Have you ever sat in a PTA meeting and broke out in a sweat as you recall that you sent your kid to school with a plain old sandwich and juice box while you listen to the woman next to you describe the lunch she packed for hers. The one complete with bread she made herself and cut into the shape of a snowflake?
Or while you are watching your angel play at a Baby-and-Me class, you text your husband that there’s no need to save for college because, surely, junior will never get in. There is your little one happily playing with the bubbles and laughing each time they pop, while the mother and ten-month-old next to you are discussing the molecular structure of the bubble. In French.
If this sounds familiar, you have experienced a touch of competitive mothering, and if you are like me, it can do some strange things to you.
My first baby was just three months old when I realized that I might be susceptible to this behavior. Tom was lying on the floor on a blanket very happily playing with his toes when a package came for us via FedEx. The guy looked at my son and asked how old he was. When I mentioned that he had just turned three months, he said his son was the same age and that his baby was laughing out loud and making sounds. I smiled and before I could even think, I said, that’s great, my baby turned over for the first time yesterday.
For the record, I lied, Tom had not yet turned over. (Though he did do it two days later.) And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why I cared that this guy’s baby was doing something mine was not.
Later I admitted what I did to my husband, and we laughed about it. I realized I would need to keep my competitive spirit in check. Motherhood was not a race. There was no prize at the end. My job was to help my child be the best person he could be. That’s it.
And that is what I thought I did. But to be perfectly honest, I did try to be my ideal of the modern stay-at-home mom. I baked pumpkin bread and banana bread for play dates, made sure there was always a nice mix of music for Tom to listen to, set up pretend petting zoos with stuffed animals, and spent hours agonizing over the best party favor to give one-year-old babies for his first birthday party.
I filled our days with every baby and toddler class available and belonged to three different play groups. When it turned out that Tom had some learning differences, I got him all the help I could as early as I could get it.
When we did have “down time,” I made my share of cars out of boxes, had parades with instruments we made ourselves, and flew kites we made out of straws, old Christmas ribbons, and construction paper. I’m really grateful Pinterest wasn’t around because my creations were never worthy of a photo, just a fun way to spend an afternoon.
I’m also grateful that I had friends that were nice enough not to make too much fun of me — at least not to my face.
I didn’t feel I was competing against other moms as much as I knew I was competing against myself. But I’m sure there were some women that felt I was a bit too much. And who could blame them? I was laboring under the delusion that I could control my children’s lives and happiness by being the most perfect mother I could be.
Life had other plans. Learning issues, life threatening allergies, stitches, epic stomach bugs, and hurt feelings still happened no matter how on top of my game I was, or how many homemade crafts and cookies we made together. I had two other children, and my time was soon stretched to the limit. I started cutting myself a lot more slack.
As I became more forgiving of myself as a mom, I started to have a lot more fun with my kids. I also enjoyed my time with other moms a lot more. I could appreciate their beautifully kept homes or amazing cupcakes without feeling inadequate. I no longer am striving to be the perfect mother, I just work on being the mom my kids need me to be, which most days seems to fit us all perfectly.
Janine Huldie says
Aw, Kathy totally been there and done this, too to be honest and just nice to know that we aren’t alone. Hugs and like you just trying more now than ever to be the moms my kids need.
Rena McDaniel says
You have such a way that makes everyone feel like they are one of your best friends. You are so refreshingly honest in your writing and I enjoy reading your posts so much Kathy!
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Another lovely and honest post from you Kathy.
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Lisa Weinstein says
I also made a race car out of a box! lol!
I had a bit of what you describe….but I think in my case it was spawned by a desire to make every moment with Melissa as special as possible because I worked. It didn’t matter – she still turned into a teenager and has taken her rightful place among all her peers who think their parents are morons! 🙂
Andrea Brovetto says
Kathy great post! It brought back memories I had when you were a child and I confess having those same feelings on play dates when you and Paul were in the play pen and he pulled himself up sooner then you! It’s normal! So I think!!!
I’m glad I am you mom and just love your way with words !! Enjoy!
Yeah….I was guilty of that as well..
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The 21st Century SAHM says
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Don’t want to be and try not to be. But yep, guilty of this. Thanks for writing this! Sharing!
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Kathy Radigan says
It stinks doesn’t it!!! Thanks so much! xo
Especially with your first child, it’s hard not to compete to be that perfect mom. Happily by the time i had my second, I know longer cared to be perfect.
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Kathy Radigan says
Yes, I really think that having more kids is a great way to get over it!! Thanks so much sweet friend! xo
I just wrote a status update about how one should not judge the perfection of another’s parenting based on social media and blogposts, including my own. Because they tell only half the story!
I too felt the pressure as a new mom, and I’m glad I got out of that phase, because I did transfer the pressure to my kids as well!
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Kathy Radigan says
Thanks so much! I think, at least for me, I had to get out of that phase to really enjoy my kids. I did not get into blogging and social media till my oldest was 12, I think if I had it when he was a baby it would have been even harder!!! xo
Great post. I have always lived by the following….’be the best you, everyone is taken!’ Lol
We all do the best we can!
Kathy Radigan says
Thanks so much Carina! You are amazing! xoxo
Mary Widdicks says
It’s so easy to get sucked into this. We could all use a reminder every now and then.
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Kathy Radigan says
It is, at least for me!!! Lol! Thanks! xo
Thankfully, I never got that bug. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I want my kids to have awesome lives — I was simply never bothered by other moms who chose to go over-the-top with their skills (more power to them and their energy!).
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Some of my friends are so competitive I used to have fun making up stories about the things my kids were doing because it would make the other guys absolutely nuts and I really didn’t care. I always figured kids develop at different speeds and are good at different things.
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