By: Grace Cross
When I see Moms trying to up one another, I cringe, grab my kid off of the playground and run back to sanity. Mom competition reminds me of elementary school and I really don’t feel the person to bring another human being down, in order to make myself feel better. I understand why Moms do this to one another, but it is a pretty shameful act for many reasons.
We read blog posts about Mom competition all of the time. The calls for action to make it stop, the way it makes people feel, that they are not good enough or that they have to try harder. It reaps of sadness and self-esteem, it quite frankly makes me wonder if people give a damn about one another anymore. They do. I know they do. I may be a hopeless romantic for human kind. But we are making a mistake here Moms with Mom competition.
Let me tell you what I am not. I am not a psychologist and I am not a relationship expert. I am just a regular person who has seen this happen for years. This is what I see.
I want to paint a different picture for you, Mom competition in the eyes of a child. I am as bewildered at ten years old as I am today.
My Mother was not a competitive Mom. She always told us to try our best and she was encouraging. When we did not do well on a test, she would help us where we were struggling. It was not a “participation award” situation in my family. We were praised when we did well and where we struggled, we were helped so we understood. If we needed to be pushed to do well, we were, but we were nurtured in our talents and the hobbies that made us feel good. However, My Mother, moving from a different part of the country with a different culture, coming from a big city where everyone was just too busy to focus solely on other families, was quite surprised with the cattiness of other Moms.
My Mom wanted to make friends in this new town she was living in, so she joined the parent teacher association, she volunteered around town with charities and she volunteered in our school. That way, she believed, she could meet people her age and establish her tribe. My words, not hers.
She learned pretty quickly that this small town I grew up in, with all of its wonderful traits, had a few vices and the biggest of all was Mom competition.
My Mom was a fierce believer in individual privacy. If you got a good grade, she would not brag amongst groups that her child got that coveted A. In retrospect, if my siblings or I did not do so well, she would not let them know either. Her answer was always the same, “they did good” and she left it at that. She also did not ask how your child was doing.
My family comes from a culture where what you did for a living did not matter. My parents had great jobs, but they did not want to judge an individual on their occupation. We want to get to know the person. So, my Mom was interested in if her newfound friend’s children had a great soccer game or if they entered that writing competition because they were good writers, or if they checked out that new park or playground nearby. Conversations can go above the competitive nature and just get to know the person as an individual rather than their accomplishments or lack thereof. We are not defined on what others define us, but what we define the world to be, according to us.
These Moms would get frustrated when my Mom would protect our grades. One mom decided to go further and after school while playing on the playground and my mom was helping my infant sibling, a Mother decided to get the scoop on the latest math test. “What did you get?” She asked.
”A B”. I answered slowly. You have to respect your elders, right?
“A B?” She replies, “I thought you were good at math.” I was nine.
A B is good for me in mathematics. I try hard with math and I had to always study. It did not come natural to me as English did. A B was good. It also seemed to satisfy this Mother.
I did not tell my Mom.
The Mother of a friend continued to ask about my grades. I studied hard and told her. Dissatisfied that I was scoring higher than her child, she began comparing me to her older child, who had completed the grade a few years before.
“Eleanora scored I think 5 % higher than you. I will have to go and check her binder.” Yes, this Mother of my friend, a mother of three kept a binder of her children’s grades so she could refer to them when others were asking. She was quite proud of this and probably would be proud to tell you she kept the binder for reference for other parents to this day.
This grade asking went on until I was about fourteen. I did eventually tell my Mom who really let this other Mother have it.
It may take a community to raise a child but a child’s grades for comparison is just crossing a line.
I know now that this woman has a low self-esteem and needed to compare myself to her children to feel worthy. But if she opened her eyes, she would realize her children had big hearts, a lot of talent and she had so much to be proud of. When I got a grade higher than her child, she was visibly distressed and angry. That’s not right!
I would ask parents to look within themselves. I would humbly ask them that if they, themselves, feel inferior, to address that concern and take care of themselves. Everyone has their own standard of genius. Some parents are proud if their child learns to communicate. Others are proud their child got into a great University, other parents out there are happy their child is alive. There is nothing wrong with just being happy that your child, lives, breathes, is kind and has good thoughts.
I have gone through school and I have a degree that people are interested in, I see my child asked by adults if she will “go to school and get the same degree as Mommy.” She is under five.
“I just want her to grow up to be kind.” I answer. This is not your journey, competitive Mom, it is not even mine. It is my child’s. Let’s just be happy that she is alive to take a journey. Be humble and be kind. Open your mind, learn from others and be kind fully curious, if that even constitutes a phrase.
And if you still continue to care about a child’s grades and get mad when they succeed, I humbly advise you to kiss my ass.