Brutal mum-shamers gave me hell for my son’s name & called my eldest a horrible child, I cried but won’t let them win

MUM-shaming is something all parents experience, whether it's from strangers, the in-laws or even your closest friends.

Mum-of-four Julia Etherington, a 41-year-old writer, lives near Bristol with husband Doug, 51, a freelance PR consultant, and sons Will, 16, Ally, 12, Eric, nine and six-year-old Bear. 

Here she tells Fabulous Digital about her worst mum-shaming experiences, from a stranger calling her son a "horrible child" to the criticism about their choice of baby name…

It was one of happiest times of my life. Doug and me had just got married and were jetting off to the Bahamas on honeymoon – proudly chaperoned by our toddler Will, who we thought of as the most perfect child in the world.

We boarded the plane, weathered the storm of taking off while trying to stop our two-year-old from kicking the seat in front of him too many times and breathed a sigh of relief when the seat-belt light pinged off.

We settled into the routine of following the naturally curious child as he tottered and crawled his way around the labyrinth of seats and walkways, exchanging looks of solidarity and support with others in the parenting ‘club’.

It was all going smoothly – until one wrinkled old bag near the exit door objected to him being within a metre of her extra leg room.

"Can’t he play somewhere else?" she moaned as he pushed his toy car along.

My eyes widened in disbelief and my forehead furrowed in confusion.

Christ. It wasn’t as if he was having a tantrum or even making more noise than the odd ‘brrrummm’ sound.

"Sorry – is there a problem?" I challenged, trying to fight the urge to poke her in the eye while Will carried on ‘brumming’, oblivious to upsetting anyone.

He's ruining her journey,' said the wrinkled old bat in the extra leg room. 'Eurgh, he’s a horrible child'

“He’s ruining my journey, can’t you control him?” she whined in her New York drawl.

Before I could reply, she said: “Eurgh, he’s a horrible child.”

The Tiger Mum within me had never roared so loudly. 

“You miserable, bitter old woman, no wonder you’re travelling alone, I bet even your own family can’t stand you,” I growled back, before my husband pulled me away.

The angry butterflies in my stomach quickly turned to tears and flushed cheeks as we stepped off the plane into the sunshine. 

I felt like someone had slapped me in the face. Despite the rays beating down on me, there was a black cloud over the first moments of my honeymoon.

It was my first major brush with being ‘mum-shamed’, but it wasn’t the last.

Alex, or Ally as we affectionately call him, was born five years later in 2007, with the deepest, chocolate brown eyes I’d ever seen.

Although I’d breastfed Will for a short time, Mother Nature didn’t bless me with an easy ride while nursing.

I tried my best, I really did, but after complaining of my agonising sore cracked nipples to a midwife who shut me down with "a little bit of blood won’t hurt him" (what about me!?) I decided to reach for the bottle.

Queue a visit from the rudest relative around, (a female in-law who has never had children). 

At less than 48 hours old, Ally didn’t have an issue with the formula, but apparently it was upsetting for her. She looked genuinely puzzled.

“Why aren’t you breastfeeding him?” she asked, before her backside even touched the sofa.

I was angry she thought she had the right to judge me so harshly, instead of just being happy for us. Truthfully, I’ve never forgiven her

Fuming internally and unapologetic, I politely explained how hard I found it to latch him on. 

But she continued, making me feel completely inadequate. Twenty minutes later and several "but it doesn’t look that hard" statements later, and I was done. 

The new mum ‘baby fuzz’, hormones and sleep deprivation was enough to deal with and, although I wasn’t ashamed at exercising my right to choose, ‘nipplegate’ left me in tears once more. 

I was hurt someone could be so thoughtless at such an emotionally fragile point. 

And I was angry she thought she had the right to judge me so harshly, instead of just being happy for us. Truthfully, I’ve never forgiven her.

My next mum-shaming milestone was on the birth of our next child Eric, in 2010. 

I’ve always been a believer that you should never question a parent's choice of name for their bundle of joy.

Admittedly when Doug suggested Eric, my response was something akin to "over my dead body", but a girl’s entitled to change her mind.

It grew on me, so we named our blonde-haired blue-eyed boy Eric Arthur. 

And if rudeness was a commodity, we’d have been billionaires by the end of the first week.

"Arthur’s a nice name," said my own mother.

"The name was a bit of a surprise," said an aunt.

"Eric? Really?" from a cousin.

"Eric! Why would you call him that!" exclaimed one friend.

But my personal favourite was from another friend, who burst into hysterics as if his name was the biggest joke ever.

"Eric!! What have you really called him?" she asked. I've teased her relentlessly about it for the last nine years.

I'm still baffled about how people expected us to react. Did people really think we’d go "oh right yeah, stupid name, we’ll think of something else"? Of course not.

Weirdly, three years later the name suddenly became cool and Simon Cowell had a son he called Eric, which made us trend-setters.

Mum-shaming has become a bit of a buzz word recently, thanks to the faceless trolls targeting celebs on social media.

Recently, Pink was criticised for having her baby "too close" to the pan while cooking, Mariah Carey for letting her four-year-old son use a dummy, and Beyonce for "not looking after" her daughter Blue Ivy’s hair.

The latter actually sparked an online petition, showing just how ridiculous the whole thing has become. But this is far from a new phenomenon.

In my 16-and-three-quarter years of being a mother, I’ve encountered so much mum-shaming that it’s made me question myself.

And on more than a few occasions it has turned me into the fiercest of Tiger Mums, complete with claws.

It might have made me sad and hurt at times, even when that was unintentional, but it won’t stop me exercising my right to choose or to be proud of my kids. 

Perhaps the biggest shame of all is that the people dishing out the mum-shaming, fat-shaming, name-shaming or whatever-shaming don’t feel secure enough in themselves to just be kind to others.

Yesterday, a mum hit back after being lunchbox-shamed for prepping her five-year-old daughter’s meals days in advance.

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