BECOMING a new parent is never easy – but judgmental jibes online have made it doubly hard.
Just ask mum-of-two Donna Davies, who says “mum-shaming” — both online and to her face — left her with anxiety and contributed to her postnatal depression.
Donna, 37, experienced nasty remarks about returning to work, weaning her kids and even about letting them have their six-week immunisation jabs.
She is not alone. Celebs Cheryl Tweedy, 35, and Helen Flanagan, 28, have both hit out against mum-shaming this month.
Actress Helen urged: “I do think as mums we’re all in it together — we should support each other.”
Donna, from Huddersfield, believes so too.
She and partner Richard Janski, 38, an engineer, have sons Connor, eight, and Joseph, two.
Donna says: “I’d always dreamed of being a mum. I had images of myself making lots of pre-natal friends and us all hanging out and supporting each other through the first few years.
“I did make some friends like this, but I also experienced a darker side.”
Having had first child Connor, Donna returned to work in learning development and human resources after 16 weeks, having received statutory maternity pay.
Donna says: “For me, work was very important — not only for me and my career, but financially.”
But with Joseph, she went back to work when he was nine months old thanks to enhanced maternity pay.
She said: “I assumed I was a bit more hardened as it was my second child, but nothing prepared me for the nasty comments.
“I was just leaving the house one day and my parents had arrived to take the kids on the school run when two mums walked past. I heard one say, ‘Why did she have kids if she can’t look after them herself and work is more important?’. It was awful.
“Once I picked up my children and told one of the mums we were going away for a weekend break. Her reply made me feel sick.
“She said, ‘Oh, how are you going to cope looking after your children for a whole weekend, you’re not used to that are you?’.”
It was a similar story on mum forums. Donna revealed online how she had stopped breastfeeding her children at ten weeks and started weaning them at four-and-a-half months (from around six months is the NHS recommendation). She says: “One mum told me I was putting my child in danger. Another said I was selfish and the baby should come first no matter how exhausted I was.”
A mum pal even branded her selfish for allowing her children to have their six-week injections.
“She believed the vaccinations would give my children autism,” Donna says.
She adds: “I suffered postnatal depression and battled anxiety and sleep deprivation after pregnancy and, at the time, I didn’t realise how much mum-shaming contributed to this.
“I felt I couldn’t do anything right. I felt broken. When I was tired, emotional and doing my best at being a mum and returning to work, I wanted another mum to say, ‘It’s hard, but you’re doing a great job’.
“Everyone feels they have a right to impose their opinions on you and make you feel guilty.”
Donna, who has now set up a group called More Than Mum Network and written a book called Don’t Judge Me, adds: “I witness mum-shaming every day as I work with so many mums.
“They often share how they have experienced negative comments from friends, family, colleagues or strangers online. Sometimes they laugh it off, but sometimes they are really upset.
“Us mums put enough pressure on ourselves, so we don’t need extra negativity piled on us by people who don’t know us at all.”