Competitive Mothering 101

Posted on | November 16, 2010 | 6 Comments

Everyone knows it happens.

Some people talk about it, some people shove it under the rug. Some people pretend it doesn’t happen, and some people are the reason it DOES happen. But no matter which group you fall into, EVERYONE knows it happens. What is it? It’s a little thing called Competitive Mothering. It’s a fact. Mom’s are competitive. Not just the crazy moms. All moms. Or at least, all the ones I’ve ever met. Maybe it’s a woman thing. Maybe it’s a parenting thing. Who knows what sparks it. All I know is, every mom has her own way of dealing with it and her own way of continuing the pattern.

And the thing is? I don’t think we mean to be. I don’t think anyone sets out to make anyone else feel bad about their child or their parenting. The problem is that most parents… most GOOD parents, want what’s best for their child. They want their kid to be a good reader. They want him to be athletic. They want her to be smart. They want them to be handsome or beautiful and oh so talented. It’s human nature. No one becomes a (good) parent and thinks “Well, I hope my kid is the creepy kid in the corner with the smelly feet who eats his own boogers.”

The problem is that we don’t really process what we’re doing. Mostly because most of us don’t know what we’re doing for the most part. I mean, I admit, I ask questions of other moms. I want to know when Suzie said “mama” and when Charles learned to walk. And I want to know these things, not because I want Suzie or Charles’ mom to feel bad if J learned it first, but because I want to know if J is okay. And I think that’s what we all secretly want.

Sure, it feels a little good when someone tells you your kid is smart. Or cute. Or whatever the adjective is. Of course it feels good! That’s your kid! You made that (and/or adopted and therefore made because hello? Nurture?). And I’ll admit to being a little share-y when it comes to J’s accomplishments sometimes. This past weekend I realized that I sometimes treat my poor child like a trained seal.  You know the drill… “J… where’s your nose? Where’s your head? Say this, say that. Now, spin around in a circle and toss the ball with your nose!” It was embarrassing when I realized what I was doing. I was completely embarrassed by myself. But you know what? It didn’t stop me from the horror of doing it again later that day.

What is it about our kids that makes us all nut jobs? Are we really just looking out for their best interests or ours? It’s a fine line, I think. Because deep down, I want J to be happy and proud of himself. But on my nice and shallow surface? I want other people to be happy and proud of J. I want other people to look at him and say he’s smart or cute or tall for his age. And I don’t think I’m the only person who feels that way. At least I hope I’m not.

I don’t want to be a competitive mom. I don’t want to facilitate that pattern. I don’t want to be the mom who is CONSTANTLY talking about my kid and how great he is. I mean, he is great, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want to be that mom. Where is the fine line? Where is the happy medium between being secure in the milestones your kid is reaching and making other moms feel bad about the ones their kid is reaching? I don’t want to make anyone else feel bad about their own child’s accomplishments. I really don’t. But it happens. It happens to me when someone tells me how proud they are that Frank Jr. can say his ABC’s at 16 months. It makes me a crazy lady who wants to run home and sing the Alphabet song on repeat to my kid who can barely say dog. We don’t mean to do it… but it happens.

So how to we stop it? How do we walk the line between being excited to share what our kid has accomplished and flaunting successes in other parents’ faces? I don’t know the answer. I try not to gloat when J does something good. I really try not to update my facebook status to say that J has, oh, I don’t know, learned all the American Presidents in order. (He hasn’t. again, can’t say dog.) But you can bet your ass that when J does do something awesome? And he does it before your kid? I am totally at home being all smug about it. I might even be doing a little happy dance.

Because at the end of the day? I want my kid to be the best. I want him to be the very best J that he can possibly be. So I won’t gloat. I won’t facilitate out loud badgering and tut-tutting over someone else’s kid. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t competitive about my kid. I’m sorry, but it’s true.


6 Responses to “Competitive Mothering 101”

  1. Alena @ Charmingly Chandler
    November 16th, 2010 @ 12:05 am

    I just had this same conversation with becca (paropost) today. Because I worry about things and constantly feel like it's MY fault when Sophia isn't doing something another child is doing. I beat myself up about it. And I'm guilty of sharing when she learns something or does something, and I realize now that those things may make someone else feel bad.

  2. Kelly
    November 16th, 2010 @ 1:32 am

    Well, color me guilty, too! I hate that I do it and sometimes I even realize it as the words are coming out, but it doesn't stop me. There is just so much pressure! Thank you for being brave enough to share!! 🙂

  3. Jennifer
    November 16th, 2010 @ 2:34 am

    I had a coworker, before I had kids, that talked about her child ALL the time. Seriously. It was like she stopped talking about everything else and everything was about them. It was so annoying that I swore I would never do that. Of course I do talk about my kids because I'm a proud mom, but I try really hard to keep it to a minimum because I don't want anyone to think I'm like her.

    Plus I can't stand those parents that are always trying to one up one another. Instead of getting in the "war" I just usually go along with them. Oh yeah, little jimmy is so smart. "I bet he'll be a doctor." Depending on how annoying the individual is I'll go even farther.

  4. Elizabeth
    November 16th, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I never paid attention, but I am definitely guilty of this!

  5. Mama Fisch
    November 16th, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

    So interesting. This post could not come at a better time for me.
    I actually have been battling this at work for months now. The other teacher I used to share a nanny with (our kids are 14 days a part) now has her daughter in daycare and every single freaking day she waltzes in and tells me something "amazing" daycare has taught her daughter and how far ahead her daughter is because she is not with a nanny and now is in a learning environment at the age of one.
    And I, of course, FREAK OUT. Brady is by himself with a nanny all day long every day. Brady does nothing but run around throwing trucks, ripping things out of drawers, and climbing on everything. Sure he flips through a book so he can throw it but he does not know where his nose is, barely says any words and could not spin around on cue if we paid him.
    But you know what? He is happy. Purely blissfully happy every single day. He plays all day long. Competition sucks. The only person I ask about stuff is my pediatrician. Other than that, I take it all in stride which is easier said than done.
    Hang in there. If we all are just aware of what the competition breeds, maybe just maybe it will lessen. A girl can dream.

  6. marriedsinglemom
    November 17th, 2010 @ 6:30 pm

    I just posted the same blog last week. Called tales of a superwoman. Why are we all in such competition to have the best kids and be the best moms?

    Have you heard of this documentary? I am going to see it next month.. seems up your alley, perhaps.

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