Mayim Bialik is no stranger to tackling tough, controversial topics in op-eds, on her website, or via social media. So, it's no surprise that the Big Bang Theory star just went for the jugular: addressing how competitive moms can be. In a Facebook vlog posted on Thursday, December 28, Bialik recalled her first and only experience in a moms' support group.
“When I was a new mom, 13 years ago, I went to a ‘mom’s group’ at a local retail store. I instantly felt out of place,” the celeb mom, who shares 12-year-old son Miles and 9-year-old son Frederick with ex-husband Michael Stone, shared. “I used cloth diapers. I didn’t use pacifiers or bottles. I didn’t have fancy clothes and neither did my baby. I didn’t have a manicure. I mean, I barely had time to shower. How was I gonna have time to get a manicure?”
She remembered certain questions that came up in the group, like, "Why does my baby want to be held so much?” and “Which brand of baby shampoo smells best?” and noted, "As for me, I assumed my baby wanted to be held so much because it was a human, mammal baby. Women at this moms’ group were encouraged to brag about how fast their labor was, how precocious their babies were with pooping, rolling over, sitting up, smiling. Everything was a competition. These were not my people. I left in tears."
This experience, along with others she's had since becoming a parent, has lead her to conclude: "Moms are so competitive! Why is that? Is it because we’re just catty and combative by nature? Is it because we’re bored and we have nothing better to do?”
In Bialik's opinion, the issue stems from how her generation of moms was brought up. “I think that competition comes about because we are the first generation of women who were raised after the revolutionary turmoil of the women’s movement and were the first generation who was constitutionally raised to believe that we can and should do it all,” Bialik hypothesized. "So, when this generation became mothers and removed ourselves from the career world, we took that competitive drive and we seem to have superimposed it on our lives as mothers."
She went onto encourage moms to think about how they can connect on in a more "meaningful" way with one another. For example, she explained that when she asks another mother about her birth or breastfeeding experience, it's because she truly wants to know and understand, not "pass judgment."
”Let’s get back to a model of camaraderie that reduces competition, fosters friendship and empathy and increases the success of a society that is built on the foundation principles of woman-to-woman support, which has sustained our species for so long, so well,” the 42-year-old said. ”We can only do this together.”
In just hours after going live, the vlog racked up responses from moms of varied, passionate opinions. "'Why are moms so competitive,' asks the mom who begins her blog with a bunch of comparisons," one commenter wrote. "I felt very judged by moms who started conversations with 'I use cloth diapers and don't use bottles.' This blog brought back all of the feelings of failure I had around breastfeeding. ... Maybe if we all agreed that talking about parenting is like talking about religion or politics, best done with extreme care and realization that the people we're talking [to] may have strongly held opinions."
Another commenter agreed that Bialik's report of her own experience reflects the problem. "I think the answer is in the way you pose the question," she wrote. "Your introductory anecdote is actually one long mom brag. You don't realize it because you don't mean it that way. But you give several examples of why you were doing it 'better.' I don't think this makes you a bad person, I just think it's something to reflect on."
Others remarked exclusively on Bialik's question about competitiveness. "As a doula and childbirth educator, I wonder if this competition is driven by the loss of community support for mothers? Families are scattered around the world and the new mom is expected to know and do all quickly and by herself," one commenter wrote. Another shared, "I think, It's because no mom really knows what they are doing, and we are adrift in a sea of information thanks to the internet and social media, grasping desperately unto the things that make us "good parents", for approval. It's not other moms we need to combat; It's mom guilt."
Bialik obviously set off a passionate debate. It's apparent that we're never going to all see eye-to-eye on all of the intricacies of the issue, and plenty of people disagree with Bialik's approach. But it doesn't hurt to look at and discuss the obvious social trend of competitive parenting, mom-shaming, and judgment. Props to Bialik for promoting an important conversation. And with hope, it will inspire some of her followers to pursue more meaningful, supportive connections with other moms.