Frenemommy

Bossy woman. Selfish girl. Egoist.

“You’d look so beautiful if you just lost the extra weight!”

“I admire your confidence for being willing to wear that!”

“Is that your wedding picture? The frame is amazing!”

Those are the kind of passive-aggressive “compliments” that you get from frenemies, the women who insist they are your friends but never miss a chance to undermine you. They aren’t really friends, but rather rivals who cloak their rivalry under the guise of friendship.

Frenemommy is a vampire of self-esteem; she can only get hers by sucking out yours.

But if you think a frenemy can be harmful to your self-esteem, just wait! One day she will have children and then she will be a frenemommy. No enemy can be as soul destroying as a frenemommy. They are everywhere and it’s not an exaggeration to say that they are destroying the experience new motherhood. So many good mothers feel so bad and frenemommies are the reason.

Becoming a mother is a simultaneously entrancing and frightening experience. You are overwhelmed with love for your impossibly beautiful newborn and frightened to death that you might harm him or her by accident or by ignorance. You are incredibly vulnerable … and along comes Frenemommy.

Frenemommy says:

“Hey, it’s still a vaginal birth even if you did have the epidural!”

And the amazing experience that had your husband looking at you as if you were a goddess is suddenly diminished.

“Your daughter is so smart for a formula fed baby!”

And your pride in your daughter is tainted by guilt that you short-changed her.

“How wonderful that your baby recognizes his mama even though you spend so much time at work!”

And your hard won confidence that you were successfully transitioning back to the job you love is blasted to smithereens.

Frenemommies aren’t just restricted to the people whom you know personally. There are professional frenemommies who write books on childbirth, breastfeeding and attachment parenting, offer their advice for free on blogs and websites, and diligently patrol Twitter and Facebook, gathering followers, belittling anyone who makes different choices, and wallowing in outrage at perceived slights. Sadly, many midwives, doulas and lactation consultants are also professional frenemommies. Under the guise of “helping” you, they undermine your self-esteem at every turn.

Why? Because Frenemommy considers you a threat and won’t feel comfortable until you are docilely occupying the place she assigns for rivals: in awe of her achievements and in doubt about your own. Frenemommy is fundamentally insecure. She is like a vampire of self-esteem; she can only get hers by sucking out yours.

Every mother needs mom friends, old friends who have become mothers like her or new friends made through her children. Most women find mom friends invaluable; they’re the women with whom you can share your child’s every milestone, your deepest concerns about your child’s wellbeing and your fears about your adequacy as a mother. Your mom friends have either been there/done that and can provide reassurance that your children will turn out fine or they are at the same stage you are, worrying about the same things, simultaneously seeking and giving reassurance.

Mom friends revel in your birth stories whether they mirror theirs or not. Mom friends couldn’t care less whether you breastfeed or formula feed, just whether your baby is thriving and you are getting enough sleep. A mom friends drops by with her kids to hold your colicky baby while you make dinner for your older kids and calls you at 6 AM with a migraine knowing you’ll take her kids for the day so she can rest and recover. Mom friends freely offer love and support and you gladly give love and support in return.

How can you tell the difference between a mom friend and a frenemommy?

1. A mom friend makes you feel good when you were feeling bad; a frenemommy makes you feel bad when you were feeling good.

A mom friend is thrilled that you got relief from your epidural; a frenemommy “sympathizes” with you over the loss of your natural birth.

2. A mom friend looks at things from your perspective; a frenemommy looks at everything from her perspective.

A mom friend anxiously waits to hear if you got a good night’s sleep after topping off your baby with a few ounces of formula after breastfeeding; a frenemommy “supports” you in pumping 3 times in the middle of the night instead.

3. A mom friend encourages you to take time for yourself and if she’s an especially good friend, she watches your baby so you can do it. A frenemommy insists she’s envious that your baby survived an evening with a babysitter; her baby is too attached to get along without her even for a few hours.

4. A friendly parenting professional asks how she can help you achieve your goals; a professional frenemommy tells you how you can mirror hers.

A friendly lactation consultant knows its more important to supplement a hungry baby with formula than to risk dehydration and failure to thrive. A frenemommy lactation consultant insists that your pediatrician is wrong when he advises supplementation.

5. A mom friend supports you; a frenemommy gaslights you when you question her “support.”

A frenemommy tells you that your excruciating birth wasn’t painful and then further gaslights you by insisting that you merely thought it was painful because you were afraid. A frenemommy tells you insufficient breastmilk is rare then gaslights you about your baby’s hospitalization for dehydration arguing it wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t tricked by formula companies. A frenemommy insists that you don’t have to feel bad about your “failures” because it wasn’t really your fault; you didn’t get enough “support.”

