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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Mom Competition–Are you in it?


It did not start with the recent Time Life Cover nor will end there. Mom’s are competing all the time. “My child is brighter, prettier, better athlete, talked earlier, read earlier, walked earlier.” These mom’s have children of all ages. It starts from the time the baby is born. “Junior slept through the night at 3 weeks old’. “Little Eustace is feeding her self at 6 months old.” “Abbie is 6 and can prepare her own breakfast".  “Buford, just got into Harvard'”.
It doesn’t seem to matte what the topic is, whenever moms get together competition happens. Even if you think you are not competing you are still counted as in the race.
I admit that when my girls were toddlers I was involved in some mom groups and I would compare my girls to the other babies all the time. I wanted to know how they measured up. Even when I wasn’t making such observations out loud I was making them in my head. “Oh my, little Alyssa is potty trained at 18 months, I better get started on Pi.” Never mind the fact that Pi was ahead on some other developmental milestones, I wanted her to surge ahead on everything.  I will admit it I am a little competitive. All right, more than a little, but not at everything. When Pi was a baby she surged ahead on all milestones, by 9 months old she was walking, and talking in 3 word sentences.  She was not even a toddler, I believe she skipped those years and just went from baby to being a little person. (She has always been more mature than her peers). The fact that I had a child who who milestones ahead of time (except for sleeping and eating) did not help me stay out of the Mom competition. I got sucked into it. 
But a great thing happens when you have more than one child, you learn that each child develops on its on schedule. They reach milestones at different times and they develop different talents.  I have witnessed that my kids have each developed their own

Why do Moms Compete?
  • Fear and pride drive them at the same time, as well as a good dose of familial narcissism. We are proud of our kids so we brag, we are afraid someone else’s kids are better than ours, For goodness sake “Ryan was potty trained at 9 months”. We are filled with self doubt that we are not good enough moms if our kids do not do it all.
  • Our culture sets up a troubling dynamic between women – mothers or not. Comparing ourselves to one another is a mainstay embedded in the fabric of our lives. Being a mother seems to cause insecurities to rise up  for women as they deal simultaneously with  joyous, daunting, rewarding, and vulnerable journey that is parenthood. Women are often taken aback by the sheer amount of time and  energy  being a parent requires, leaving little room for pre-motherhood activities.  (Dr. Zucker is from the authors of the new book, Good Enough is the New Perfect.)
  • Parenting expert Wendy Mogel, author of “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee,” says part of what’s fueling the mom judge-a-thon is what psychologists call “displacement.” The world is a scary place, and we can’t control things like the economy free-falling. But we can control our choices as a parent – so we attach way too much significance to them.
  • Being a mom is job that does not pay so we measure our accomplishments via our children's’ accomplishments. How our children are doing is a measure of who we are. When our children reach a milestone or do well we relish in that achievement and add that to our crown.
Decide Not to Compete
Make the decision not to compete with other mom. Take yourself out the game. Once I decided not to compete my life became easier. My kids did not have to be the best at anything/everything. I just wanted them to be happy. So when Peanut decided to quit gymnastics to pursue dance I was happy to assist her in that. I am all for kids trying lots of different things to find what makes them happy. My goal is to raise happy well adjusted kids, if my kids want to compete in something then it is up to them.
I am happy when my kids succeeded in what they choose to do, but I do not get my sense of well being from my kids and their successes. When my kids fail I help them to succeeded. we work together but it is not a reflection on me.
Compare not Compete
Comparison can be good however, it will alert you to the child that is running behind and may lead you to early testing that can help. Pumpkin had delayed speech, though our family doctor was not worried, after all he had two older sisters and was a boy and all of his motor skills were on target. We had some early testing for him and it turned out he was significantly delayed in speech.
I refuse to compete but have noticed other moms making the comparisons to me, I am different I am trying to be like most moms at our little school. I went to college, but stay home. We live simply but yet our kids are involved in lots of free activities. I go and do with my kids. So what do I do when moms make a mention of their kid, trying to get a bite out of me? I don’t bite back. I let other moms mention my kids, it is not that I don’t promote my kids, I am their biggest advocate when they need it. But rather I let my kids be who they are.
In the end when we compete as moms we devalue our children and their accomplishments and milestones become mere checkmarks and trophies for us. Do we really want all those trophies or to enjoy the experience. .

How about you have you ever competed as a Mom? Do you wish to opt out of the competition? It is never too late.


Annie said...

I think I became a little competitive on my own once I reached high school (no sports, but I was competitive for grades, in math competitions, journalism, etc.) Any pressure I had was self-inflicted; my parents weren't competitive at all. While always supportive, they didn't have specific expectations of their kids.

I think that I am that way, too. My grown daughter did not want to be involved in activities, so I didn't push her into them. So far, Kat has been involved in the 4-H After School program, but nothing else has sparked her interest so far. That's fine; it's up to her.

As for grades, Shane and I have decided that an A is great, but a B is just fine, too. A C or below due to laziness is not acceptable, but if she gives a subject her all and still can't earn a B, then we'll give her or get her more help. Good grades can certainly help secure college scholarships, but in the long run, they don't mean that much. I think there are just too many variables for grades (or IQ tests) to be very accurate.

Seriously, when was the last time someone you know asked a doctor, shoe salesperson, lawyer, farmer, accountant, teacher, or anyone what their HS or college GPA was? I bet we'd be surprised by some of the answers if we did ask.

I also learned early on that comparing my granddaughter Kat's progress to my daughter's when she was the same age is pointless. I raised them both, but their strengths and weaknesses rarely overlap.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

So true Annie, we each have our own strengths and weaknesses yet we tend to measure ourselves by another person. As long as we use someone else's measuring stick we will never measure up. We need to stop using our kids as our measurement of our success or failure as a mother.

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