Verbal harassment, bullying and abuse; put-downs, lack of respect and cutting out can destroy confidence and self-esteem. Disparaging and demeaning remarks; ostracism, backed by righteous, sneering, superior judgments can be devastating to children. But they’re no less severe when done by adults to adults. A Mother’s Day article in the Wall Street Journal by Amy Henry, “What Cards Never Say on Mother’s Day,” complained about the lack of respect that dedicated, full-time mothers often get from other women, “even after four decades of feminism.” The article had some suggestions for dedicated mothers who still struggle to get respect from working women.
While the article was accurate in pointing out the problem, I think it totally missed the solution. Bullies have used the put-down tactic forever. Remember all that cutting out with nasty, sarcastic comments, especially through junior and senior high school? Girls master this technique and boys wield it effectively also. If you’re not in the “right” group you’re scorned and shunned relentlessly. Even current celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Taylor Lautner talk about being the targets of this type of bullying in their school days.
Of course putting-down and cutting out rotten. But it’s not only kids who do it. As Amy Harris points out, working mothers often give no respect to women who stay home to be full-time mothers of their children.
Don’t waste time analyzing why people put-down others. That path won’t get you anywhere. Don’t waste time wanting laws to prevent people from putting down others. A legal solution also won’t get you anywhere except in the case of public statements about people in certain protected categories.
The real solution lies in you. When other people don’t respect you, look at the source and the possible consequences. Don’t take it personally, but also don’t let it go by without saying or doing something in return.
So, what can you do? First, you have to be strong in your own judgment of the path you’ve chosen. Being a full-time mother is a wonderful path. Work is necessary, but for most of us raising children is our most important and fulfilling task. I hope your children will grow up wise enough to appreciate your dedicated mothering when they’re adults. Not because you made a great “sacrifice” but because you made a wonderful, life-affirming choice and the children you love could reap the benefits.
Instead of taking other people’s judgments personally, go through the world testing other people to see if they rise enough in your estimation for you to keep them on your island. I hope you find wanting anyone who puts you down for choosing to be a full-time mother. Their choice to put-down mothers shows their lack of good sense. Don’t allow the judgment of people without good sense to be important to your confidence or self-esteem. Don’t let their judgment cause you self-doubt or negative self-talk. And don’t let them stay in your life. Instead, surround yourself with people who champion mothers.
I also said that you shouldn’t let their put-downs pass. Stopping bullies begins when you understand that real-world bullies don’t take your politeness or minimizing or ignoring them as a sign that you’re morally superior or inviting their friendship. Relentless bullies aren’t stopped by minimizing, ignoring, begging, bribing or appeasement. Dedicated bullies take the Golden Rule as a sign that you’re weak and also as an invitation to prey on you more. Doing nothing when you’re the target of relentless bullies is like holding up a sign saying that you’re a victim.
Almost every woman I’ve ever talked to who was taught by a well-meaning mother that she should feel sorry for the inner emptiness, low self-esteem and inner pain of the nasty girls who hurt them that she should ignore and rise above the catty remarks and hatred, now regrets their passivity. They feel keenly their lack of empowerment and bear the scars of their supposedly virtuous martyrdom. They wish that their mothers had trained them to fight back skillfully; verbally or physically.
There are many tactics you might try in response to put-downs; depending on you, them and the situation. Some mothers form their own cliques of supportive mothers. Others write responses on cue-cards and memorize them for delivery at the right moment. Some responses are sarcastic put-downs directed toward the women who don’t appreciate mothers or who aren’t satisfied and even joyous with the opportunity to raise children. Others merely comment on lives wasted at work. Others use pity: “I’m so sorry that you’re the kind of person who’s not fulfilled and doesn’t set a better example for your daughter (or son).”
I want to recognize an important truth that we often overlook. We know that we’re doing the right thing successfully when some people (“jerks) don’t like us and scorn our work and its value. People who put-down full-time mothers fall into that category. Don’t care what they think; don’t desire their respect. Instead, get them off your island and let them know it.