I have recently learned that there is a name for the age-old practice of mommy one-up-man-ship. It's called mompetition (mom+competition) and there is a way to avoid the painfully playful banter that could leave you in the corner sucking your thumb, rubbing your woobie and feeling like the worst parent on the planet.
My mother once told me that no one knows more (reads less) and feels as free to dispense that new found (meager) knowledge than a first-time mommy, a first lieutenant or a first-year teacher. Suddenly, these creatures seem to think that because they are now in the ranks of what they esteem to be an elite club, they have been endowed with all of the knowledge that goes along with it. They take that minuscule bit of wisdom, dress it up like a Harvard law professor and feel free to inflict it on mothers of seven, four-star generals and career educators as if they were lacking in some new-age skills. This behavior is generally called obnoxious, but in neo-militant mothers, it's called sancti-mom-ious.
The worst part of all this is that the source of much of their information comes from the Internet (you can't put anything on the Internet that isn't true), (staged) reality TV shows and other first-time mommies. It often leaves them not trusting their own instincts.
I'm going to give you what I believe are solid truths about mothering:
Truth # 1: You are the mother to your children
This may seem like a no-brainer, but with the birth of your children, you were given certain keys and instincts to raising them. You - not the Internet, not your best friend not some child psychologist. Find that inner mommy voice and listen to it. Don't let it get drowned in a sea of good advice.
Truth # 2: That includes me
I write a lot of articles and columns on parenting. The thing you should know about them is that this is advice that is based on decades of raising a lot of different children. The wisdom I dispense was largely earned through decades of doing it wrong and thereby learning how not to do it. But it is just advice. I can't tell you how to raise your children. Listen to your own heart. Re-read Truth # 1.
Truth # 3: Never explain, defend or justify
I once worked for a psychologist who ran a residential drug treatment facility. He had a few words of advice that I have embraced and learned to use when faced with these know-it-all wannabes. "Never explain, defend or justify your choices." At first glance, this sounds rather rude and curt. In the long run, it is a brilliant way to avoid altercations of all sorts, but in this article, it applies to the avoidance of getting sucked into the vortex of mompetition.
Bully mom: "You give your children cow's milk?"
Defensive mom: "Oh, yes, well, er, I read, um, somewhere, that, I think it was a doctor, oh, his name begins with a D, anyway, he said that today it is, I think he used the word, acceptable, oh, I'll have to look it up and get back to you."
Mommy who doesn't explain, defend or justify (with a big, strong, assured smile): "Yes."
See how easy that was? What in the world is the bully mom going to say to that? You have effectively taken the wind out of her sails.
Let's see another example:
Bully mom: "I would never use disposable diapers!"
Lemming mom: "Oh, I totally agree. I'm going to throw all mine away and start using cloth right now."
Mommy who doesn't explain, defend or justify: "OK. Good for you."
Childbirth is a biological experience that starts a chain reaction and somewhere in that chain is a link that gives you the strength, power and instinct to raise that child. Trust it. Believe in yourself.
Repeat after me, "I'm the mom. I know what's best for my children." This is your mantra and is only for you to repeat to yourself.
Now ... wasn't that easy? Go on now and flex those mommy muscles and don't get caught in the trap of competitive mothering.