“Mean Girls”, mean moms

I’m reblogging a piece I wrote about mom shaming in which I compared grownup moms to the Mean Girls from Tina Fey’s eponymous 2004 film. When we talk about mom shaming, what we’re really talking about is “mommy guilt”.

Do mean girls grow up to be mean moms?

I think so. But not always.

Guilt is the Big Bad that turns a nice mom into a mean one. (Yes, I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in case you’re wondering.)

When mommy guilt weighs heavy on us, we turn our guilt outward, becoming self-righteous and judging others more severely. You better believe, a mom who condemns herself, criticizes others.

Perhaps that “mean girl” you know isn’t so mean after all. Next time you’re a victim of mom shaming, remember this:  maybe that judge-y mom is a girl in pain who needs some extra love.

If you don’t believe me, listen to what the experts have to say.

“I think a lot of the so-called Mommy Wars really just stem from the fact that we feel constant guilt,” said Stephanie Coontz, a historian at The Evergreen State College in Washington and author of A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s (Basic Books, 2011).

Parental scrutiny may be the result of insecurity. Kathleen Gerson, a sociologist at New York University, claims:  “On the one hand, we all think we’re experts at [parenting]. On the other hand, we’re very uncertain about doing it.” 

No more girl-on-girl, mom-on-mom crime. Don’t be a mean girl. Mom-shaming is rampant. Stop the snark.

It’s interesting one of my favorite movies, Mean Girls (2004), written by Tina Fey, came out when most young moms were in high school or college. I was a junior in college. Fey was inspired by the 2002 nonfiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. In the book, the writer explores the subtle and indirect ways that girls bully one another, “the tiny ways girls go after each other.”

Art imitates life and life imitates art. I’ve found in the “mom world” that some women can be socially competitive creatures who strive to be pretty, popular, and powerful – and even victimize other women in the process. I, too, have (and have had) the desire to be pretty, popular, and powerful – sometimes all at once.

There’s a scene from the movie Mean Girls where Ms. Norbury (Tiny Fey) asks each female student to close her eyes and raise her hand “if you have ever had a girl say something bad about you behind your back.” Everyone raises her hand. Then, Ms. Norbury asks for a show of hands “if you have ever said anything about a friend behind her back.” Again, everyone raises her hand, but this time sheepishly. “There’s been some girl-on-girl crime here.”

I have a confession. I’ve been both a victim and an aggressor, a shamee and a shamer. While I have never overtly said or done anything mean to another mom (at least not yet), I have judged other moms in my head.

Mom-on-Mom Crime

In a recent study, eighty percent of millennial moms said they’ve been shamed by other moms. According to a survey conducted by the app mom.life, mom respondents said they were shamed by other moms for feeding choices (e.g. bottle, breast, solids) and parenting styles. In my own personal life, I’ve seen mom shaming in virtual and realtime spaces.

In my virtual life, I’ve been shamed. I have a parenting app on my phone and, through the app, have joined online communities. Most moms who contribute to the groups are supportive, but some moms make judge-y, bullying remarks. It wasn’t uncommon for me to read a snide, know-at-all comment that made me roll my eyes and close the app in frustration. I could cite several examples of “the tiny ways girls go after each other” in online communities, but I don’t want to be a mom shamer.

In my real life, I’ve been shamed too. At the zoo. On the playground. In the library. At a grocery store. On an airplane. In a restaurant. So far the shamers were all women. I get enraged when I think about how mean some women can be to other women. And why? And for what?

In my experience, the nastiness is perpetrated by other women not men. (In the mom.life study, dads were the least likely to be shamers.) For some reason, dads don’t seem to judge themselves or other dads as harshly as women do.

Mom shaming appears to happen more and more to stay-at-home moms. As a SAHM, I’ve been at the receiving end of some tactless comments. I try not to let the unintentional (hopefully not intentional) remarks hurt me, but I admit I can be overly sensitive.

Nice Girls

Be a nice girl. Be a friend, not just a Facebook Friend or Instagram Follower. Be a real friend. Most importantly, be a friend to yourself first.

An unnamed, minor Mean Girls character, with “a lot of feelings”, says it best: “I just wish we could all get along like we did in middle school. I wish that I could bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles, and we’d all eat it and be happy.” What a grool quote indeed. (In case you were wondering, grool is an amalgam of great and cool.) We, moms, should try harder to get along.

A Final Thought – From the Pillow

Being nice is hard work. It’s a lot easier to be mean.

So take time out for yourself, even if only for five minutes. You know it’s time to take a “‘stay-in-bed’ timeout” when you feel mean. A well-rested, relaxed mom is rarely a “mean girl”. Get in bed and eat a slice of cake made out of rainbows and smiles.

Have you ever been a “mean girl” (or boy)? Why do you think some people bully others? (I don’t fully believe the platitude bullies are unhappy people who pick on others to feel better about themselves.)

2 thoughts on ““Mean Girls”, mean moms

Add yours

  1. I’m not sure why women do this to each other either. However, as a dad I get shamed by plenty of moms. Like if I’m at a playground and my youngest son drops his bottle in the dirt and I just wipe off the nipple and give it back to him. Moms give me a ‘mean girl’ look while dads just joke about the five second rule with a smile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh, that’s the worst. I’m so sorry. Thank you for sharing your perspective as a dad. We’re all in this parenting thing together. At least that’s how I wish everyone felt.

      I wholeheartedly believe in the five second rule too. Your children and mine are building their immune systems!


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