The Mom-Judging Olympics: A competition nobody meant to enter

In the Mom Judging Olympics, nobody wins.
In the Mom Judging Olympics, nobody / Today

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By Parents
Sara Keeler, with her sons Gabriel and Joseph, calls motherhood 'a competition nobody meant to enter.'Courtesy of Sara Keeler / Today

What do moms judge each other for?

The real question is, what don’t we judge each other for?

Nearly 90 percent of us judge other moms, for everything from breast-feeding habits to bratty kids, our TODAY Moms/ survey of 26,000 moms found.

As one mom told us, motherhood is “a competition nobody meant to enter.”

Didn’t try to breast-feed? One in 5 moms will judge you for that. But if you breast-feed for “too long” – say, nursing a 3-year-old -- you get judged too, by 43 percent of moms.

Other ways to get mommy-judged: Have a bratty kid (66 percent of moms will judge you harshly); have an overweight child (37 percent); let your child have too much TV/video game screen time (32 percent); feed your kid junky food (34 percent).

In the Mom Judging Olympics, nobody / Today

Related: Read more from our Mom Secrets survey

Most moms try to shrug off the judgment, but it can really get to you. Lawna Hurl, mom of two daughters in Alberta, Canada, says she went back to work after six months in part because she couldn’t take the constant, unspoken competition.

“I didn’t like being around other moms ‘cause I often felt inferior,” she explained. “It saddens me that among moms there is so much judgment – no matter what you do it seems someone is judging.”

(Of course, now she might get judged for “working too much” – one in five says this is a mommy no-no.)

Related: What's the TODAY Moms editor's secret confession?

Parenting expert Wendy Mogel, author of “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee,” says part of what’s fueling the mom judge-a-thon is what psychologists call “displacement.” The world is a scary place, and we can’t control things like the economy free-falling. But we can control our choices as a parent – so we attach way too much significance to them.

Related: Moms confess to drugging kids for peace and quiet

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“Mothers are judging themselves and judging others to make themselves feel a little better,” Mogel said. “We’re all trying to look good, and we want our kids to look good and impress others.”

Lacey Davis, a mom in West Virginia, says she hates to admit how judgmental she is. “When I go to other moms’ homes I do the quick once-over and pick apart things and almost go down this checklist I carry in my head. Dishes in sink, floors not swept, no sweeper lines in carpet,” she told “I HATE this about myself because I know if I am doing it, then so is everyone else that comes to MY house!” 

But the harshest critic usually lies within. Sara Keeler, a mother of two boys in Gillette, Wyo., describes motherhood as “a competition nobody meant to enter.”

Lawna Hurl's two daughters.Courtesy of Lawna Hurl / Today

Related: I'm judging you for taking your kid to 'Predator'

She plays along, sometimes – when company is coming, she’ll race through the house and shove all the clutter into closets, so people think she’s an OK housekeeper. The pressure to be the perfect mom feels heavy, she says.

“We all want to be the best at what we do,” Keeler says. “We consciously and unconsciously compare ourselves, and our children, to every other mother and child we come in contact with.”

Brigette Dineen, a mom of two from the Cleveland, Ohio, area, bemoans the “Eye of Judgment” that seems to follow moms everywhere. She chalks up the pressure on moms today in part to information overload: We have so many resources, from prenatal yoga classes to umpteen child-rearing books to educational videos and BPA warnings, that we expect perfection from ourselves and our families.

 “So why are our kids still sometimes brats?” she wonders. “Newsflash – they’re kids and that’s what they do.”

Get real: Do you judge other moms? Do you feel judged? How do we get off the judging treadmill? Share your thoughts in the comments and join TODAY Moms editor Rebecca Dube for a Facebook discussion today about our survey results.