Friday, September 3, 2010


What is mompetition, you ask? I am going to describe my journey of discovering mompetition and its negativity that has affected both me and Luke. Read on, if you are curious about this funny word and its meaning....

Obviously derived from the word competition, "mompetition" is the often unspoken competitive nature existing between two or more mothers. (I am not sure if I created the word; I doubt it. I did think it up on my own, but others before me may have been just a clever!) Mompetition is based not on women's competition over things like career, clothes, financial status, as is often the case among women without children or with grown or adult children; rather this form of competition related to the ways in which women raise their children. I have witnessed this with others and felt a sense of this myself.

Mompetition is about who is a better parent, how attentive a mother is to her baby or children, which discipline methods she chooses, or even whether her baby uses a pacifier or doesn't. This competitive nature seems to stem from a sense of what is right and wrong, and the strong beliefs we hold about such matters. What we do or don't do with our children is of supreme importance to many parents. For example, it was very important to me to breastfeed Luke. I did not want to feed him formula, and so I read about breastfeeding as the one and only option I would use to take care of his nutritional needs in his first months. Little did I know I would have difficulty breastfeeding at the start, and that I would need to feed him a few ounces of formula during his first week of life. It was literally a matter of feeding him formula or letting him go hungry, and I chose the former. I cried over it, and felt like I had failed, mainly because I felt like I should have been able to make milk for him. Luckily, that period was short lived, and Luke has now been (almost) exclusively breastfed for nearly six months. I am proud of that. I simply wish that I could have been easier on myself when we encountered some troubles.

So - back to my point - I was convinced breastfeeding was the only way to go with Luke. I felt this was the "right" way, and it is for us, but it is not the only way. I felt a bit superior to those moms who choose formula for one reason or another, and that is where mompetition comes back into the story. Who am I to judge another's choices for her child? Have I read literature that convinces me of the benefits of breastfeeding? Of course. But I have not walked in that mother's shoes, experienced her troubles, or even felt the sensations in her body as she breastfed her baby. It is not my place to judge another for the choices she makes for her child.

I am glad I have come to this realization. I do not wish to be judged for the choices I make with Luke, and I should not and will not do the same to others. I cannot pretend that mompetition does not exist, but I can do my small part to remind myself of the myriad choices available to parents when it comes to how they raise their children. While I may fall on one side of a spectrum of choices, I like having them and feel blessed to have an awareness of the choices available to me: to breastfeed or not, to cosleep or not, when to introduce solid foods, to use a binky, to let Luke cry himself to sleep if we choose, to use diapers, cloth or disposable. The list goes on and on.

I make this firm commitment to other moms out there reading this post: I will do my best to avoid judgment about how you raise your children. We may not agree or do the same things, but avoiding that initial critical thought leads to a reduction of mompetition. That can only strengthen relationships among women.


  1. Very well stated! And sometimes, a mom sets out to do one thing and is forced to do something else, as you were for a short while. Although I was committed to breastfeeding all three of our sons, I had to stop after a few months with the first two due to issues such as going on steroids to eliminate a severe case of poison ivy. The milk production factory was not the same after that, and the baby had to be supplemented and then weaned earlier than I intended. With our third, I was able to breastfeed for a year, and we still tell him that's why he's such a good speller! Sometimes things just don't go as planned, but a casual observer wouldn't know why we are doing what we're doing, or that what we're doing is a second choice due to circumstances. There are many facets to the choices we make that mompetition must take into consideration.

  2. Well said and very true. I too have come to the conclusion that everyone, mom, dad, and in-between needs to do what is right for their family. And, even reflecting upon your own experience is SO important. Because in our case, what is "right" for our family has certainly changed and evolved over time and some things that I felt very strong convictions about have changed and evolved as well. Good for you for putting it out there in the universe!

  3. Nancy, it takes a big mind and an honest heart to withhold judgment. I honor you for that, and though I speak passionately about my beliefs for my own life, I also wish to withhold judgment from anyone, especially mamas.

    While I try to withhold judgment from mamas who choose more conventional or mainstream or modern options, I do not seem to get the same suspense of judgment for my choices which come from a more traditional and natural (in the sense of human nature) belief system. I find general society (as influenced by monetary interest)supportive of formula and swings and disposables and epidurals and feeding babies and babyproofing, but actively unsupportive of the very things that come naturally to the human female body and that come naturally to children. Frankly, there is downright hostility and complete condescension around some of the ways that I have wanted to birth, live and raise my child. (This experience is part of the reason why I don't want to judge anyone else.) I just wish people and society was set up to support homebirth, natural birth, breastfeeding, Elimination Communication and baby led solids/weaning and not baby-proofing her entire experience. (And that it was set up to support me being at home with my child rather than away at work, but that's another story.)

    As my husband says, just by having a homebirth we are in the 1% of families -- How can my experience be like everyone else's? How can they understand me if their experience is so different? The thing is, I'm not sure it really matters how different we are. I learn something from hearing each and every mama's stories.

    Most people *don't* educate themselves. They just do what they have seen or heard. And what they have seen or heard from the media has been so manipulated to the point of ridiculousness. Because of reactions like the ones I get when I share, mothers don't share the true range of actual experience, so general society leaves out many important options. For instance, you receiving breastmilk for hungry Luke from mamas with milk surplus would have been an option had we been able to get that message to you somehow. I know last month I was ready to start relying on others to help me with Uma when my supply dropped just as she went through a major growth spurt.

    I think mamas need more than just a withholding of judgment. We need support to understand and choose from an actual range of options.

    I like your quest to reduce mompetition just because mamas need to be able to connect and share their experiences honestly and openly. That is how we gain confidence and wisdom to find our own way. Lucky for me, I have a small but powerfully loving little community for myself that helps me love everyone else, even if we don't agree.