Formula and early childhood nutrition company Similac, with award-winning director Cynthia Wade, have created a documentary that is as candid as it is moving. In an effort to end the judgement mothers face on a far-too-frequent basis, a group of vastly different mothers talk honestly about the shame they face, as well as the shame they've made other mothers feel. The result is a truth bomb that every mother who has ever been judged — or who has judged others — should see.
As a mother to a 1-year-old son, hearing each brave mother share their own story was like hearing my motherhood journey being told back to me. I am not married to the father of my son, although we are very much committed and together. I’m judged frequently for being a “single” mother, and people assume we aren’t as good a parents as we could be if we were married. I was unable to breastfeed after six months, and every passive-aggressive “breast is best” post only made me feel ineffectual and broken. My partner and I lost one of our twins at twenty weeks, so it was difficult for us to be completely excited or celebratory about the remainder of my pregnancy. I work from home, and am often made to feel like I don't spend enough quality time with my son as a result.
And I am anything but alone, which is perhaps the best part of the film. As each woman shares her own story, explains all the ways she's been judged and confesses her own judgmental tendencies, you begin to feel connected to women you may have accidentally shamed yourself.
The film starts with the mothers explaining that, yes, they judge other mothers too. It's refreshing and real and wonderful to hear mothers admit to a learned reaction to someone else's choices. The more we talk about what 95 percent of mothers report feeling, the greater are chances are to end it.
From working moms...
To unmarried moms...
To judging parenting decisions in general.
And it's all so relatable, as it is something every mother has undoubtedly heard before.
But as the film continues, we begin to learn more about the new moms, the reasons why they make the choices they make, and how difficult those decisions can be.
Like Ada, who was shamed by her OB/GYN for returning to work when her newborn was two months old. She's the only woman in her department and although there are "three guys who have kids, they're still men." We see her discretely pumping in her office as Ada explains that she doesn't want her pumping to become an excuse for her not "performing at work." We also see her cry as she drops off her son at day care, a testament to how difficult it can be to do what is best for you and your family.
Then we learn about Leslie, a mom who gave birth to premie twins, who spent the first three weeks of their lives in the hospital. As a result, Leslie was unable to breastfeed. She describes normal run-ins with strangers, who make comments like, "Oh, that's breast milk, right?" and how detrimental that judgmental question can be.
We meet Shyrelle, a single mom who noticed people would look at her baby bump, then immediately look at her ring finger to see if she was married.
Because she is the only one providing for her family, she too is a working mom. (The scene of her leaving her daughter with her grandmother is heartbreaking.)
There's Yalixa, who shares her multiple pregnancy losses and her hesitance to celebrate her pregnancy. As a result of a lumpectomy she had after finding a lump in her breast, Yalixa couldn't breastfeed her daughter. She explains the devastation she felt, saying she was hard on herself for not providing her daughter with what she thought she needed.
We meet Elizabeth, who explains how quickly she's judged for having two children under two years old. People ask her inappropriate questions regarding her and her husband's sexual history, which, sadly, isn't at all surprising.
We meet a mother who is so excited, after dressing her daughter in pearls and tutus, to dress her newborn son in bow ties.
And another mother who is raising a child in a gender-neutral environment, shying away from clothing that will identify her child as male or female.
Which all leads up to a gorgeous moment, in which the new moms meet one another. While there was some initial judgments, as the women share their own stories with one another, they realize that they have more in common than not.
The women apologize to one another, which is beautiful and heart wrenching and just plain wonderful.
And when all is said in done, an awesome message is made:
"Getting to know them and getting to know their stories, and finding out how many commonalities we have, and the struggles we've had, I just feel a lot more compassion and empathy towards them and myself."
Images: Similac US/YouTube (16)