Competitive Mothering Brings a Whole New Meaning to the "Mommy Wars"
It begins as an innocuous comment at the park when you hand your children a snack in a plastic sandwich bag. “Oh, you let your children eat Cap'n Crunch? We don’t eat foods with high fructose corn syrup or preservatives. Only organic, fair trade treats for us! And we never use plastic bags, only containers that we wash with the rainwater we gather in buckets outside our house.”
Or maybe the comment arises as you wait outside school for afternoon pick-up. “Joey made the Level A travel soccer team! All of that extra money we spent on private coaching lessons three times a week has really paid off!” brags his mother.
Joey, mind you, is in second grade.
Welcome, one and all, to the world of mompetition, a place where anything your child does, mine can do better and also did it at a much younger age.
For those of you who are not living in the land of the mommys, mompetition is where one mother makes her kids out to be the best, brightest and end all and be all of the world, while yours is just average or maybe even slow. There are no age boundaries in the competitive world.
This is So Funny Because it is True!
How Did the Mompetition Begin?
From the beginning of time, there have been mothers who have bragged about their children’s achievements. From “my son, the doctor” to “my daughter married a doctor”, past generations boasted about how well their children have done for themselves.
But that is far different from modern society.
In the 1980’s we had the “mommy wars” where stay-at-home moms and work outside the home moms were in constant battle at who was the better woman. The mother at home argued that it was bad to leave your children in the care of others (although women have worked since the beginning of time and others cared for their children). Mothers employed in the workforce declared that they would not waste their brains or their hard earned college degrees to “just” be a stay at home mom. They were losing their career and economic gains.
But as the recession reared it’s ugly head, more women found themselves at home whether they wanted to be or not. Others, after having their children, chose to stay home, but needed an outlet for their competitive nature. They had to have everything be the best, including their children.
In addition, the fact that some of the most highly educated people cannot find employment in this job market is a scary thought to parents of young children. They want to give their kids a leg up on the competition, no matter what the financial, emotional or physical costs are. Their line of thinking is “the earlier my kids start, the better they will finish.”
Hence that is why soccer leagues for toddlers and dance classes for two years olds are now the norm in many suburban areas.
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Give it up!
Take a chill pill and realize that even if you don't bake organic snacks for your child's class party, but buy it from the supermarket, you are doing a good job.
The Psychology of Mompetition
Work outside the home? Great! Make sure that you schedule your personal days for your child’s field trip and not a needed day off for yourself. Don't forget to stay up until 1:00 am making sure that the cupcakes are decorated perfectly so that the room mothers at the party won’t judge you for not being there to help.
For stay at home moms, especially those who have children in school all day, have you ever been asked “What do you do all day?” To prove that you are indeed productive, besides growing organic vegetables and herbs in your garden, you volunteer on six different committees and upcycle old tee shirts.
This constant need to “prove” yourself is physically and mentally exhausting.
There are other mothers who had less than perfect childhoods, so they are making sure their kids have the best and miss out on nothing. These women never miss a practice, spend way too much time at school, and have their children in all the activities they wish they could have taken. The pride in how “busy” they are is evident in their conversations.
Roth also hastens that parents need to be made aware not to say competitive statements when children are in earshot. They need to know that they are loved for who they are and not what they do.
And if mothers were honest, the competition is also about them. Hair must be perfectly coiffed, makeup applied and your body needs to resemble the way it looked before pregnancy stretched it out of proportion.
Women try to out fab each other with their so-called perfect lives. Perhaps this is because the woman is not getting enough recognition for the job she is doing at home, she has to share with everyone how great a mom she is. Can you Tweet that or post a Facebook status on just how great a mom you are?
Mothers are constantly judging each other, and if we choose to participate, it can get ugly.
Personally, I refuse to step into the crazy.
And it does not stop as your children get older. Which SAT prep class your child is taking, how many colleges your child has toured and how many scholarships your child has amassed is a part of the mompetition in mothering teenagers.
Before Motherhood Confessions
How to Deal With Mompetitors
You do have options!
Unless you are living in a vacuum, at some point, whether you like it or not, you are going to meet a mompetitor. Here is a real life example:
One day at school pickup I was speaking with another mom about the field trip I was on with the first grade classes that day. The kids saw the Junie B. Jones musical and they were all delighted. I shared how my twins loved her books and we read them all the time.
“Oh, I am glad they enjoyed it. My kids aren’t into those kinds of books, they are reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.”
These kids were 4 and 6!
I walked away. That is one way to deal with a woman like that. Disengage from the conversation. If you cannot walk away, steer the conversation into another direction that is not kid related. Chances are she likes to talk about herself.
Another method is to stroke the woman’s ego. “Wow, that is amazing! Congratulations!” After all, that is exactly what she is looking for.
You can also have a few responses prepared, like this one, “How do you do it all? Be sure to take care of yourself of you may get sick and then you won’t be able to drive Tiffany and Jordan to all of those lessons!” or “Isn’t it great that our children have so many wonderful things in their lives!”
Moms are not perfect-no one is. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Here is my advice:
Do not pay attention to Facebook, it is a shiny happy airbrushed lie of someone’s life.
It’s okay to serve mac and cheese for dinner.
Confession-when I worked full-time, I used to serve my daughter veggies and dip as dinner, along with cheese and crackers. She survived.
I use plastic baggies for snacks as it is easier than washing six different containers every day.
I only dust upstairs when absolutely necessary. Who sees it but me?
Go ahead, judge me. I won’t join in on your game.