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I was blown away by the comments on an article that I wrote recently called “Surviving Mothers’ Group”. 

There was an outpouring of pain in those comments, particularly on the Mouths of Mums Facebook page, and I’ve found I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Mums bravely shared their stories about their good, bad (and ugly) experiences with mother’s group.

There were some really interesting and different stories in those comments, for example I loved the story from one mum who shared what it was like being a new mum of an adoptive baby and feeling very ‘different’ because she hadn’t been through the pregnancy and labour experience.

Other mums spoke of the competitive mummies and their ‘perfect’ babies and how truly awful it made them feel, right at a time when they were trying to find their feet.

Sadly I don’t think that experience is limited to mothers’ group… I think we’ve all met our share of competitive and judgmental mummies.

For example, I have a Facebook page for my book, Survivor’s Guide to Colic, and somebody just posted on there rather smugly that the solution to colic was “simple, just breastfeed”.

Not only is this completely factually wrong (colic affects equal numbers of breast and bottlefed babies), but it showed a COMPLETE lack of insight about the challenges that other mums might be experiencing.

I responded politely, correcting the misinformation, but I confess that it really made me cranky.  It was exactly the kind of behaviour other stressed mums described in their comments on my last article.

The common theme that united most of those comments was one of vulnerability and the fear (or the reality) of being judged.

What IS it about motherhood that brings out this fear so strongly?

Sure there are always compulsive perfectionists like me that hate to feel like they are getting anything wrong, but I think it might be something deeper than that.

The fear of ‘getting it wrong’ or acknowledging that we’re having problems or difficulties as a mum seems so much more exaggerated, the vulnerability so much more powerful.

Perhaps the drive to do the best we can for our kids (and therefore the fear of not measuring up) is instinctive?

Or does it just come out so strongly in the context of mother’s group because it is usually a group of brand new mums, who have just gone through major life changes and are trying to figure out a whole lot of new things for the first time – because new experiences often bring out our vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability, perfectionism, judgement… they often walk hand-in-hand, don’t they?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling vulnerable, I have to confess that my knee jerk reaction is to pull up my ‘perfectionism shield’ quick smart so that nobody can hurt me/judge me.

So if I extrapolate that to other mums, maybe that’s where this problem of judgy ‘perfect’ mum issue really stems from? From a mum who’s scared of not measuring up and unfortunately her reaction to that fear actually triggers the fears of other mums around her.

What do you think?  Am I being overly generous or am I onto something here?

OK, I’m sure its not ALWAYS going to be the case, but for me, I think the next time I run across a mum who’s trying very hard to convince me that she and/or her baby is perfect, I’m going to try hard to remember that behaviour is probably stemming directly from the fear that she (or her baby) ISN’T perfect.

So I’m going to grab every last bit of my mummy courage and share as much understanding and compassion as I can, combined with letting her see some of my own vulnerability, in the hope that might just break the cycle.

And if that doesn’t work, well there are so many other wonderful mummies out there who ARE prepared to be real and honest, so I’ll go spend my time with them instead!

Life’s too short – I’ll be spending my time with people that make my life better, not worse!

I’d love to hear what you think – is there something primal about our motherhood vulnerability? 

  • If you think a Mum is asking for advice not just making a strange comment I might say “I tried…..and ….” My final comment has always been “each Mum and child are individuals. What works for one often doesn’t work for others You can try the idea if you want to, the decision is yours”.

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  • If people become judgy it is just down to their own insecurities. All you can do as you said is the best for your family, don’t compete with anyone. Who needs the added stress? I know I certainly don’t.

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  • Motherhood is most definitely primal. I know I jump in like a wild mother bear if you hurt my babies, no second thoughts

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  • Just say thanks for your advice and still do your own thing!

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  • I love your last comments – I always tried to spend my time with the real mummies out there and I’m afraid I didn’t bother with the ones who seemed to know it all and try to put others down. Too much to do in my own busy life for that hassle.

