The other day, I was having a great mama day. You know the ones.
Things were going smoothly, the kids were getting along, we had a productive day of schoolwork, and I think I even had the kitchen cleaned up and a few minutes of downtime.
So I pulled out my phone and checked my IG feed.
A few minutes later, I put my phone away and sat in the bathroom and cried a little.
Because for whatever reason, looking at some of the feeds I follow, just made me feel like not such a great mother.
Houses that were cleaner and more organized. Houses that could be featured in a magazine. Schoolwork that was much more creative and fun. Mothering advice I could have written myself. But didn’t. Friendships made across IG feeds where I felt like I didn’t belong.
If you’re not on IG, maybe you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about.
Although, it’s happened to me other places.
Maybe it’s directly in conversation with someone and I see all the stuff they do with their kids and wonder how they can do it.
Or I’ll see a well-known blogger balancing her business, and 7 kids, and homeschooling, and healthy eating while I haven’t had a moment to write all week and things feel like they’re falling apart all around me.
Maybe it’s watching a friend see their dreams come true when I feel like I’m barely holding onto hope.
Or maybe it’s reading someone’s words on a blog and I’m thinking that I could have written that same thing and why didn’t I already?
And suddenly, it puts my mind in a place of despair. It reminds me that I’m not such a great mom. Why would I think that way? I certainly don’t have it all together, but dang, I think I’m a pretty good mom.
It’s that horrible C-word. Competition.
I don’t start my day looking to compete with other women and other moms, but sometimes, it creeps in and just happens that way.
I’ve already issued an apology to all my friends. God convicted my heart of this months ago.
I don’t think all competition is bad. I’m quite aware that I need to raise my kids in such a way that they know they will not always be the best. They will compete in their lives in many ways; for scholarships, jobs, sports, games, and other places, yes. I was a college athlete and I loved the feeling of competing against another team. I’ve competed against others for jobs and placement and other stuff and sometimes I’ve come out on top, and other times not so much.
I understand the feeling of defeat and I understand the feeling of success.
But there’s something different about competition amongst women. Amongst moms. It shouldn’t exist. We should be able to encourage, uplift, come alongside each other and celebrate each other. Why doesn’t it always happen that way?
Part of me wants to just say, “let’s get over ourselves” and leave it at that.
But here’s the thing. Whether you want to see it or not, there’s an enemy in the world. And he prowls around looking for someone to kill, steal, and destroy. And he’ll use whatever means necessary.
He wants your motherhood. He wants you to feel like you’re not a great mom. He wants to destroy this idea that what you’re doing as a mom isn’t enough. He wants you to see “other moms” and think they are better than you.
Lies. All lies.
For me, it doesn’t happen often anymore. I’ve learned to recognize it. But when it happens, it’s really subtle. All I have to do is just open the door of my heart just a pinch, you know, just enough for him to get a toe in.
Clean houses from other moms? Toe pushed open that door.
Lovely pictures of homeschool moms? Three toes pushed in.
Moms who are more natural than I and are 10 steps in front of me? 12 toes in (or however many toes he has).
When there’s just a toe in my heart, I don’t notice. His entry is slow and subtle. But before I know it, there’s his tail and hand and the door is flung wide open.
There are times when I’m in a place of constant prayer and my hips can fling the door closed hard and lock it for days. And then there’s other days where turning the lock is enough to give him the edge.
Because here’s the other thing that happens. Stealing, killing, and destroying my motherhood isn’t enough. He wants to do the same to my mom friends and our relationships. I’m pretty convinced competition is one of his tools.
Those other moms. Those moms with nicer clothing or cleaner houses, or better ideas, or better jobs, or more money, or better-behaved kids, or fill-in-the-blank moms.
Those other moms might be on your IG feed and you’ll never meet. Or they might be your besties. He doesn’t differentiate.
Maybe some of us are better cooks, or keep our houses cleaner, or organize better. Maybe some of us can balance several tasks at once with more grace and some of us have better systems to do laundry or are better at getting our kids to do chores.
But in the end. We’re all the same, you know? We’re all moms. We all love our kids. We’re all doing what we think is best for them.
In early motherhood, I felt the pressure of wanting my kid to hit her milestones. I had never experienced a child learning to walk and talk and do all the things little kids learn to do in those first years. But sometimes, talking with other moms turned celebrations into a “whose kid did it first” kind of thing. I’m much more laid back about that kind of stuff now.
In these early and middle years of parenting, I see competition in other ways. Whose kid made what team, whose kid moved up to what level, whose kid is reading in Kindergarten, whose kid won what award. And those are not bad things. I’m like every other parent. I want to see my kids be successful at what they are good at and what they want to accelerate in. We plaster our kids’ successes and what makes us proud on social media.
And while that’s not a bad thing, we have to examine our hearts. Are we just trying to celebrate and brag on our kid? (Because really that’s ok to want to shout your love for your child to the ends of the earth). Or in our hearts, do we want to be noticed for our kids’ successes, as if that makes us a better mom?
I post stuff about my kids. Maybe it’s seen as bragging. Mostly, I try to just preach to myself through my writing. But I have to check my heart in what I post too.
Because I also see this phenomenon of moms taking their children’s success (or not) as part of their own identity. Or taking what other women are able to do and be successful at and then taking hits at their identity when their life doesn’t look quite like what they see.
Guilty, friends. Me too.
That’s what we do, mamas. We love our children like no one else. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That we look in the faces of those littles of ours and feel this love that wants to burst out. We want to share what they do with everyone who will listen.
I have a strategy I’ve tried over the past few months when I need to guard my heart against competition. It’s so simple. And yet, it’s a weapon against the enemy.
It looks like this. If I see a beautiful home with kids who are sitting and reading and it all looks so wonderful and my heart starts to sag a little, I stop and just say a quick prayer, even if it’s for someone I don’t even know. “Thank you for fill-in-the-blank. Thanks for her inspirational feed. Thank you that I can learn about my own motherhood through hers. Bless her children and her family.”
It’s simple. And it works. It stops any lies and negative thinking that might want to enter.
I have a friend who, before my first visit to her home said, “Usually when people come over for the first time, I run around and clean everything up. Let’s not be the kind of friends who do that.”
Can I get an amen?!
Motherhood isn’t a competition. It’s not about who has more children, or who had more children in a short amount of time, or who does things more naturally than others. Let’s stop comparing the cleanliness of our homes. The amount of laundry and dishes we have. Whether you do home school or public school or private school.
Let’s be mamas who recognize we’re all in this together.
Let’s be mamas who connect and don’t compete.
Let’s be mamas who agree that we all love our children the best.
Let’s be real, mamas. Let’s talk about what’s hard and what’s good.
Let’s be mamas who celebrate our kids together.
Let’s be mamas who don’t act like our life is any crazier than someone else’s, and on the same hand, let’s not pretend we have it all together.
Because in the end. We’re all the same, you know? We’re all moms. We’re all in this together. And we all need each other.
I updated this with part 2. You can find it here.