How can you protect yourself from frenemommies? First you must recognize them, and then you need to understand their motivations. But the most important thing by far is to ignore them. Like frenemies of all kinds, they aren’t your friends no matter how hard they pretend they are.

  • Raise your hand if you thought this was going to be about tongue tie.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Less OT here than in other places: From a Boston Terrier facebook group

    Today’s a horrible day. I had posted in here about crate training my puppy, and everyone told me that I was terrible for not letting her sleep in our bed. So I gave in and let her in our bed last night. Woke up this morning and somehow, she managed to get tangled up in the blankets and appears to have suffocated. I don’t know if one of the other dogs or my husband rolled over on her or not, but we have now lost our sweet girl. I should have left her in the crate, and she would still be safe.

    Bedsharing – not even safe with dogs

    Of course, there are the usual commentators denying their role. “Don’t blame the comments, you chose to do it” type crap.

  • maidmarian555

    My best friend and I have a long running joke where when we get a chance to catch up, I ask her how the ‘Vampires’ are doing. I’m fairly misanthropic, and if I feel like someone is taking more from me than I’m getting back, I cut that shit off immediately. She’s lovely, and unfortunately this means she has a whole bunch of frenemommies now. Although I’m pleased to say, she has FINALLY stopped putting up with this shit (having kids does make people reassess their priorities a bit and none of us with 5am tiny wake-up calls need to be putting up with 2am calls from drunk ‘friends’ who aren’t genuinely having a crisis). This whole post is bang on!

    • demodocus

      My sister had a couple of those, but between her cancer and Mom’s fatal cancer most of ’em dropped away on their own.

      • maidmarian555

        Yeah they always magically disappear if you’re hurting and really need support. It’s very hard from where I stand watching someone you care deeply about expecting support from people they’ve given so much to, realising that those people aren’t actually their friends at all.

        • Candygram

          Yup. Been exactly there

    • guest

      Heh. When I was pregnant with my first, my husband and I started affectionately calling the OBs at the clinic “the vampires” because they insisted on blood draws every week due to my pre-existing conditions.

      All three doctors I saw at that clinic were lovely, caring, warm-hearted people, though. Definitely not monsters, or frenemommies. 😉

  • Russell Jones

    I’ve got nothing of import to say. Just wanted to report that I can’t stop loling at, “Is that your wedding picture? The frame is amazing!”

  • J.B.
  • Marie

    I have a friend, mostly a good friend but can occasionally slip into “frenemommy” territory, who often found ways to bring up her natural, unmedicated births, and always seemed a little put out that I refused to feel bad in any way for choosing to have an epidural early in my labours. Then when my youngest came I ended up with an “involuntary natural childbirth”. There was an emergency elsewhere in the hospital, the baby came quickly and there was no time to get the only anesthesiologist on duty in before the birth. It ended up fine; healthy baby, healthy mom, the only things that really mattered to me. But it really perturbed this friend that it made us “birth equals” and, even more than that, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Excruciating, but not some sort of accomplishment on my part. I still remember the look on her face when I told her that I thought that natural childbirth was fine and all, but epidurals were way better. She hasn’t brought up the subject since.

  • namaste

    *cough *cough Allison Dixley *cough *cough

  • demodocus

    It really isn’t that hard to not be a jerk.

    • mabelcruet

      But they have absolutely no insight into how unpleasant and bullying they are. Or they have insight and simply don’t care, in which case jerk behaviour is their default setting. In my personal experience, that sort of sanctimonious attitude tends to go along with rank narcissism-they are incapable of empathy. Most of us are nice, and most of us don’t want to upset someone, so when faced with awful comments from a so called friend or HCP, you don’t want to quite believe they said what they did or that it meant what you thought it meant. Personally the only way to deal with it is call it out-a loud and very public ‘Did you mean to be as rude and offensive as you just were?’ might give them a bit of a kick up the bum and maybe make them think. And if they take the huff and stomp off in a sulk and never speak to you again then you’ve still won.

      • demodocus

        I think I probably could be one if I let my tendency to be a know-it-all get the better of me. It’s hard in some very un”sciency” circles.

      • Who?

        I can’t speak for others but it does me so much good when people decide to not speak to me-it hasn’t happened often but everytime it has the salutory effects have been extraordinary.

  • Mel

    Frenemommies don’t make good friends for another reason; it’s all about them.

    Seriously.

    Even in Dr. Amy’s examples, the Frenemommy is redirecting the conversation to focus on her implied achievements in labor, delivery and child-rearing while adding the fun of insulting the peon she’s talking to.

