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The Science of Mommy Wars

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I’m supposed to hate you. At least that’s what some scientist would have women think. It’s in our DNA. to hate each other.

This might be of some relief to anyone who has been on the losing end of a Mommy War, but I find it anything but a relief. In fact, the recent and much discussed study which appeared in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B authored by a University of Ottawa psychology professor has me a bit disappointed. Actually, it has me a lot disappointed.

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The CliffNotes version of the study states that women are catty and competitive as part of our DNA. In other words, we can’t help ourselves. The study’s author Tracy Vaillancourt asserts that cave women needed other women to help raise their little cave babies, but they also wanted to take down anyone younger or prettier who might be seen as a sexual threat. It’s the old, “Nothing worse than having a hot nanny in the cave when cave daddy is home,” kind of a thing.

So, according to the study, cave women would passive-aggressively harm any female she perceived as sexual competition. This was a way of harming anyone the cave's daddy might find hot without ruining the chances of help with the cave babies. This is not the first study to assert that women are by nature competitive with one another. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I think moms are often competitive with one another because being a mom is a job that comes with no handbook.

I’m no scientist, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think it’s bs to state the women are genetically inclined to be bitchy to one another. And by stating that in one research paper after the next, it validates that fact the women are supposed to be catty. And more importantly, that we all are.

Every mom has felt the brunt of, or been at the tail end of, a mommy pissing match. Whether it’s the catty mom in the parking lot at drop-off, or the judgmental mom working hard to raise her Botoxed eyebrow your way when your kid has a meltdown at the park, or the “well intended” but unsolicited advice one mom gives another on anything from cosleeping to college applications. That unsolicited advice rarely comes without an opinion, and that opinion is very clear: You’re a bad mom, and she’s a good one. But are those moms catty because they’re trying to take out the competition like their cave ancestors? I don’t think so.

I think moms are often competitive with one another because being a mom is a job that comes with no handbook. There are no lessons and there is no right answer when it comes to your kid. A mom could do everything “right” and still have a kid who can’t cut it in school or who can’t seem to behave. Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of all the unknowns about raising kids, so it’s easier to pick on other people’s choices than make peace with our own. We feel better about our choices by judging someone else’s. It makes us feel (mistakenly, I might add) that our choices are the right ones. When it comes to parenting, aren’t we’re all just hoping we’re doing the right thing? Someone doing something differently might mean we’re wrong.

But that’s not in our DNA, that’s our choice.

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When my now 6-year-old son was born, I said to myself, “This kid is my ambassador. He’s going to bring me wonderful people.” He has done just that. My closest, kindest friends have been brought to me as a result of being a mom. If they’re catty, I don’t know it. And, according to science, catty women want you to know they’re being catty. So I guess not all women are catty and not all moms are at war. Clearly, we’ve evolved.

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