What are Toxic Mommy Cultures? (Part 1 of 3)
Updated: Sep 9
I ran a poll of 4 blog topics that had been floating in around in my head and (to my surprise) “How I Pulled Myself Out of Toxic Mom Culture” won!
As I sat down to start this series, I realized HOW MUCH is actually involved in this topic… first, of all, what IS toxic mommy culture?
Thanks to my certification as a Motherhood Studies Practitioner, I felt that I also needed to mention intensive mothering, and then I started down a rabbit hole - there are actually SO many facets of toxic mom cultures that a mom could be sucked into these days.
I'm going to start this series by defining, in MY OWN WORDS (very important here, I'm not an expert in this subject, but I have had some training and have dedicated this part of my career to encouraging and supporting moms), several of these different mom cultures that persist today (in year 2022).
Want to listen instead?
Here's a sneak peek at this 3-part series:
What are Toxic Mommy Cultures? (THIS ONE!)
It's important to call out these toxic subcultures and define them because it adds language/words, and thus, more awareness to the problem. This is the first step to pulling yourself out of these unhelpful cultures: calling them out, defining them.
Let's start with what the word toxic means.
In this toxic mommy culture context, we are talking about something that is harmful and infecting you.
It negatively impacts your mental health, your life outlook, your relationships, your parenting, potentially your physical health... pretty much everything, which is why it is so important to remove yourself.
There are so manys "types" of toxic mom cultures, as well. To call out a few: hot mess mom, mommy wine culture, degrading humor mom, pinterest mom, perfect mommy/intensive mothering.
The biggest overarching theme of all these toxic mom cultures: I am a victim of motherhood mentality.
From a 3rd party point of view (and especially from the view of a woman/family who may be desperate to even have a child), the mother is seen as a complainer, ungrateful, disrespectful, and/or bitter. A mother wrapped up in these toxic cultures paints herself as a victim.
Let me make this clear: You are NOT a victim of motherhood, you are a BENEFICIARY of motherhood.
This does not mean every moment is beautiful, happy, and picture perfect. LIFE is not one joyful, harmonious ride. But we have begun "bonding" over the hardships, but instead of presenting them as moments in time (which they are), we have made them expectations and extremes. "I see your struggle, I raise it x10. I will only vent and complain when we speak."
I do believe many of these subcultures were created with good intentions, with connection in mind... but mothers are connecting (well, trying to connect) over the wrong things and it has spiraled into becoming toxic and harmful to the mother and family.
Hot Mess Mom Culture -
The bigger the mess, more accepted you are. Viewing moms that "have it together" as a villain. If you are frumpy, overwhelmed, stressed out, running around in chaos, in survival mode, you "belong" here.
Mommy Wine Culture -
Combination of jokes and insinuating the need for alcohol to "deal" or "handle" parenting/kids (or let's also call it out - a spouse)
Degrading Humor Culture -
Calling kids "jerks" or "brats" or "a--holes" for their developmentally appropriate behaviors
Perfect Mommy/Intensive Mothering -
Constant servitude for others, Mothering requires 24/7 care at the expense of the mother. Mothering requires copious amounts of time, resources, and energy for the child's behalf. Creating "over the top" experiences, parties, gifts, etc for the kids in order to create a picture-perfect childhood. Puts on a perfect exterior constantly, makes the "highlight reel" visible and known.
Martyr Mom -
Overlap with Perfect Mommy: Constant servitude for others, Mothering requires 24/7 care at the expense of the mother. Mothering requires copious amounts of time, resources, and energy for the child's behalf. Mom has no identity outside of "mother." Often does "too much" for the child - tasks that kids could do for themselves. The mom sacrifices for her children and family, which is obvious to those who interact with her.
Intensive Mothering is one of these subcultures that appears to be the "oddball" compared to the rest. Often times, the moms in the "hot mess" culture bond over gossiping about the "perfect mommys" (a direct binary here), but the truth is that BOTH are toxic. BOTH are causing harm to the mother and "infecting" her, even if they seem to be in direct opposition.
I've thought long and hard about why these toxic cultures have become so pervasive.
Do moms want attention? affirmation? validation? I have to believe the answer is YES to all, especially in a larger society that places no value on care-taking work (an issue itself).
With the lack of recognition for moms and mothering work, these desperate messages to be seen and heard keep getting louder and louder and more and more extravagant.
It's time to do something about it by starting the conversation (thank you for being here and reading about it!)
Most of these cultures connect under the guise of humor... and so if you call it out, moms will be very defensive. Versions of
"C'mon, it's just a joke."
"Stop being so judgemental."
"Well we can't all have it together."
... which is why I want part 2 of this series to focus on responses to the justifications given for these toxic mom cultures. Stay tuned! :)
If you are interested in hearing more about this topic (and other important topics related to motherhood), check out the "Motherhood Grace Guide: Journal of Inspiration + Encouragement for Moms" Entries 15 + 17 dive deeper into the Perfect Mom Myth + Intensive Mothering.