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Shame On Me (A Mother's Litany of Shame)

About ten years ago, when my son was a small baby, I got an anonymous comment (of course it was anonymous!) on a blog post I had written.

It was a random post, my days working at the office and coming home to my family. We had a sweet setup: we agreed that my husband was to stay at home to be my son’s primary caregiver. He handled it all: the daily needs, our son’s first foods, playtime, and whatever else might crop up.

The commenter said: Did I ever wonder what this choice is doing for my husband’s state of mind and welfare?

Shame on me! Shame on me for trying to do something that works for our family.

Shame on me for being a woman who went off-script.

Mothers, know your place.

Around the same time, our small team at work had a visit from the head of our regional company. We were all excited about our prospects and how we could make the business grown. Sometime in the conversation, he looks at me and says: My wife quickly regained her old thin body after giving birth.

Mind you: I was ten months postpartum with a “puson.” That little pouch that I had always lived with, a little bigger, maybe, but nothing too crazy I thought. I was wearing my favorite little dress that I had loved for years—something I held on to from my pre-mom days.

This was also some ten pounds ago;

But - shame on me! Shame on my body for not snapping back in shape.

Shame on me for being a woman who had a mind to dress to please herself.

Women, dress appropriately. Women, know your place.

When my son was a few years older, we saw the benefits of our parenting choices. Having a hands-on parent had nurtured a thriving, happy, and adventurous soul. An opinionated one too, it seems. At a dinner with friends, we heard of a ruckus in the room where the kids were playing. My son, he must have been 4, was playing with another kid, a girl his age. They were playing house and the argument was about the baby. The baby was sick and the “mom” was to take care of it. “NO!” my boy objected. “The daddy takes care of the baby!”

We chuckled. So cute. Right?

At another playdate with cousins, little boys who pushed and shoved and taunted at each other, my son objected to the rough play. “Boys will be be boys!” I was told. “Don’t baby him!” came the admonishment. “Toughen him up!” was the advice.

Shame on me. Shame on me (and my husband) for raising a sensitive boy.

Mothers, know better. Mothers, know your place.

When I was pregnant for a second time, eight years after my first, I spotted in the early weeks. A late night doctor’s visit and emergency ultrasound revealed that the baby was nowhere to be seen. A sac and nothing else to see. Two weeks of bed rest and prescription meds might save the baby. So I took a leave of absence and tried to keep things light and pleasant. No stress allowed.

When we went to our doctor for a checkup and look, we were relieved to see a little bean and a heartbeat. She was there. A little fighter. We were safe. For now.

I went back to work where people had to make adjustments in my absence. At our check in meeting, my colleague’s first agenda item was for her to ask me: “What if it happens again?”

What if *what* happens again?

Shame on me for trying to prioritizing my family. Shame on me for letting the company down.

Shame on me for trying to avoid a miscarriage. Shame on me for being a mother who worked.

Women, know your place.

Shame on me for trying to do it all.

I swallowed the fairy tale - hook, line, and sinker. Do it all. Be it all. Woman you are strong. Woman you are smart. Woman you are life giving. Woman you are super.

But only.

If only.

As long as you do as you’re told.

When I was a young girl, my father used to tell me that I had to learn how to cook to be able to be a wife. My mother behaved that a family survives as long as the husband was appeased.

Do it right. Then all will be well. Be a good girl.

BUT dare to do things differently then it’s—

Shame on me for caring to find myself.

Shame on me for trying to learn new ways to do things.

Shame on me for trying to be supermom. Shame on me for not succeeding.

Shame on me for wanting what’s best.

Shame on me for being a mother.

Shame on me for being a woman.

Shame on me for being quiet for too long.

Shame on me for acting like I believe you. I don’t. But your are dangerous with your words and echoing refrain.

So I take your words and catch them before they hit my children.

Last weekend, my daughter took a trial class for jiu jitsu, the same one her brother has been training in for years. She found a kid her age quickly that morning, a little boy she played tag with before the class started. The class, though structured, was flexible enough for the little kids to have time and space to play around. At the end of the class, I got a report from her:

“The two boys won’t play with me because they said I’m a girl.”

Daughter, confused but defiant.

Son, surprised but determined.

“No, that’s not right,” he said.

They won’t be quiet. They know their place - they’ve seen what it means to be strong, to be powerful, to be smart. To accept support. To make choices for the better good. To play fair. To get hurt and be opposed and to get up and work through it. To try and be who they think they are meant to be.

With no no buts, no if’s. No shame.

Look at my children. Look at me. Woman. Mother.

I know my place.


Candice Lopez Quimpo is a writer and editor by trade, a storyteller by nature. She lives in Manila, Philippines.

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