Carla: Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a little, but really the competition between moms can bring out the worst in all of us. We asked our wise friend Cindy, who many of you will recognize from her insightful comments on various posts here at the MR, to blog for us this week. So ladies (and Dude), here she is, the fabulous Cindy:
Cindy: A couple of weeks ago I was at a suburban high school to watch my 16-year-old daughter (the cutest one out there, not to mention the best) compete for her high school at the Illinois state gymnastics meet. She was the only one from her team to qualify for state, and she qualified on beam, vault, and the all-around.
All her teammates took the day off from school to attend the event and several other parents joined them. When we arrived, I settled in next to one of the other moms and we began to scope out the competition. As one girl after another had a bad vault, or fell on floor, or missed her release move on bars, my friend and I would say, “Oh, that’s too bad,” then do a little fist-bump. What on earth kind of mother fist-bumps after some poor girl misses her big trick at the state meet? A gym mom.
Am I ashamed? You bet. Can I change? I’m trying. Is it easy? Nope. But I am willing to admit it because I am probably not the only one that reads The Mommy Revolution to have this dark secret. I compete against other people’s children. Angie, my daughter, is genuinely glad when others do well. She’s obviously not my biological child. But as I think about it, I realize my competitive streak didn’t start with my kids entering club sports nine years ago.
When I got Tim, my oldest, he was seven weeks old and kind of small for his age. He was born in August and I had a good friend whose son was born in May and had never missed a meal—he was burly to say the least. She started the weekly comparison of weight and height and milestones. I immediately felt inadequate. It was a competition I would never win! And, oh, how I hated it. I delighted (inside, of course) when her son was in cranky and Tim was sweet. Point for me. And I despaired when Tim still had his binky and her baby didn’t. Point for her. Then we got to elementary school. Tim had serious learning disabilities and I lost the grade-race with the other moms I knew.
That’s when we turned to other activities. Gymnastics, track, karate, football, music–I wanted my kids to be the best at something. I wanted to be best at something. I’d never been the best at anything and somehow I thought that if they were great athletes or musicians it would mean I was a great mom.
Do you like the way I’ve put this all in past tense? I’m over it now, right? I wasn’t two weeks ago at the gymnastics meet and probably will never be. This is something I struggle with all the time. I probably lack spiritual maturity and suffer from poor self-esteem. Angie asks me why I’m so competitive. I don’t know. I just am. I’m trying to be better and not put pressure on her with my evil ways. Is there any help for me? Am I alone?
Caryn: WONDERFUL post, Cindy. And oh, so totally not alone. Although I have to admit I’ve never been a competitive person at all (bear with me). I think this totally explains why I suck at all sports (that plus my total lack of any athletic ability). But seriously, in most things, I could care less if I win. Whatever. (So long as a certain former and shared boss likes me better than Carla, everything’s fine.)
And to be honest, I feel pretty secure with the awesomeness and weaknesses of my own kids that I don’t care that some kids may be smarter, cuter, better behaved, or whatever (though, to be honest, very few are). That is, until I sense someone getting competitive with ME about my kids or my mom chops. Then, my hackles go up and I want to take them DOWN.
Like when I mention some quirk about one of my kids and I get a wide-eyed bewildered response of “No. Lil’ Joe never does that!” Or when someone asks me what my son’s “score” in Accelerated Reading is. Honestly, I have no idea. I always forget to check. But when someone asks, I get annoyed enough to lie—to make up some outrageously high score. Say we’ve been invited to the White House because he’s the most Accelerated Reader in the land.
But I don’t—because I’m (as one therapist once told me) “hyper honest.” Which means, my competitive friend, Cindy, that my honesty is more hyper than yours. Game on.
Carla: Ladies, really. You should be ashamed of yourselves. If there’s one thing I know about parenting that you don’t (and I think we all know there is far more than one), it’s that good moms are never competitive.
And Caryn, honey, if you need to think he likes you better, that’s fine. He and I talk about this all the time and we think it’s really sweet how you keep trying to be like me. As we always say here at the MR, it’s good to have a dream.
Alright Revolutionaries, tell us: How do you deal with the competition between moms–the drive to have the “best” kids, the pressure to be the “best” mom? Where does this stuff come from and what can we do about it?