Friday, 5 October 2012

Competitive Moms

Why is it that almost every mom out there is better at it than every other mom? Where did this competitiveness come from?

When I recently tried to explain to someone guilt-tripping us over not being free for a visit every single week just how busy we are between three kids, their sports, our jobs, school, volunteering, and trying to balance our family time, friends, and extended families, I was told smugly that because she did it as a single parent (her two kids are grown now) she did everything I do and so much more; it's a shame I can't manage it better.

A girlfriend who has recently decided with her husband that their family is complete after one child explained to me in detail how it's just not fair to a child to burden them with a bunch of siblings; there simply isn't enough time or money or attention to go around, and the children suffer as a result.

A few months ago I was chatting with a neighbourhood mom whose firstborn is only one week older than my youngest about the fresh, organic baby food she made for him each and every meal. The look she gave me when I told her I only made about half of Baby's food from scratch and supplemented with organic jar food from the grocery store was the same look I would have expected if I'd explained how I was systematically supplementing his diet with arsenic.

I get attitude from working moms about how my kids don't get enough socialization because they're not in daycare. When I worked outside the home I was judged for sending them to daycare for the hour after school until I could pick them up. The wealthy moms in the neighbourhood are shocked that I send my kids to (gasp!) public school and we don't even have a nanny; the other moms in the schoolyard glance over at the "nanny patrol" grouped near the school door and tsk tsk over the shame of parents who don't raise their own children.

There are those moms who seem to believe that because their baby walked at only nine months old or their son is in a higher grade of piano lessons or their daughter made the volleyball team, they are inherently a better mom. Because they make their pie crusts from scratch and sew their daughter's dance costumes themselves and grow their own organic vegetables and organize the school fundraiser they are somehow superior to all other moms. There is always going to be someone who throws a bigger birthday party or whose child is involved in more sports or earns more music awards. Someone who makes their own frosted cupcakes for after-school snack each and every day and spends six hours on the weekends boiling and bottling jars of jam and preserves.

Turning on the television, checking our Facebook or Pinterest accounts, or a glance at the parenting section in the bookstore reminds us in an instant that we're doing everything wrong; that there is a set of rules for child rearing that works and if that's not the method we use we are likely completely unqualified and of questionable competence as parents; that if we are any kind of decent mom at all we will not only keep a perfect home, have a successful career, cook everything from scratch and bake fancy, themed desserts every day, but we will have endless amounts of time, energy, and creativity to create incredible homemade crafts and projects with and for our children every day of our lives.

I think I'm a pretty good mom. I love my kids and am doing my absolute best to help them grow up into good, loving adults. I play with them, I do crafts with them, I take them on outings and read them books and listen to their stories. I've arranged my life so that during the years my kids want and need me I'm here raising them myself rather than sending them to daycare. We've given them a good home in a safe, friendly neighbourhood and send them to an excellent school, they participate in every sport and extra-curricular activity they're interested in and our lives are filled with family field trips and vacations and traditions. The kids want for nothing and I think I'm doing a pretty good job as a mom overall. But, like every mom, I don't feel like it's enough.

I'm forever wondering if I'm doing the right thing. If I'm doing enough. If I'm doing it right. If I could be doing more. I feel guilty when I'm tired. When I snap at my kids or yell at them or say something I shouldn't. I feel guilty when they fight with each other or with me or throw temper tantrums or act out in a way I don't think  lines up with how they've been raised. When I have to say no.

And I think that's just part of being a parent. Every parent want to do as much as they possibly can for their kids, and every parent feels that sense of guilt that they could be doing more. Thanks to social media, a hundred times a day we are shown the thousand and one ways we could be doing it better. There is no way of eliminating the guilt.

But we could eliminate the judgement, the sense of competition.

I have been a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom, and a working-outside-the-home-mom. I have been a single mom and a both-parents-at-home mom. I have been a mom of one, two, and now three kids. I  have raised my kids in both a have and a have-not household. They are all hard work. They are also all rewarding. And at the end of the day, it's just about loving my kids and doing the best I can for them with what I have to work with.

Parenting does not have to be a contest. It shouldn't be a competition. We are all just trying to do the very best for our children in the best way we know how and are able. We should be on the same team.
And if we stop being such competitive moms maybe we can help one another cope with the ever-present mom guilt.


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