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  • Think Muma ahould help each other you see we are not all brought up in same family. Tips and help should be OK encouragement is far better way..

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  • I think judgy Mums have always been around but we’re far more exposed to it now with social media. I often read comments in response to blogs and online articles that I find rude and offensive and I wonder why people feel the need to post them. If you think it, fine. No need to share it when someone has bared their soul. If that makes me judgy, sorry but if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it. I love that the internet has allowed people to share their stories, and for the most part people are open and nice and have similar stories. I don’t like it when people try to drag someone down for the sake of it.

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  • I don’t think it’s just mums who judge each other it’s just our culture in general unfortunately. We definitely like to cut each other down here in Australia.

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  • To be honest I tend to stay around mum’s who are realistic and are there to offer you advice that helps not hinder.

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  • Thank you. Your article hits home on so many points. I was one of those unlucky mums who couldn’t breast feed (it wasn’t my choice, there were health complications). I even had Nursing Mothers Association nurses tell me I just wasn’t trying and it would affect my baby’s health. If I was at the shops, I would hide in a cubicle in the parents room to bottle feed my bubs. My four sons are very healthy adults now, disproving that expert advice about formula.

    And the school mums and their silly competitions, I experienced these when I picked my boys up from the school gate. I would turn up in jeans and t-shirt and be given a very wide gap between me and the fashion-plates all parading around while they waited for their darlings to leave school.

    The experts are out there, hiding where you least expect to see them. I love complimenting new mums on their babies and just watching their faces light up. More people should try doing this.

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  • I think that I have judged “who needs a bouncy castle at a 1 year old birthday party?” and been judged “stop exercising in your third trimester, it is diverting the blood flow away from the baby”. We all have our standards that can differ from others. It depends on the person and the relationship as to if an intervention is made.


    • Yes but who cares if someone has a bouncy castle at a first birthday party? It’s not hurting you but you could hurt the person having the party if they heard you making that judgement.

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  • For my first child, I was too afraid to join a mothers group or play group. By my fourth child, I had the confidence but not the desire. A lot of this isolation stemmed from Judgy Mummy comments I got when I was pregnant. Words are so powerful and unfortunately I’ve found these misguided comments are not always confined to mums with infants. What really matters is that our children are happy and healthy and safe and loved. Its taken a long time for me to stop believing hurtful words, like being told I was a neglectful parent (because my children didn’t know certain cartoon characters from a popular TV show) or because I never knew what it was really like to be pregnant because I’d never made it to 40 weeks before (I was 39 weeks,5 days pregnant with my 4th child at the time and she arrived the next day). I am an introvert and a perfectionist, and my belief in my children is what keeps me going now. Thank you for your article, it brought me comfort reading your conviction on making life a better place.


    • It sounds like you are a wonderful mum. Don’t ever listen to “experts”. Your child’s smile and hugs and kisses are the only confirmation you need that you are doing the best job in the world.

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  • we are all parents doing the same thing:-trying to raise our children the best way that we can. I try not to let the “judgy” mums get me down, but its only natural that we get our back bone up when others are insecure and judge the way we are raising our children or when we do something that they dont agree with.

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  • Personally I never had time for the bossy, clicky, annoying mothers, life’s to short to waste time bickering and so on. Enjoy your life and encourage your children to enjoy there’s.

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  • Motherhood as been the most challenging and interesting journey. And yes, mostly because of other mothers/parents and their comments, judgements, expertise, etc. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I can only say that we must follow our gut instinct on what’s right for our child, not anyone else’s. Comparison also helps us define the kind of parent/mother/person we don’t want to be. I’m always intrigued by mothers whose child is perfect, better, most-talented and those mums who feel the need to share. I’m not one of those people, so have had a constant battle of biting my tongue at playgroup/mother’s group. I’ve had to weigh up what I did get out of that group interaction and try and block out the competitive nature of some of the mums. It doesn’t improve as your child gets older. I think there are those that feel the need to compare, spruik about their child’s abilities, vs those of us that don’t.

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