Every mama, at one point or another, will experience “competitive mom syndrome.” You find yourself boasting about your kid’s progress to everyone you meet. Or you encounter another mom showing off the latest tech gadget she insists you must use with your baby. Before you know it, you’ve fallen completely into the competitive parent trap.
Even when the comments come with good intentions, they can be hurtful. Just ask Mayim Bialik, who, in a new video, remembers how one mom meet-up left her “in tears.” In the video, Bialik recalls how mamas at the meeting “were encouraged to brag” about everything from the duration of their labor to when their babies first rolled over. The Big Bang Theory actor—who shares 12-year-old Miles and 9-year-old Frederick, with ex-husband Michael Stone—says she “instantly felt out of place” in the mom group.
“I used cloth diapers, I didn’t use pacifiers or bottles. I didn’t have fancy clothes—neither did my baby—I didn’t have a manicure,” the mom of two sons says in the video, which she posted to Facebook and Youtube last week. “I mean I barely had time to shower, how was I going to get a manicure?” As Bialik notes in her video, competitive parenting is common phenomenon among mamas. A pleasant conversation can quickly turn into a comparison game of who does what better as mother: breastfed versus formula-feeding. Fresh vegetable versus mini pizzas. Working versus staying at home. Every action we choose as parents, it seems, becomes fodder for competition. But why do mothers engage in competition? The Blossom star’s theory is that women were raised to believe that “we can and should do it all.” It prepares us for the workplace. But if we leave our careers to focus on motherhood, “We took that competitive drive and we seem to have superimposed it on our lives as mothers,” she says. “So it’s not enough to be a mom, you have to be the best mom.” That’s one powerful observation. All moms want the best for their kids, and we don’t need to be the best at everything to achieve that. But cultural dynamics push us to try and out-do our fellow mamas, when we should be supporting each other instead. That’s Bialik’s ultimate message. At the end of the video, the mom of two sons asks mamas to join her in discovering “more meaningful things to connect.” She hopes that one day, moms won’t assume questions about breastfeeding are passive-aggressive ways to “pass judgment,” but instead, realize it’s genuine curiosity about their experience as a mom. That, of course, can only happen if mamas drop the competitive streak. As Bialik says, “We can only do this together.”