Guest Post by Tiffany Cutcliff, blogger at The Dwelling Tree
This topic has been on my mind for some time now. It is a hard one to write about because, unfortunately, I suffer from the syndrome I am about to criticize. We have seen this syndrome play out in family dynamics, on a t-ball field, or at a MOPS group meeting. Sadly, we even see it at church or in bible studies. What is the syndrome? I call it Competitive Mom Syndrome.
Who can blame us? Look at the culture around us. The competition for a full-ride scholarship to university is more difficult than ever. School sports tryouts are cut throat. Many children now have to start playing sports as early as three if they want to make all-star or elite teams. Beauty is taught to be very important early on to children through the media and culture we live in. There is no doubt we live in a fast-paced, cut-throat world which teaches everyone that “in order to be successful, you have to be the most x (beautiful, smart… fill in the words).
See where I am going? Our culture places an emphasis on the importance of beauty, talents, and intelligence. We want our kids to fit in and do well. It is good to want our children to have special gifts and interests. It is bad when we place too much pressure, though, on them to be the best or fit in so we feel good about our parenting skills.
Have you heard little comments such as these make their way into conversations?
“Bless her heart, she just cannot control her child!”
“Wow, look at all that sugar in her cart. No wonder her kid is chubby.”
“I don’t get why other mom’s don’t breastfeed. It is so much healthier!”
“I can tell my baby is ahead developmentally. It’s because I started reading to my baby right away.”
“I can’t believe she co-sleeps. That kid is going to be so needy.”
I have literally heard all of these comments more than I would like to admit. My list could have been so much longer. The truth? I have even said a couple of these in my moments of compete arrogance as a new mother. My mind and my heart have wrongfully judged other mothers out there.
Our mama bear drive can kick in faster than we realize. We want to compete with one another, compare our children as though they are living in a real-world pageant, and fix one another with self-help book suggestions. We gossip, judge, and criticize (even if we keep it quiet in our minds). We think we do parenting right because it works for us, and everyone who does something foreign to our ways is messing up. Look at the Mom Wars (stay-at-work-moms vs. working moms). Or the whole Attachment Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting debate. Let’s look back to the past thousands of years of womankind: some mothers have had no choice but to work, and other mothers have had to make home their workplace. Some mothers are too poor to afford a crib so they co-sleep (many countries world-wide still do this). For some moms it is easy to breastfeed and they have to because it is cheaper. For some moms it is painful or impossible. There is NOT one way to parent a child and there is NOT one perfect parent out there.
I think we stumble the moment we believe our child is somehow better than or more special than other children. I also think we stumble the moment we think we are better moms than other moms.
Of course we adore and love our children, but we don’t want them growing up thinking they are better than everyone else or get special privileges because they bear our last name.
Before I had Lillian I remember writing in my journal the following:
“My prayer is that my daughter would grow up to be generous with her possessions, kind, patient, encouraging to others, a peace-maker, humble, compassionate towards the outcasts, and is able to endure trials with courage.”
If I am her mother, I am given the high responsibility of modeling for her these attributes. It is humbling for me to realize I cannot show her these beautiful character qualities if I am also teaching her to compete with others, be better than others, or judge others.
This is no easy task. Today I am challenging all moms out there to remember how difficult parenting is, what a wonderful blessing it is to be a mother, and to encourage other mothers in their parenting. We need each other, moms. We are each others best advocates and ambassadors, mainly because we understand one another’s trials and blessings in the calling of being a Mother. We can share stories, listen to each others difficulties, and lift one another up.
Some of the ways I believe we can do this for another are by having grace for each other, listening to one another, encouraging other mothers in their job as a Mom, seeking unity with other mothers that cross our paths in daily life, and praying for one another.
We need to have grace for ourselves and our mistakes, grace for our children and their mistakes, and grace for other families- including other mothers and their children.
We need to listen to one another. Instead of shoving our ways of parenting on each other, let’s just be there for one another. Sometimes an exhausted mom just wants to share her experience with another mom instead of hear about how the book “Baby Wise” got her friends baby to sleep through the night in less than a week. Advice is good too, but typically someone will ask for it first.
It is good to tell our friends that they are amazing moms and take notice of the gifts they have been given. Your friends will love hearing a simple compliment like, “Wow, you are so patient with your child.” Little compliments can go a very long way, especially in a job that so often gets overlooked.
When gossip or slander comes up, avoid it like the plague. Choose to speak highly of friends, employees, and fellow moms from sports or clubs. You really never know what their life is like behind closed doors, and it would be hurtful to them if they knew you slandered them behind their back.
There is nothing that helps me more than praying for my friends or my friends children. When I pray for Lillian’s little buddies, I love them more and more. I desire to treat them as I treat my daughter, and also have more love and compassion for their mothers. Praying combats that “voice in my head” with wisdom, truth, and mercy in my heart for others.
To thank Chelsea and her readers, I am giving away $25 to MyPrettyChicBoutique plus $10 to treat yourself to a Pumpkin Spice Latte (or whatever caffeinated beverage you prefer) from Starbucks! Good luck!