teachers, the magazines, the philosophers…
And if we don’t conform then there must be something wrong with us, right?
When it comes to parenting, it’s Shame City. Everyone has an opinion – and it’s no fun getting those raised eyebrows, is it?
These influences seem external but Shame itself is an internal experience. It’s that sinking, burning feeling that comes when you feel you’ve failed or are bad, or not good enough. If you keep it inside it can fester. If you bring it out into the light – show it, share it, talk about it – it simply dies. Shame can’t survive exposure.
So let’s talk about those baby clinics. Oh man! They’re kind and sweet and well-meaning but they work with s h a m e!
I remember being a new mom. To my great relief (and surprise) my freakishly vulnerable baby was thriving and happy (enough) but each time I came home from the weigh-in and check-up I felt anxious and not-good-enough. After a while I started to wonder why. I realised that the kind ‘all-knowing’ nurse was asking me things in a way that implied I didn’t know what I was doing – which of course I didn’t, but I do have instincts you know lady!
She wasn’t doing it on purpose. She was just trying to help and support me but she made me feel inadequate and that was so shameful. I think I became afraid of my baby. Afraid of getting it wrong and causing him harm.
So I stopped going. It was both a defiant act of self-protection and a vote of confidence in myself and my child. He just grew up un-weighed. But the fear of shame lingered. I hear it when women talk about their baby clinic check-up. That tingle of anxiety…
And don’t even get me STARTED on the parenting websites. Some of them are blatantly authoritarian but even the ones that are really thoughtful and useful have a problem because they tap right into this shame thing we’ve got going on.
I read all those wonderful suggestions about how to deal with my child and I’m left feeling anxious about not getting it right. What’s going on here?
I once read a short paragraph stating that we shouldn’t use shame to discipline our children. I TOTALLY agree with that. But it’s so much easier in theory – especially if shame has been one of the key components of your own discipline as a child. So I found myself feeling ashamed that I sometimes slip and use shame…
‘Let’s not shame parents for shaming shall we?’ I commented.
Talk about fighting fire with fire, hitting our child for hitting, killing someone for killing… an eye for an eye and everyone is blind.
You. Me. We. Are fine. Just as we are. We’re doing the best we can. And it is good enough.
Brene Brown suggests we practice building up ‘shame resilience’. She offers three things to do in moments of feeling shame:
1) Lean into it not away from it. Practice courage and reach out. Share your shame story with someone compassionate and reliable. Remember, Shame dies in the light.
2) Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love (not how you usually do it). Try, “It’s ok. You’re just human. You can make mistakes and not be perfect…You are still loveable and worthy”
3) Own the story. Don’t hide or bury it. If you own it you get to write the ending.
Let’s practice courage, parents. Let’s stop with the shame thing already. Let’s reach out, love ourselves and keep talking about this!
You are worthy of love and belonging.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.