I’ve been wondering lately what it is about being a mom that makes people feel the need to judge and ultimately belittle other moms. It is almost inevitable that if you put a group of moms together they will start judging and criticizing any other mom within viewing distance, including the ones on TV, in magazines, and in movies. There is a never ending tirade of can’t win for trying-isms, I could do it better-isms, and what was she thinking-isms. The victims of this assault may be famous (Kate Gosslin or Octomom, which in itself is a horrendous name) or personal (your crazy cousin or the neighbor down the street who has the audacity to let her kids ride their big wheels helmet free). It doesn’t matter what the offense is – it could be something as benign as not pureeing organically homegrown veggies rather than buying Gerber. Has the mentality of becoming “mother of the year” erased our reason? Shouldn’t we be supporting one another rather than tearing each other down? In the process of preparing for my group for new moms, I’m reading a great book – The Mommy Myth by Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels. This book focuses on how the media skews our views of motherhood and creates a “new momism” that is harmful to both stay at home moms and working moms and that probably keeps us from being our best selves in either locale. This excerpt from the from the introduction sums up motherhood as a competitive sport:
“Intensive mothering is the ultimate female Olympics: We are all in powerful competition with each other, in constant danger of being trumped by the mom down the street, or in the magazine we’re reading. The competition isn’t just over who’s a good mother – it’s over who’s the best. We compete with each other; we compete with ourselves. the best mothers always put their kids’ needs before their own, period. The best moehters are the main caregivers. For the best mothers, their kids are the center of the universe. The mothers always smile. They always understand. They are never tired. They never lose their temper. They never say, “Go to the neighbor’s house and play while Mommy has a beer.” Their love for their children is boundless, unflagging, flawless, total. Mothers today cannot just respond to their kids’ needs, they must predict them – and with the telepathic accuracy of Houdini. They must memorize verbatim the books of all the child-care experts and know which approaches are developmentally appropriate at different ages. They are supposed to treat their two-year-olds with “respect.” If mothers screw up and fail to do this on any given day, they should apologize to their kids, because any misstep leads to permanent psychological and/or physical damage. Anyone who questions whether this is *the* necessary way to raise kids is an insensitive, ignorant brute. This is just common sense, right?”
If you find yourself nodding your head in agreement rather than picking up on the sarcasm, you’re missing the point. The point being, that the Olympic scale competition between moms keeps us from connecting to the best support we have – each other. Husbands try to understand (sometimes), our own moms have experienced similar things (to some degree), and our non-parent friends can sympathize (but not empathize). The Judgment Games keep moms from connecting with other moms in a meaningful way because they know what will happen if they show weakness – the other mom will win. Unfortunately, there are no medals for parenthood. We can’t measure the greatness of a mom based on her ability to prepare a perfectly balanced, home cooked meal in 5 minutes or less. We can only look at her children and love they show her as they share fish sticks and mac & cheese out of a blue box, with no vegetable in sight. Moms aren’t meant to be perfect; they’re meant to be moms. As the Olympics wind up this year, maybe it’s time to have closing ceremonies for the Mommy Olympics as well. Maybe we could actually enjoy our children if that happened.