University of Calgary

Mommies Club

May 7, 2009

New moms find both support and anxiety as a group

The first rule of ‘mommies’ club’ is, you do not talk about ‘mommies’ club’.

Whether they like it or not, new moms are often plunged into a narrowly defined community that is often fraught with conflict and tension, otherwise known as `the mommies’ club,’ says a U of C professor researching the experiences of first-time mothers.

Fiona Nelson, professor of women’s studies in the Faculty of Communication and Culture, says the mommies’ club is the cultural and conversational space women enter when they become mothers and consists of the relationships mothers have with each other. In her study, all of the women interviewed agreed the mommies’ club existed but few admitted to belonging to it.

“The desire to relate to other mothers coupled with social stigmas and heated battles about how to care for your child leaves new moms simultaneously in need of support from each other while fearing rejection from each other,” says Nelson.

Although all new mothers attested to the importance of contact with other new mothers, many new moms reported that the mommies’ club consisted of women they themselves did not identify with. For example, employed mothers often defined the club members as stay-at-home mothers, while stay-at-home mothers believed the club members were mostly employed mothers; mothers with a conservative political mindset said the club was liberal and vice versa.

Many new moms worried that membership in the mommies’ club meant they were “just a mother”, while the participants reported they struggled to define themselves as more than that. Nelson adds that labeling women as “just a mother” can contribute to new moms feeling isolated and alienated from other mothers.

“Mothers who had little contact with the mommies’ club were more likely to be depressed and stressed,” says Nelson. “Contact with other new moms is a lifeline but one that women can struggle to claim because they do not always see themselves as being like other mothers.”

Nelson says these practices are a part of the cultural devaluing of motherhood. “The club is stigmatized, even by the women who belong to it, because the club is concerned with talk about the minutia of mothering. Culturally, this is viewed as talk about nothing.”

Nelson’s study is published in In the Other Room, and is available in most book stores. The opening chapter is available for free download from www.fernwoodpublishing.ca.

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