Competitive Parenting: When Mommies Judge Each Other

To binky or not to binky? That is just one of many questions that can drive Mommies apart.

Anyone who’s ever read a Mommy blog or looked at parenting network threads knows how viciously women can judge one another.  But as USA Today points out, mothers often criticize each other’s parenting skills face-to-face as well. 

Stephanie Bello, 31, a stay-at-home mom from Alexandria, Va., hits the nail on the head when she says “modern moms are commonly denounced for being overprotective, but you’re looked at as a bad parent if you are in the ER with your kid.” Exactly. If you hover over your kids at the park, you’re smothering. If they fall off the swing, you’re incompetent. There’s no way to win.

Parenting rifts can be caused by generational differences, too. “By the time a mother’s kids are in middle school, much of what she knows about baby care may be considered out of date — or even dangerous,” says March of Dimes blogger Andrea Moleski. Ten years ago, “parents considered themselves progressive if they gave their kids apple juice instead of soda or Kool-Aid.” But pediatricians now recommend cutting juice with water or avoiding it altogether. Moleski says, “My sister asked me when I was going to give my daughter juice. I told her I’m not, and she rolled her eyes. I can tell by her reaction that I’ve made her feel badly, and I didn’t want to.”

When my daughter was born, we lived across the street from an elderly Italian baker who constantly chastized me, saying, “You gotta give-a the baby the Farin.”  In the old days, women used to put Farina rice cereal in the bottom of their infant’s bottles to get them to sleep more soundly at night. And then when my daughter was six months, the baker would ask, “You give-a the babe the chicka nug yet?”  No, Rosa, not yet. Let me get to the Farina first.

Psychotherapist Jenn Berman, author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids thinks “many modern parents feel inundated with information and overwhelmed by choices. Oftentimes, it can seem like a threat to see someone else deciding differently.” I have a copy of Berman’s book and had the opportunity to speak with her on my friend Sara Benincasa’s Sirius/XM Cosmo Radio show, Get in Bed. She’s a smart woman who speaks in plain language when it comes to child-rearing. 

Berman suggests “mothers may be happier gravitating toward parents with similar parenting styles.” She says, “The experience of being in a room with like-minded moms whose kids are going through similar issues developmentally is rejuvenating and healing.” So if your kid is two-years-old and isn’t talking yet, you might want to stay away from the mom who’s got her eighteen-month-old enrolled in public speaking classes. By avoiding each other, maybe we can all get along.

Photo: David Fulmer via Flickr