    I understand being really ready to talk to another adult after being stuck at home with a non-verbal or minimally verbal child all day – but an imaginary friend or a Magic 8 ball makes a better friend – and better conversation – than a frenemy at any point in life.

    • MovingOn

      Yep. This is exactly what my ex-doula ex-friend was like (and still is). She has such a narrow perspective and it’s all based on her home water births, exclusive breastfeeding, cloth diapering, attachment parenting… anyone who does anything differently is clearly not as “informed” or “supported” as her. Like me, having a c-section after my induction went nowhere. That literally gave me PTSD. She and the other frenemommies offered no real support except trying to blame everything on me in roundabout ways (like, my OB was trying to scam me out of a good birth experience because he’s a cartoon villain, but that’s okay, I wasn’t informed enough to know not to trust him, so really it’s entirely my fault for not getting the Queen Bee’s express permission to have a life-saving surgery).

      I just don’t even try to talk to anyone about parenting anymore because it’s exhausting having to navigate the “mommy scene” and avoid the sanctimommies and frenemommies. Especially IRL where I live.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        I wonder what people like your ex-friend are going to do when their kids are in school, playing sports, going over friends houses and don’t need breastfeeding, diapering, etc…Or if their 18 year old decides to move out for good (my husbands mother had 3 of her 4 kids move out in the course of 6 months, two got married and one joined the Navy)

        One of my friends moved out and became emaciated at 17 because she was offered a full ride Molecular Biology scholarship and her parents said she couldn’t go to college because girls didn’t need college and they didn’t want her going to school out of state. If you try to keep your kids too close you can lose them completely.

        • demodocus

          Do you mean “emancipated” or that she was so poor that she became emaciated?

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            (I can’t spell!! argh!!) She became legally emancipated so she could move out without their permission.
            Although she was eating the starving college student diet for a while I think. : ) ( not living in the dorm can be way cheaper than the dorms)

        • MovingOn

          I wonder this, too. My ex-friend is 27 with four kids and refuses to use birth control, so it might be a while before we find out what she’ll do when all of her kids are past the baby/toddler stage. Her youngest is about to turn one; perhaps she’ll decide it’s time for another. Lather, rinse, repeat, until she can’t any more and no longer has a supply for her baby addiction.

          Maybe she’ll turn into one of those insufferable moms constantly reposting Facebook memes about how she’s a mom of someone who actually achieved something.

          • Mel

            Well, homeschooling is always an option – especially if the main reason a parent is doing it is for the brownie points of sticking it to the man or choosing a truly independent/individualized program for their child.

            I’ve known a lot of good homeschooling parents. They are cool with using whatever methods work best for their kids – including sending the kid back to public school if the kid asks.

            I’ve also known some really horrible homeschool parents. They tend to be ideologically bound to a given type of home schooling and are chronically in denial about which kids in their family are not doing so well.

            I suspect your former friend would be in the second group….

          • MovingOn

            Now that I think about it she did say something once about homeschooling her oldest in pre-k… god help these poor children. She would definitely fall into the second group. Though iirc I think her oldest did go to a public kindergarten. I don’t know, I stopped talking to her a long time ago.

            I’m planning on homeschooling my kid too, not because of any particular ideology, but because I’m quite painfully familiar with the local public schools and I’m not putting an innocent (and potentially neurodivergent) child through all that. Can’t wait for Queen Bee to decide to be my “friend” again and provide absolutely no real support other than back pats if I do everything “right” and passive-aggressive criticism if I don’t. Oh joy.

        • aurora

          My ex’s parents forbid him and his siblings to go to university that wasn’t a commuting distance. They have moved out but have to live in the neighbourhood. One daughter lives with them and her husband has to live there too. It’s so nutty how controlling they are.

        • Charybdis

          Ummm…did you mean emancipated instead of emaciated? Because that makes more sense, but if she moved out at 17, she COULD have become emaciated due to lack of regular meal….

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        That literally gave me PTSD. She and the other frenemommies offered no real support except trying to blame everything on me in roundabout ways

        Here’s where this really goes off the rails: Let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that you are actually to blame for what happened.

        And? How does that help you? It happened. Fretting about the cause is not going to get you through it. Thinking about the cause can help others to avoid the situation, but from your perspective, it is irrelevant.

        I have pointed this out about anti-vaxxers and Wakefield before. Think about the question, what have they actually done for kids with autism? Other than give their parents a boogeyman to blame? Not a damn thing.

        Their focusing on your role in the problem does not help you. Real support who look very different.