By Megan Cottrell
You joined that mom's group to make friends, share stories, and find people who don't mind if all you talk about is diapers, breastfeeding, or navigating marriage with a newborn. But sometimes, joining a mom group can leave you feeling worse rather than better. What then?
“You might see another child and think 'Oh, look, her son is already walking,' and while you realize it means nothing, you can feel like you're doing something wrong,” says Laura Markham, Ph.D., a child psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Child. And if parenting theories clash or personalities butt heads, it can turn what should be an uplifting few hours into just source of mommy guilt.
So how can you cope? Here’s five ways to make your mom group work for you.
Don't play the comparison game.
Did Lucy roll over two weeks sooner than Henry? It doesn’t matter! “It's a normal human thing that we compare, but comparison will always find you someone else who's different – someone who's better and someone who's worse,” Markham says. When you feel yourself tempted to compare kids, pause, take a deep breath, and try to let that urge go.
Acknowledge uncomfortable feelings.
There's nothing more terrifying to a mom than the thought that she's doing a bad job. “It's easy to become worried that maybe we're doing it wrong, and we can become judgmental out of worry. We need to make another mom wrong if we're going to continue what we're doing and feel good about it,” says Markham.
At times like this, Dr. Markham recommends having a positive mantra to repeat to yourself, something like, “This isn't a competition. I don't have to be a perfect mother. I'm more than enough.” It can help you make it through an uncomfortable moment, and when you’re home later, you can take the time to work through your feelings more fully by writing in a journal or talking to a trusted friend.
Deal with difficult personalities.
Got a member of your mom group who just loves to give advice about everybody's parenting dilemma? “It's easy to feel attacked or devalued, but remind yourself that their intentions are probably good,” Markham says. “You can give an easy reply like, 'Good idea, I'll remember that.' and then quickly change the subject.”
What about that mommy evangelist who just has to convince everyone that her parenting style is best? Give her a quick minute to shine. “Acknowledge what their point of view by saying something like, 'Wow. I guess that really worked for you. Everybody’s different,' and then help the group move to a new topic,” says Markham.
Zero in on who you connect with.
If the whole mom group isn't working for you, don't be afraid to try and meet separately with one or two moms you get along with best. Just be tactful to avoid hurting any feelings. “Avoid badmouthing the other people, but let them know you love getting to know them and see if they would like to get together in a small group more often,” says Markham.
Don't give up.
Although mom groups can occasionally trigger uncomfortable feelings, remember that new moms are one of the best sources of support for other new moms. (Try as they might, sometimes friends without kids can only empathize so much!)
“The way that women connect with each other is by telling their stories and sharing their difficulties,” says Markham says. “It's good to hear that other kids cry, other kids throw up, other kids bite their mothers. It 's good for you to hear from other parents and just to feel like you're not alone in the world.”