Hi there, Learning Expressions Readers!
I very clearly remember one of my first outings as a new mom alone with my newborn son. I had finally mustered the courage to get out of the house and do something on my own with my little nugget, with no backup save my abundantly appointed diaper bag. Some mommy-friend tipsters had suggested walking the mall. It’d be nice to take in the sights, the baby would like the noises and lights, and I could get some exercise and a Frappuccino. Plus, advised my friends, you always have the Nordstrom’s mothers’ lounge in which to seek refuge should you experience a diaper blow out, larger-than-normal spit up, or some feeding fiasco.
Ok. After what seemed like hours packing up the supplies and the baby, we were out the door and on our way to doing something! As I walked the mall, I stayed mindful of the distance to that mothers’ lounge. After 10 weeks on bed rest, it felt AMAZING to be moving and sipping Starbucks the way people do. But inevitably, my little one got hungry. I sat on a bench in an open part of the mall and fussed and struggled with my nursing cover. I really gave feeding-in-public-for-the-first-time the old college try, but I felt so vulnerable and clumsy. So, I packed up my frantic baby and quickly whisked him to the oasis that was the mother’s lounge.
I walked into a peaceful oasis. There were a few other moms changing diapers and feeding babies, but there was still room for me to grab a seat in a comfy armchair. It was so nice to be able to feed without crowds of people ambling nearby. I’m normally a pretty Chatty Cathy, but this time I tended to my babe in silence while the other mothers spoke softly around me.
One mama pulled out powdered formula and bottled water and proceeded to mix a meal for her infant. The previously friendly gal next to her suddenly looked on in horror. The onlooker gathered her composer and asked the formula culprit, “Excuse me, but is there a reason that you aren’t breastfeeding?” Before the shocked accused could reply, the breastfeeding vigilante continued, “You know I could get you in touch with a friend at the local La Leche League chapter.” The vigilante then began spouting off all the reasons why breast milk is gold and formula is evil.
I watched the accused and looked for an opening to intervene on her behalf. But, without batting an eye, the accused said, “Excuse me but I had a double mastectomy at the age of 26. But even if I hadn’t, I really don’t see that it’s any of your business how I choose to nourish my child.”
I cheered inside but remained shaken by the assault I had just witnessed. I’d heard others speak about the terrible “Mompetition” that can emerge among women in this life stage, but this example had to be mompetition at its absolute worst. Surely it was an isolated incident!
But as I got to thinking, mompetition had actually reared its ugly head in my world pretty much as soon
as I joined the positive-pregnancy-test club. Some women seemed to fall into one camp or another in regard to certain hot-button issues and felt compelled to actively try to recruit newcomers like me to their teams. During pregnancy, it was talk about C-sections vs. vaginal deliveries, “natural” births vs. epidurals, and cloth diapers vs. disposable. During the baby years, the mompetition seemed to center around milestones. You’d hear: So-and-so’s baby still hasn’t rolled over, and my Eric rolled over at four months! Well, my Jessica was an early crawler, just like me. Oh ya? My Jill could hold her head up the day after she was born! So take that! Ugh.
I’ve heard this kind of blatant bragging and tearing down time and time again. Now that my oldest is three, the mompetition I hear has subsided a bit. But, every once in awhile, I’ll still see mompetition relating to three year olds in action: Billy already throws like a quarterback and Amy can count to 100!
I know I’m not alone in my distaste for mompetition. The controversial Time magazine breastfeeding cover tapped into the negative energy of mompetition with its provocative cover asking, “Are you mom enough?” Before that there were mompetition wars waged in the national media over vaccines, BPA, and slings. For some reason motherhood seems to provide fertile ground for astoundingly divisive judgment calls.
Believe me, I am normally the type of person who does not shy away from a good debate. But, up until now, I’ve tried to dodge the mompetition-inducing topics at all costs. For me, mompetition issues are right up there with religion and politics – only to be discussed with close friends and with a great deal of care. For instance, if a random mom at the park asks me why my boys never took pacifiers, I lie and say they never liked them. Truth be told I was scared to really try pacifiers with my boys because my dentist assured me that pacifiers ruin young palates. If the mom next to me in the pediatric waiting room asks if we ever used the cry-it-out technique to get our babies to sleep, I shake my head in an ambiguous yes-no manner and get up to go to the bathroom. In fact, I’ve even had to unsubscribe to many a “friend’s” update feeds on a social media website because almost half of all posts they wrote revolved around a strongly worded opinion on the “right” way to parent and bragging about the advanced state of their offspring.
But, maybe I’ve swung the pendulum too far to the avoidance side. After all, I wouldn’t be half the mom I am today without the trusted advice of experienced mothers who’ve come before me. And, perhaps my avoidance of all mompetition issues is closing me off to a lot of learning. But, darn it, this mompetition culture is too much for me. It really discourages the collaborative “it takes a village” mentality that us moms have used to raise our kids for thousands of years. And, gosh, we should be able to depend on each other and be able to talk about important mom decisions. So, you see, I’m really at a loss for how to react when a fellow mom gets in my face and informs me, “Are you aware that spacing your kids so close together puts your second one at greater risk for Autism? That’s why I waited to have Jefferson until Madison was two and a half.” I know I need to be polite, but part of me wants to scream!
Readers, do you have horror stories of dealing with competitive moms? What are your coping strategies?
Bye for now!