'Mommy wars' reignite during COVID-19 and quarantine

They were just about a thing of the past. And then came the coronavirus.

May 19, 2020, 4:51 PM

It seemed like the so-called "mom wars" were just about a thing of the past. And then came the coronavirus.

In a matter of weeks, nearly every parent around the country had a major life shift. Many became began working from home, teaching and providing full-time child care. Suddenly, the life choices moms had made and grown comfortable with had all changed.

"There's a lot of insecurity right now," said Kim Hooper, an author of several novels and mom of a toddler from Los Angeles. Her next book, "All the Acorns on the Forest Floor," will be available in September.

"Moms are looking around and judging," she said.

In her circle, Hooper said, the issues dividing women are about child care -- will you send your kids to day care or hire a nanny -- and jobs -- should you quit or take a leave to focus on child care and home schooling.

PHOTO: Kim Hooper and her family.
Kim Hooper and her family.
Kim Hooper

Jesse Curatolo is the moderator of the Facebook groups Bad Moms of Long Island and Bad Moms of America with a total of about 30,000 members. It's a judgement-free group, she told "Good Morning America," and as a result she had to ban all coronavirus-related posts early on.

"It was only a day or so before I had to shut it down," she said, referring to the negative comments and the fact she was worried about misinformation being spread in a quickly evolving situation by people with no expertise. "It was everything from whether you should wear a mask to if it was OK to go to work," she said of the short time posts were allowed. "It just felt irresponsible."

Hooper told "GMA" it's easy to get caught up in the drama: "I try to step back and think, 'What is the true nature of this?' and just do what's best for my family, which may be different than someone else's choices."

Now is "especially a damaging time to engage in mommy wars because of the precariousness of COVID19 and the current unknown of the long-lasting impacts on our mental health," said Dr. Huong Diep, a board-certified child and family psychologist in private practice in San Diego.

She said we're experiencing an underlying current of anxiety that may feel overwhelming and never-ending: "One easy, and oftentimes subconscious, way to relieve anxiety and fear is by displacing it onto something, or in this case, someone else."

"Subconsciously, we combat this overwhelming fear by telling ourselves that we are in the 'right' and others are in the 'wrong' and therefore put blame, shame and judgment onto others as a way of making our own actions and choices feel right," Diep continued. "It is a coping strategy with detrimental outcomes for all parties. It may feel good in the short term to get on your high horse, but ultimately, it will also make you feel disconnected from others."

Hooper said she decided to stop following a mom on Instagram that was doing a ton of crafting in quarantine -- a skill Hooper said she doesn't possess.

"But maybe it's her way of coping," she said. "Some people go into hyperproductive mode, others don't, there is no right way."

Diep has advice for parents to disengage from mom wars and to protect their mental health:

Check yourself first

Ask yourself, "Why you are feeling triggered? Are you having an emotional reaction to another person's actions/beliefs/ideas/posts?"

"Is this based on something in your own history? Based on a trauma? Based on something you have struggled with?" Diep said. "Other questions to ask yourself are, 'Why am I feeling the need to judge and shame this person right now? What am I hoping to get out of shaming and judging this person?'"

Keep in mind, Diep said, that usually people who judge others harshly tend to be highly self-critical of themselves and hold themselves to certain standards.

"For example, if are you judging someone because they are, per you, 'boasting' about their home-cooked gourmet meals and home-schooling like a 'pro' during the pandemic, this could be due to myriad of reasons, including 1.) You may be insecure or worried that you are not doing 'enough" and that her children are going to be healthier and more educated following the quarantine than your kids, and/or 2.) You will think that she is judging you based on your microwaved meals and increased TV time. I often ask parents, 'What would you do with your kids if there was no social media to document or to peek into the lives of others?'"

Practice self-compassion for where you are in your journey.

"I encourage parents to remind themselves that they are a human being doing the best they can during a pandemic where there are no guidebooks for how to parent, educate, etc," Diep said. "Therefore, we have no idea what is truly the 'best' thing to do in this case."

Practicing self-compassion is important, as are words of affirmation.

"[Say] things such as, 'I'm doing the best I can today,' or even, 'I am doing the best I can in this hour,'" Diep said. "As a child psychologist, I can tell you that from the research of pediatrician Donald Winnicott, and my clinical experience, that children just need a 'good-enough parent' who can be present and provide basic needs. Giving your child five minutes of undivided attention means more to them, even if they can't verbalize it, than any art projects and other grand gestures."

Remember the old adage of 'be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle'

"I would encourage parents to remember that we are all trying our best and everyone's best will look different. What may work for one family, may not work for another," she said. "Also, we do not know that person's history, which can include trauma and what they are currently battling with. This person that you are judging or shaming may be posting extra curated pictures for the 'likes' as a way of compensating for their low self-esteem, guilt, a fight they just had with their partner, an illness in the family that they are in denial about, etc."

Related Topics