A battle is happening. And while it likely won’t make evening news—or be a hot topic of debate—there are casualties: mothers. “Mommy Wars” isn’t new, and yet, continues to create so much strife. You might say to yourself it’s nothing you would ever be a part of, but there’s a good chance you’ve either been a victim … or the one causing the conflict.
As a mother of a toddler and baby, I’ll admit that I’ve seen some crazy stuff—and I haven’t been in the parenting game for that long. Playgrounds and mommy groups have turned into an unspoken battlefield, where mothers compete to see whose kid is the smartest, has the latest and greatest baby product, or reaches milestones the fastest. And then there’s the “Who’s the better mom?” face-off, where common exchanges turn into judgment sessions on why you gave your kid formula instead of breast milk, opted for the epidural, or didn’t make your own baby food.
Sure, there’s no bloodshed, but the injuries sustained from this type of showdown can often leave scars that take a toll on a mother’s self-esteem, and whether or not she feels she’s doing her absolute best to raise her kids. While you might be the first to profess your jaw isn’t made of glass, that doesn’t mean the jabs that come your way don’t sting.
“Moms struggling with competition between other moms is an extremely common occurrence,” admits Dr. Melanie Ross Mills, author and relationship expert. As most new mothers are trying to navigate the uncharted path of parenting, Dr. Mills says the comparison trap starts sooner than you think, and can lead to both unhealthy expectations and unnecessary competition that results in feelings of insecurity, unforgiveness, and judging other moms.
Kristina Wysor remembers firsthand how she felt as a new mother. When her first of three children was a toddler, she excitedly joined a mom group, but soon regretted the decision. “Each meeting started to become more of a ‘look at what my kid can do’ scenario, instead of a support group for mothers,” recalls Kristina. “I eventually had to step away.”
Chronicling her parenting journey on her site OK, Dani, blogger Danielle Faust had absolutely no idea she was caught up in a Mommy War. Sharing personal stories of her son online, the mother of two soon noticed her friends started acting a little strange, and even felt the need to constantly talk up their kid’s achievements. “That’s when I realized their showy behavior was from some competition that I wasn’t even aware of,” says Faust. “I don’t share anything to brag or boast. It hurt because I thought they knew me better than that, and I thought we were all in the same boat and on the same team,” she adds.
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for your child—or for your little one to achieve his or her best—Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist, warns about the damage the competitive nature of Mommy Wars can cause; specifically, when mothers start to attach their self-worth to the outcome of their child. Dr. Fisher notes that such behavior “puts a lot of pressure on the child to perform a certain way to be approved and loved by the parent, which sets up a conditional love dynamic rather than unconditional.” The psychologist also points out how the uncompromising desire to have your “child be the best” can really break down a community of parents, as mothers will start to look at each other more as rivals than allies.
“Competition creates isolation,” states Dr. Fisher.
Thankfully there’s hope for those involved in Mommy Wars—including mothers who may or may not realize their vying for a chance at earning an award for being the “perfect mother.” Dr. Melanie Ross Mills suggests moms consider the following steps to get themselves out their no-win situation:
1.) Focus on your strengths and gifts. What do you have to be thankful for? Redirect you mindset to focus on your God-given abilities and what you’re good at. Gratitude journals can help.
2.) Remember that each and every mother you encounter has her own life situation. No one is perfect, even it if looks that way from the outside.
3.) Make an effort to invest in the moment. The more you do this, the less you will focus on thoughts and emotions that waste time — with no positive return.
4.) Share in the joy of other moms. If your neighbor’s son is walking before your son, celebrate his achievement. If your best friend’s daughter is speaking another language at age 2, share in that joy. While this might be challenging at first, being happy for someone else will help keep any bitterness or resentment from growing.
5.) Be your authentic self. The more you focus on you and your purpose, the more freedom you’ll have from competing in Mommy Wars. Compare less, and appreciate more.