“Mompetition” is not a new idea. In fact, mom bloggers write about it often. They might not be using the cutesy term, but they are writing about the feelings moms experience when other moms attack them.
It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?
When I first became a mom I had high hopes that the mean girls from adolescence would have transformed into friendly moms who enjoy pleasant social interactions. Wrong. I thought a morning at the park meant instant connections with other moms with kids of similar ages. Wrong again. I thought that, at the end of the day, we would all be in this together. Still wrong.
It turns out that those mean girls, and possibly a few others, have a new routine. They’re no longer using words like “slut” to describe girls who offend them in some small way. They are no longer spreading vicious rumors and writing hateful comments on school lockers.
Now…they are engaging in Mompetition.
They are waging war against other moms by making snide comments and unfair comparisons every chance they get.
It’s an emotional war out there on the playground, and it needs to stop now.
Just the other day, I overheard the following conversation (the two women appeared to be making superficial chitchat while their kids played in the sand):
“What is she dressing up as for Halloween?”
“She’s still in the princess phase, so she just wants to wear one of her dress-up dresses”
“Really? You don’t make her costumes?”
“Uh, no. She loves her dress-up box!”
“The fabrics are really cheap and not good for their skin. I always make mine. It’s just what moms do for Halloween”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. As long as she’s happy though…”
This is where I interjected with, “I bought a great Little Bo Peep costume at Kohl’s. It’s just one night. Even my sensitive skinned little girl can handle that!”
While it doesn’t sound as negative when I read it back, this transcript is missing a few essential elements: Voice tone, facial expression, and body language.
The first mom probably had her own reasons for verbally attacking the second mom that day. Something triggered a need to prove her worth as a mom. From a therapeutic standpoint I would guess that her mom-esteem is lacking and she needs to feel powerful and better than other moms in order to feel like she is a good mom.
Whatever the issue, the second mom appeared defeated. I did my best to make a few jokes and laugh it off with her, but I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to have a mom go on a diatribe about organic food, homemade baby food, and avoiding formula at all costs.
While I understand, therapeutically speaking, why these moms do what they do, I refuse to accept it.
Parenting is a journey. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all have bad days, ok days, and exceptional days. We all have ups and downs.
My husband often makes reference to the fact that my expertise makes it easier for us in some ways. Give me a roadblock and I’ll come up with a solution. To some degree, he’s probably right. I don’t know everything about everything, but I do know child development. I do have endless parenting strategies up my sleeve. And I do understand the importance of focusing on triggers and underlying causes of behavior before classifying something as a behavior problem.
But we have other struggles. Long term travel on his part, most of our family members live on the other side of the country, food allergies, croup, and the list goes on.
The point is that we all have ups and downs along this journey. We all have questions and we all question our decisions at some point.
We don’t need to take it out on unsuspecting moms at the park, in the preschool parking lot, or in the produce aisle.
We need to support one another. We need to cheer for each other’s successes, and provide empathy and understanding during the difficult times.
We need to be friendly to other parents at the park, as this teaches our children the importance of reaching out to others and giving everyone a chance.
We need to share our strategies that work and laugh in unison when a strategy goes awry.
We need to show our children that not everyone has to be a best friend, but that everyone deserves respect and understanding.
We need to use the manners that we yearn for our children to use.
We need to be nice.
And if we really, really believe that homemade costumes and organic vegetables at all costs are truly the most important things…we need to keep that opinion private. Not everyone wants to hear what we have to say, after all.
We need to stop competing.
Parenting is a journey. It can be a journey filled with mutual support, friendship, and laughter. Or it can be a journey filled with isolation, low mom-esteem, and competition. It’s up to us to decide.
I’m putting my effort into mutual support, friendship, and laughter.
Where do you stand?
Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She has a four year old daughter, three year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog, Practical Parenting, and can also be found on Twitter.