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Why Can't We Moms All Just Get Along?

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Christina Montoya Fiedler: If you're a mom, chances are you've been either the recipient or the giver of unsolicited advice -- advice that, whether it was meant to or not, made another mom feel inadequate and insecure.

Why Can't Us Moms Just All Get Along?

A recent USA Today article delved into this phenomenon that comes with the new-mom territory. Turns out, there are lots of reasons for these judgmental quips -- and the subsequent bouts of defensiveness that moms seem to experience on a regular basis.

Take this scenario, for instance. I was attending a birthday party for my girlfriend's 4-year-old. The cupcakes were placed on the table, displayed in the most festive of fashions. Everything was perfect -- or so she thought. That's when one of her mommy friends said, "Uh oh. Looks like someone didn't have time to do the baking herself." I was shocked -- like, had-to-pick-my-jaw-off-the-ground shocked. Instead of giving that mother a piece of her mind, though, my friend ended up rattling off a slew of excuses for her store-bought (and, by the way, delish) cupcakes. I never understood that exchange until I had a child myself. 

My big moment came just last month, when I was talking to another mom on my block. She was bragging about her 22-month-old son being potty-trained. My son is nearly the same age, and when I told her he was not, a look of shock and awe came over her face. "Oh, wow!" she said. "Have you not even tried yet? Maybe you should try what I tried. My son is a fast learner; I'm sure yours will catch on fast." I immediately thought, "What's that supposed to mean?!" Suddenly I felt embarrassed, inadequate and angry. But instead of telling her to butt out, I came up with my own slew of excuses as to why my little guy hadn't sported his first pair of Underoos yet.

"Being a mom can be scary and isolating, and we're all insecure about the job we're doing," says blogger Andrea Moleski in USA Today. "That's why we get so defensive."

As mothers, we are often just as quick to give helpful advice and support as we are to tear one another down. Sue Swanson, a pediatrician and mother of two who writes the blog "Seattle Mama Doc," told USA Today, "I call it 'competitive parenting.' Other parents can be so helpful. They tell you about a product and it changes your life. But they can also make you feel like junk."

So: Why does this happen? Here are two possible culprits:

1) Information OVERLOAD
New parents are inundated with information and advice. Before the baby comes, we read everything there is to read about parenting. Every bit of information out there is digested, and we battle with every decision -- right down to which type of pacifiers to buy and whether or not we should use them at all. As soon as we see someone who made a different choice than us, we freak out a little bit, become insecure and wonder if we made the wrong choice. Newsflash: It's not necessarily a better choice; it's just different. And most likely these kids will all turn out the same, because deep down, all moms want their children to thrive -- and if that's always at the heart of our decision-making process, then we've made the right choice.

2) Oops! Did I Say That?
New moms are sleep-deprived and riding a wave of fluctuating hormones. Sometimes we say things we don't mean. We're also isolated in our own little mom-centric worlds. If we're stay-at-home moms, we're cooped up in the house all day, talking to someone who can't answer us back. So when the time comes to communicate with real adults, our social skills may be a bit rusty. Not a good enough excuse? Maybe some of these moms really are trying to help, and wish that they'd gotten the same advice. Whatever the comment, it's important to consider the source and her motivation.

Tell us, moms: How do you deal with unsolicited parental advice?

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59 comments so far | Post a comment now
Danielle June 2, 2010, 4:20 PM

There is a difference between 18 months-28 months old being potty trained and a neglected child of 4 still wearing diapers.

Black Iris June 2, 2010, 5:45 PM

Frankly, I dealt with comments like that by avoiding the moms who made them. When I got stuck listening to something like that, I had two basic approaches. If I was feeling very secure, I listened and pretended I thought the other mom was very wise. If I was feeling less secure or just grumpy, I told her exactly why I thought my way was best.

Missy June 2, 2010, 6:50 PM

Why do articles like these insist on perpetuating the idea that moms can’t be supportive of one another - or that we all HAVE to get along and agree - or that stay-at-home moms are “cooped up in the house all day”… June 2, 2010, 7:57 PM

Its rough getting bombarded with all that info from so many “mommy experts.” So what I tend to do is listen, store any useful information in my mental roledex and discard the rest. But I always say “thank you.” Most times moms who come off cocky are really just excited to have one of the many milestones go over smoothly and it really has nothing to do with the recipient.

Kate June 2, 2010, 9:13 PM

There are all kinds of mom out there. The competitive ones who like to make others feel beneath them…. and the awesome uplifting moms who become our great friends. Know who to avoid and who to befriend.

sew mom June 4, 2010, 6:55 PM

I wouldn’t be the mom I am today if it weren’t for the many young and old moms sharing info with me. Not everyone can run to their mom for advice. I took it all in gratefully and tried options until I figured out what works best for us. I love to share info with others. I am honestly not competing.

Online Banking Security October 18, 2010, 1:42 PM

Strange this post is totaly unrelated to what I was searching google for, but it was listed on the first page. I guess your doing something right if Google likes you enough to put you on the first page of a non related search. :)

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Just discovered this site thru Google, what a way to brighten up my year!

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Christina Hendricks October 25, 2010, 10:56 AM

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Les Chesher October 26, 2010, 9:46 PM

Holy cripes! It was kinda annoying since it was the first time that I had done that.

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Malka Sheley October 27, 2010, 4:50 PM

This may be a word to the wise if you are trying to from this.

Coral Wachowski October 28, 2010, 5:24 AM

This is the way they see it too.

Lakeisha Tupick October 29, 2010, 8:06 AM

This is pretty strange so I may give a rating of four stars.

Layne Magouyrk October 30, 2010, 7:24 AM

I want to own it free and clear.

Dante Dagle October 30, 2010, 4:31 PM

This is hard and the geeks here by this time know this.

Tova Tash October 30, 2010, 11:49 PM

There are many types of I ought to focus on when doing that.

Stephen Teyler November 3, 2010, 10:43 AM

You may have an axe to grind.

Markus Boberg November 3, 2010, 3:29 PM

lets you see it outside of the boxThe point of me telling you all this is to point out that there’s a lot to learn with regard to.

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