Stop Snot-Shaming Other Moms

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It can be very tricky to decide when to take kids back out in public when they've been sick. Let's be kind to one another and not judge moms whose kids have coughs and runny noses. No more snot-shaming!

We just finished two weeks of sharing some kind of nasty bug, probably the flu. My husband was out of work for several days with a fever, chills, and whole-body aches. Many of the kids have had fevered nights as well. It’s definitely the pits. But could we please not add to the burden by shaming moms with sick kids? No more snot-shaming!

It can be very tricky to decide when to take kids back out in public when they've been sick. Let's be kind to one another and not judge moms whose kids have coughs and runny noses. No more snot-shaming!


Right now my Facebook news feed is full of posts from mom friends that go something like this:

“My poor sweet little Julie is so sick. She’s got a fever and chills. Please, people, keep your kids home when they are sick! Seriously, we don’t want your germs!” [attach a picture of poor little Julie shivering under the covers]

It’s hard to see your little ones suffering. Up all night, short on sleep, and maybe even sick herself isn’t a situation any mom relishes. I dread the cycle of sick just as much as the next mom.

But let’s think twice before we launch a social media campaign against other moms. Here’s why.

Moms Hate Germs

The teen-aged kid who bagged your groceries may not understand the problems he’s causing by coming to work with a cold. But let me assure you that all the moms you know totally get it. And the more kids a mom has, the greater the impact on her family when a virus starts the domino effect in her home.

Let’s go a little further down the train of logical thinking. If you believe your kid got this germ from another kid then that means this other mom just went through what you are going through now. Do you really think moms are making the choices they are making because they didn’t realize how germs work?

Is My Kid Contagious?

Google for information about contagion of coughs, runny noses, etc. and there’s one phrase you’ll come across over and over again: “it depends”.

You can be contagious for a day or more before symptoms manifest. And a cough can often linger long after the actual infection is over.

Seriously, if someone invented a test for contagion, she would become an instant millionaire. Sneeze on the stick. Two lines, you’re contagious. One line, you can go to the birthday party.

Judgement Call without the Judgement

Deciding when to stay home and when to go out in the aftermath (or onset) of symptoms is quite a challenge. Since there are no gaurantees, the only thing a mom can do is to use her best judgement.

Kid has a 101 fever? Probably time to skip the ladies’ Bible study. Kid has been fever free for 48 hours, but still has a mild cough and you’re the teacher at the ladies’ Bible study? Trickier.

I’ve had actual text conversations with moms in which we were trying to guess which would irritate people more: dropping out on something we’ve committed to do, or bringing a kid who may possibly appear to have some germs.

Let’s just state the obvious. No one wants to get sick. And no one wants to be responsible for getting someone else’s kid sick. And also, no one wants to drop out on something they’ve committed to do if it isn’t necessary.

Every mom has to do her best to make a judgement call. She has lots of things to consider, and not all the factors that go into the decision are obvious to the outside observer. Could we please trust that our fellow moms are doing the best they can with the information they have?

What about Church?

I’ve also read a fair amount of posts that specifically scold moms for bringing their kids to church when they are sick. In theory, it makes sense. Sick kids need to rest; tiny babies and elderly church members are particularly at risk. We need to love our neighbors.

But as we’ve discussed, “sick” isn’t a clearly defined state of being. And let’s not forget that “loving our neighbor” should extend to the children (and the mothers of children) with lingering coughs and runny noses.

If I were to stay home from church every time someone sniffles or coughs, I wouldn’t have much chance for fellowship from October to May. It can take a couple of weeks for germs to make their way through our family. If we waited until there were absolutely no symptoms, we’d be out until the next round of germs came to call.

I know you don’t want to get sick. And you don’t want your kids sick again, either. But the next time you see a mom a church with a runny-nose kid, take a moment to ask yourself why she’s there.

Instead of assuming that she doesn’t care about spreading germs, or that she’s just trying to be a self-righteous rule keeper, consider that she might just be lonely and in need of loving interaction with other grown-ups.

Remember when families tried to bring their children to Jesus and the disciples turned them away? Jesus corrected the disciples. He said “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

Somehow I can’t quite picture him adding, “But, eeew, gross, not that kid. I heard him coughing. I’ve got a busy ministry schedule coming up this week – can’t afford to get sick.”