Do you ever get the feeling you’re being judged? As a mom, it comes with the turf. As soon as you squeeze that little bundle of joy into this world, everyone’s got something to say. I cringe when I hear the term mommy wars, but they’re real and they’re not just about whether you stay home or go back to work after you have your baby. I personally know women who’ve felt ostracized and belittled because of their choices to do any, or all, of the following: sleep train, breastfeed, bottle-feed, work, stay home, be strict, not be strict enough, have an only child, have a big family… You get the picture. The person at the grocery store who tells you your child is very disruptive can be annoying, but it’s the shots we fire at each other that are the most painful, because they’re the ones that leave us questioning ourselves and our parenting abilities.
I had my first taste of the mommy wars when I met Josie while on my first maternity leave. She was friendly and easy to talk to, and her son Edmund is just a few months older than my Charlotte. Like most new moms, we compared everything about our babies, from how old they were when they rolled over to what their Apgar scores were at birth. But it didn’t take long for me to notice that my baby was trailing far behind hers in just about everything!
Charlotte cried from 5 p.m. every night, and Josie swore I must be doing something wrong; all she had to do to get little E to sleep was lay him in his crib and close the door. I forgot to brush my hair most days, but Josie had a highly scheduled life and Tuesday was grooming day for both her and the baby. She was better at being frugal too. Edmund only needed a few second-hand toys to keep him occupied while my tendency to lay down my Visa for anything I thought might keep Charlotte occupied for more than 30 seconds made Josie roll her eyes.
As a new mom, I felt like everyone must know more than me, so at first I really liked hearing Josie’s opinions. I thought I was just imagining the little barbs that came with her advice and figured I was jealous because Charlotte wasn’t progressing as quickly as Edmund. It took a few months for me to realize that the underlying message in most of our conversations was that I wasn’t as good a mom as her. So I threw up my white flag and started weaning myself out of that friendship—and felt a little niggle of satisfaction when her second child turned out to be a terrible sleeper who cried every night for hours.
Why do we judge other moms?
What was Josie’s motivation for cutting me down? I don’t know for sure, but I imagine she needed to feel like she was better at this motherhood thing than somebody, and my lack of confidence made me an easy target. Three kids and eight years later, I don’t think I’d be such a pushover anymore, but I’m more convinced than ever that where our kids are concerned, none of us know what the heck we’re doing.
I have read that many women feel like a fraud in the workplace despite their success. Well, more often than not, I feel like a fraud at home too. I took courses in news writing and science reporting at university, but no one ever taught me to talk down a six-year-old on the brink of a meltdown. And chances are, no one taught Josie either. Competition and disapproval between moms tears us—and our friendships—apart. Deep inside, I think a lot of mothers feel like frauds, like maybe we’re not very good at this job we have for life—I know I do.
So I say this: Can’t we all just agree to chill out about each other’s parenting? Outright child abuse is one thing, but if Katie Holmes feels like her six-year-old needs to be carried everywhere, I hereby vow not to get my panties in a bunch about it. And who am I to think that Katie’s a bad mom anyway? I’m so busy trying to track down my own three (often badly behaved) children; I don’t have time to worry about how she’s raising hers.