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Parents are constantly shamed for their choices. From how we feed our children to how we educate them, everyone has an opinion. The result? Moms and dads feel endlessly judged for the choices they make — even if they have no other options. This week, families around the country are sharing their inspiring, funny, honest, and heartbreaking stories with Yahoo Parenting in an effort to spark conversations, a little compassion, and change in the way we think about parenting forever. Share your story with us — #NoShameParenting.
Sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff know what it’s like to feel judged — both have been in the public eye since they were kids, acting in movies and TV shows, topping the pop charts, and landing in plenty of paparazzi shots along the way. But now the one-time child stars have grown up and are parenting kids of their own — Hilary is mom to 3-year-old Luca, with ex-husband Mike Comrie, and Haylie welcomed her daughter Ryan, with fiancé Matt Rosenberg, in May. Now the siblings and best friends have teamed up with Similac to form the Sisterhood of Motherhood in an effort to end the dreaded mommy wars. The Duffs talk with Yahoo Parenting about the times they felt mommy-shamed (including one headline about her son that Hilary will probably never forget), how they tune out the haters, and the moment they caught themselves judging another mom.
We at Yahoo Parenting are really trying to do what we can to stop all the parent shaming, which I know you guys are too. Why is it so important?
Hilary: Being a mom of a 3-year-old, and with Haylie being a new mom, it was surprising to see how often and how heavily you feel judged for the littlest things. For example, I felt judged when I decided to start supplementing with formula after seven months, or when we got my son vaccinated or put him on antibiotics for an ear infection. People were like, “You should really try oil remedies.” Other moms can be so heavy-handed with advice, so my sister and I were excited to encourage other moms be positive with one another and end mommy wars. It’s a bigger conversation than just us.
Haylie: One thing I love about this campaign with Similac is that it’s not just about the judgment you feel but also the judgment you are putting out there. It makes you responsible for what you’re saying to other people. We need to shift our focus to raising healthy and happy babies, instead of concentrating on which mom is doing what.
Hilary: It’s hard enough to be a parent. It’s the most joyous thing you’ll do and also the most challenging. I think it’s really isolating — everything just changes so quickly. Your life is not your life anymore. I put so much pressure on myself to do everything right, and so do all mothers. We think we should have all the answers — we need to breastfeed perfectly or discipline perfectly — but there are challenges every day. I had a baby so young that none of my friends had children. So I had to learn that no one way is going to work for every single family or every child; it’s about staying in your lane and doing what works for your kids.
What do you think drives the judgment and shaming and competition? Why do we do it?
Haylie: I think it has more to do with insecurity than anything. You question your choices as you go, and seeing someone do it differently feels like a reflection that you aren’t doing things correctly. Then people overcompensate by saying things they shouldn’t. It’s like that idea that when people say something mean to you, they’re really just saying what they would say to themselves.
Hilary: But I think it also comes from a place of love. Every parent loves her child so much that you want to do everything right. I think moms just want validation. The pressure you put on yourself, you think that’s the way, but it isn’t the only way. If I’m out of town and Luca is at Grandma’s, she’s going to do it her way, and he’s going to be OK in the morning. We tend to be mommy-know-it-alls, and that’s not cool.
Have you ever felt judged as a parent?
Haylie: I think the judgment starts before you even become a parent. Like how you choose to deliver, whether you use an epidural, if you take medication during pregnancy, what name you give your baby … there’s always an opinion. Being a new mom, I haven’t felt a ton of judgment yet, but I watched my sister become a mom at a young age and very publicly, and that was hard. Supporting others through their own battles with mommy judgment is just as important as how you deal with it yourself.
Hilary: You’re totally right, Sis. Being in the public eye, I get photographed almost every day or every other day and I’m often with my child. When he was 2, well that’s when children learn to throw tantrums. So I can’t help it if someone’s taking a picture when I’m taking him to get a haircut — and he hates haircuts and he doesn’t like the photographers and throws a tantrum and then there’s a headline: “Can’t Control Her Child!”
I would imagine that parenting in the public eye really magnifies it all. Especially with issues like baby weight, both during pregnancy and after. How do you deal with all the noise out there?
Hilary: In our family, we strive for normalcy. We are a normal family with not-so-normal jobs, not-so-normal upbringings. But we have family dinner every Sunday, and our get-togethers always revolve around food. We love to work out and be healthy and lead good lives. But Haylie and I had the outlook, when we had our babies, we don’t need to race to the gym. We’d rather use that time for bonding with our kids. As for how we deal with all the public attention, we try to tune it out. You can’t let it affect you. Our world is so obsessed with weight and bodies now, but I’m happy the way I am.
Haylie: My point of view, since I’m right at the point where I’m starting to worry about baby weight — I started dieting and working out and my milk supply dropped drastically. I’m committed to breastfeeding, and it means more to me to feed my daughter the way I want to than to work out, so I had to pull back. I have to tackle it the way I want to tackle it.
Have you ever caught yourself, even just in your head, seeing another parent and judging? How did you change course?
Haylie: Everyone is going to have a different way of doing things. Just because you don’t want to spread judgment doesn’t mean you don’t have the thoughts. It’s about being in control of what comes out of your mouth and being respectful. We all have different feelings — you just don’t need to always express them.
Hilary: We know someone who lets her kids stay up really late. And we were talking about it and were like, “Can you believe that?” And then immediately we realized, and it was like, “What are we doing?” You never know what time someone gets home from work, or how much time they get to spend with their kids during the day, or why they are making the decisions they are. Different things are important to different people.
So what do we need to do to end the parent-shaming once and for all?
Haylie: I think we really just need to remember that it takes a village.
Hilary: Just stop trying to knock others down. Come together, check yourself, and know how your actions affect others.
(Photos: Top: Noel Vasquez/ GettyImages; Middle: Splash News; Bottom: R2D2 / FAMEFLYNET PICTURES)
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