What’s the deal with all the shameless competition between moms? I get that a little bit of friendly competition is human nature, and even healthy. But what is it about becoming a mom that makes some feel that they have suddenly been entered into the Hunger Games??
At first I thought I was being sensitive. Hormonal. A bit of postpartum. But no – I am well beyond that and it continues. I am convinced that some mothers are unwittingly using their prized children as the ultimate pawns in this chess game of life.
Perfect example: I am attending a baby class at the local Gymboree (yes, I signed up and I am certain that I enjoy it even more than him). So anyway, I am at this class with all the other, mostly first-time, moms and their babies. We sing a song. We clap our hands. The kids begin rolling on the mats.
Mother A [looking with feigned concern to Mother B]: Ooooo, he isn’t crawling yet?
Mother B: No, he sticks his butt up in the air, but just hasn’t figured it out yet.
Mother A [looking worried]: Oh… My Tina has been crawling since 4 months. I wonder why he’s not? Maybe he just isn’t ready.
Mother B [frazzled]: Why, is he supposed to be crawling by now? He is 6 months. Do you think he’s behind? I will mention to my pediatrician…
Mother A [high-pitched and cheerful, secure in the fact that her Tina has “trumped” this little boy] Oh don’t worry, I’m sure it’s fine. He probably just isn’t ready yet. My Tina is just advanced; she tends to do everything early [another dig]. I wouldn’t worry about it.
Now what’s going to happen? Mother B, who was perfectly fine before, is now going to worry that something is wrong with little Tommy because “My Tina” has been crawling for months.
And this is not an isolated incident. These one-uppers are everywhere. Even at work.
Co-Worker: You’re never going to believe it; Jordan just said “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” [or something along those lines] this morning!
Me: Wow! That’s really cool!
Co-Worker: Has your son said that yet?
Co-Worker [in a concerned tone]: Oh, has he said anything? Is he not talking yet? How old is he again??
Me: He’s about 7 months and no, he’s not talking, except for baby babble and the unintentional mama or dada.
Co-Worker [smiles and shrugs]: Oh of course. Yeah, he’ll speak when he’s ready. I guess we just got lucky with Jordan – he tends to be advanced.
So what drives mothers to do this? The underhanded digs. I see it all the time. Which babies are cuter? Happier? Healthier? Smarter? More advanced? Better behaved?
I wonder if it’s a play on our own insecurities… A culturally acceptable (debatable) way of highlighting our own strengths without boasting. Because, after all, the conversation is about the child, not the parent. If so, this is a pretty thinly veiled thought process reminiscient of the old my-dad-can-beat-up-your-dad mantra. Since my BABY did this or that or the other, it means that I am a better mother/woman/citizen. I am responsible for my child. So therefore any credit given to my child is indirect credit to me. I suppose this is how the reasoning goes.
But is that valid? Is it legitimate to take credit for my child’s every action or trait? Suppose I had the most advanced baby… Am I due credit for that? Assuming that IQ is largely on the nature side of the argument, what specific actions would I have taken to create that in my child? Would it have been because I took DHA during pregnancy? Because I talked to my belly? Because I didn’t eat soft cheese?
I would have had, at best, a very minor concerted influence on my child’s natural intelligence level. So his successes, although undoubtedly making me beam with pride, are not mine. They are his and his alone.
I suppose comparisons are acceptable and even helpful. How else would we gauge ourselves against our peer groups? Milestone date ranges are made available for a reason – to allow parents to confirm if their children are developing within normal ranges.
But they are guidelines – and are date ranges for a reason. Everybody develops at their own pace. I have yet to see a study linking adult success rate with age of first crawl/step/word/etc. I suspect because no correlation exists.
So, fellow mommies, let’s try our best to keep the rivalry to a minimum. I am confident that our babies will all crawl, walk, and talk in due course. I am confident that all our children are brilliant, beautiful, and special in their own ways.
I think my pediatrician said it best: Don’t micromanage your child’s development.
And don’t micromanage my child’s while you’re at it. 😉