It’s NOT a Contest

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One of the first things I realized when I was pregnant is the MASSIVE amount of pressure and competition in the mom world. It seems like once you begin to show, the advice starts pouring in. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how you should be parenting. Some of it is good, even useful. I think most of it is well-intentioned at least. It can just be a bit overwhelming when you’re trying to prepare for a new human, keep from throwing up (ah, morning sickness) and remember the lists of things everyone says you absolutely have to do when you’re pregnant, not do when you’re pregnant, buy for the nursery, or do when you’re in labor.

But harder to swallow than the advice was the comments, the small phrases that hint that you are doing it wrong. “My niece was talking in sentences at 9 months.” “My son started walking at 7 months.” “I didn’t have any meds in labor.” “My niece’s one-year-old is in gymnastics class.” No one actually directly says that you are doing anything wrong (usually); they just compare you (sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much), and you often come out lacking. The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with any of these things. If your child is ready to talk at 9 months, walk at 7 months, or do gymnastics at a year, go for it! If you can go through labor med-free, congratulations. But if you can’t (or just really don’t want to), THAT’S OKAY. As Vicki Iovine points out in Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy*(best pregnancy book ever!),  “there is no awards ceremony for giving birth without medication”. You don’t have to be just like that mom at church, in your family, or that your husband’s coworker’s sister knows.

Sometimes you may even hear these comparative comments come out of your own mouth. I have been hurt by so many comparative and competitive comments, and I was amazed and ashamed when I heard myself making the same ones. Like just happening to mention that Man Cub was already speaking so many words. So I just have one question: why do we do this?

Sometimes the comments make you feel so small that you think the person saying them must be mean spirited. But what if they’re just scared? Or hurt? Or tired? I think most of the time we are just so afraid that WE are the ones doing it wrong that we feel we need to brag about every victory we have as proof that we are doing something right.

“[W]hen people are different than we are, or, more pointedly, better than we are at something, it makes us feel insecure. It’s as if them being great, all of a sudden, makes us less good. That feeling makes us scramble or insult or dismiss or excuse, just to put ourselves back on higher ground.
But instead we sink, and we bring other women down with us.”
-Brooke Romney, used by permission. Read the original post here.

After receiving so many comments, moms feel overwhelmed and start making their own. And the cycle continues. So what do we do? Here are five tips for breaking the cycle.

  1. Think before you speak. I know this is one of those things that is way easier said than done. But if you find yourself bragging or putting down another mom, think about why you are saying it. Are you really just sharing something you’re excited about or are you maybe feeling a little insecure and trying to boost your ego? Are you picking on another mom because you secretly think she’s doing a better job than you?
  2. Be tactful. If you do have a real concern about another mom’s parenting, and you know the mom well enough to talk about it, do it privately and without judgement. But most of the time, it doesn’t need to be discussed.
  3. Apologize. If you do find yourself making unnecessary comments to another mom, stop, apologize, and
  4. Compliment. Start spreading positivity instead of competition. If you see another mom doing something right, let her know! Wouldn’t you like someone to do that for you? I LOVE it when someone compliments my parenting. It makes my day! Who knows, maybe you’ll start a trend!
  5. Talk to yourself (maybe not out loud if you’re in public). Remind yourself of a few important truths:
    1. YOU are the mom that God chose for your kids.
    2. YOU know your kids better than anyone else.
    3. YOU ARE doing something right! Make a list of things you do well and remind yourself when you feel like you’re not as good of a mom as so-and-so. I promise you are a good mom to your kids!

So the next time you catch yourself about to make one of those comments or hear one directed at you, remember there’s no one right way to parent:

“In nearly every case, no parent loves her kids more or less than another. No one’s better compared to another mom, regardless of how differently they parent.”
– Nina Garcia from SleepingShouldBeEasy. Used by permission. Read the original post here.

So what do you think? Are you in? Let’s stop the competition together!

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