Typical definition of egocentrism: Perceiving the world and interpreting things from your own personal vantage point.
My Definition of “Mom Egocentrism”: When a mom judges another mom’s choices based on her own personal experiences, mental states, goals, beliefs, preferences, and biases.
Common topics in the mom-world that often trigger egocentrism.
- breastfeeding vs. formula feeding
- sleep training vs. not sleep training
- daycare vs. no daycare
- baby-led weaning vs. pureés
- screen time vs. no screen time
- co-sleeping vs. crib
- c-section vs. vaginal
I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were talking about racism. Specifically, they were stressing the importance of putting your ego away when having conversations about racism. They suggested coming from a place of empathy instead. When they said this, I literally paused the podcast and just drove in silence on my way to pick up Milo. I couldn’t stop thinking about how this advice and way of communicating is so needed in the mom community as well.
When it comes to egocentrism, there is huge range in the ability one has to step outside their own perspective to see things from another’s viewpoint. It can also vary from topic to topic. The big topic this past week has been breastfeeding and formula feeding. It’s not a secret that people have different perspectives on how best to feed a baby. Women feel shamed and judged for breastfeeding, and women feel shamed and judged for formula feeding. You literally cannot win no matter what you do.
After reading so many women’s feeding stories, I couldn’t understand how someone could tell another mom “breast is best” or “formula is best”. While listening to this podcast, my brain nearly exploded once I realized that it is classic egocentrism. We love to assume why another mom is doing something without acknowledging or understanding why. We assume their situation looks the same as ours because we are unable to see it any other way. It appears to me than many moms lack the ability to empathize with other moms. Why is this happening? I will tell you why.
In short, when we feel anxious or shame about something (i.e., breastfeeding) and then someone questions us about that thing (i.e., a family member asking when we are going to wean the baby), OR another mom does something differently (i.e., formula feeds), we get defensive and reactive. Now, that reaction can be internal (you can curse your family member or judge the formula-feeding mom), or it can be overt. But, why do we initially have this anxiety or shame about something like feeding our freaking child? Well, you can blame messages from the media, non-supportive health care professionals, non-supportive family members, strangers that give you funny looks in public while we feed our babies and, the list can go on and on. We internalize these messages and develop our own biases, shame, and guilt.
It is a vicious cycle that can be applied to almost every god damn decision we need to make as moms and as families.
An example of the vicious cycle:
- Mom internalizes all the mixed messages surrounding formula feeding and constantly questions whether what she is doing is right (even though rationally she KNOWS breastfeeding was not right for her situation and formula feeding is going great).
- Mom feels guilt/shame/anxiety around her decision to formula feed her baby.
- When another mom asks if her baby has had ear infections because she “knows” that formula-fed babies typically get ear infections, she responds “no” and gets defensive.
- As a result of being defensive she goes into why formula feeding is better than breastfeeding (my baby is fuller longer, sleeps longer through the night, my partner can feed the baby during the night and bond with him, I’m not stuck at home, etc.). And now the breastfeeding mom feels shame.
- REPEAT OVER AND OVER FOR EVERY TOPIC RELATED TO BEING A MOM UNTIL THE END OF TIME.
Don’t EVALUATE another moms situation. Listen. Understand. SUPPORT.
Tuesday’s podcast episode (The Mom Room Podcast – Episode 13) is all about this topic! I go way more into it! Tune in!