Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Whatever Happened To Sisterhood?

Becoming a mummy was without doubt the single most life-changing moment in my thirty-something years.  I am sure it is for any woman embarking on motherhood.  I, like many, felt reasonably well prepared for the pain of childbirth and the subsequent sleepless nights and dirty nappies.

What nobody warned me about was the constant attempts by some other mothers to belittle my attempts and out-do my achievements.  I had envisaged making new friends who would share the new-mum ups and downs with me, who’d know exactly what I was going through when my colicky baby had been up five times in the night, and who I would be able to offer sympathy to in return when their little one was ill.

We’d all share in this wonderful part of Sisterhood, united by our beautiful, happy babies, gurgling away as we pushed them around in their buggies, each of us sporting our pre-pregnancy clothes that fitted perfectly and had no stains in sight.

To a large extent, the rose-hued ideology was the case – I have a small but close-knit circle of new-mummy friends – but I did often question what happened to Sisterhood?  Sister-Hoodwinked, more like!

Some mothers, it seems, derive pleasure from constant put-downs.  Their snidy comments cut into very hormonal women at their most vulnerable, when there is no need whatsoever.  Their babies are the ones doing cartwheels by their six-week check-up and conversing with each member of the family in a different language.

To me, it smacks of insecurity.  The upheaval in their own lives means they need to reassure themselves that they’re coping.  Nobody would say being proud of your child is wrong, but why is it so difficult just to be pleased for the other mum and resist the urge to jump in with how yours has done something better?

There is pressure to be the ‘perfect parent,’ but no-one is born knowing what to do so starting out is the perfect opportunity to share tips, admit mistakes and learn from each other.  Instead, the white lies trip off so many tongues so frequently that they become too obvious and that’s what irritates.  Couple that with sleep deprivation and your own screaming baby, and many women are knocked needlessly.

We need the support of other parents to help us through the tough times, so beware you White Liars and Put-Down Queens – you risk alienating yourself and ending up alone when you need help yourself.

I would like to see mums being more honest about the reality of modern motherhood. It’s not easy.  There is so much pressure heaped on us anyway so bitching among the ranks serves no constructive purpose.  It’s never easy to admit to needing a bit of help but we should try.  Remember, the “perfect parent” is a fictional being.  There is no such thing.


  1. I totally sympathize, and wish people could discuss parenting techniques and suggestions without things turning into a competition or taken as an attack on their own methods. Sometimes mothers get very defensive when i tell them I breastfeed, but it's not meant to be an criticism! Mothering is such a deeply personal act; everyone will do things the best way they can, and no one solution fits all.

  2. Thanks Mel, I appreciate your comment and I absolutely agree. I also get frustrated when strangers feel they have a right to pass comment, but that's a topic for another day!

  3. I fell victim to competitive mums and it was horrible. I felt like the worse mum in the world. But the one positive that has come out of it is that I am the least judgemental person you could meet.

  4. Sorry to hear about your experience with competitive mums, MadHouse - I had no idea there was so much of it about till I had my daughter. Glad you've come out of it the other side :)

  5. Well said!! I find it funny when the lies are so obvious... Tut, tut to these women - you're right when you say that they're only alienating themselves. Insecurity leads to such ugly behaviour. There's much strength in revealing a vulnerability...

  6. I couldn't agree more, Mrs Balfour, and I think "ugly" is a very good way to describe it.


I'd love to know what you think.