(CNN)It's quite possible that, by the time I had my first child, I had read more articles about navigating relationships with other moms than ones about navigating my relationship with my baby. Parent media is full of stories about moms who "judge," "shame," "clap back" and are at "war" with other mothers.
The judgmental mom is little more than a stereotype
You'll forgive me, then, for having entered motherhood with my hackles raised and defenses in place. I declined offers to join moms groups and avoided eye contact with other moms during those rare moments when I dared to parent in public. The internet told me that bottle-feeding and stroller-using would be perceived as sins in progressive, urban communities like mine; the fact that I was doing both meant these measures toward self-protection were necessary.
Of course, total seclusion wasn't a possibility, and I did leave the house with my child now and then. As my exposure increased over time, so did my sense of surprise and, ultimately, bewilderment. Six years, two kids and three cities later, and I have never once felt judged by other moms.
Recently, I ask friends across the country whether they had ever felt judged by other moms, and they said their experience has been similar to mine. The moms they've encountered almost always fall somewhere on the spectrum between indifferent and highly supportive. "Yeah, nobody really cares," I heard again and again.
Are moms really so judgmental? If not, where does this stereotype come from, and why is it so hard to shake?