When I wrote my post a few months ago called, “on motherhood and competition” is seemed to strike a nerve in some people. I had a lot of people tell me so.
I was so glad Amy shared about competition yesterday. While I wanted to include that theme as part of this series, I wasn’t sure if anyone else would write about it. Because it does take some bravery to say, hey, I struggle or have struggled competing with other mamas.
When I first sent questions to some fellow mama friends to include in this series, one of the questions I sent was this:
What’s the one area that makes you feel most competitive as a mom or where you find yourself comparing yourself with other moms?
Some friends responded that they don’t really struggle with competition among other moms. Hats off to you, mamas! It certainly is something I have struggled with and have to be aware of the way it sneaks up without me realizing it.
But here is what a few brave mamas were willing to share.
“One area that makes me feel competitive and tough on myself is breastfeeding. I felt a lot of peer-mom pressure to be successful at breastfeeding with my firstborn. When she had tongue-tie issues, I refused to “fail” and exclusively pumped every 2-3 hours for over 10 months. With my second born, I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself. I didn’t have as much pressure and our breastfeeding journey has been much more laid back and successful. Even though I’m pro-breastfeeding, I think the “breast is best” mantra can cause feelings of defeat and competitiveness.”
“I feel most competitive with other moms when it comes to keeping the house clean and doing cute little seasonal crafts with the kids. My house is always messy. I can’t remember the last time I washed the baseboards, or the windows, or the cabinet doors. In fact, it’s been awhile since I mopped…and I NEVER do crafts with my daughter. She does crafts herself all of the time, but they are never my idea and I never assist her with them. I am not crafty. Not even a little. I get really jealous of the moms who have all of the cute homemade Halloween decorations and the Valentine heart garlands hanging above their freshly dusted fireplace mantle. I have to admit, that will never ever be me.”
“I feel competitive in how my children respond in public (my boys are often loudly resistant to “no” in public and though I know that all children respond differently, sometimes I’m guilty of thinking that others (strangers mostly) think I have poor parenting skills.”
Can you see yourself in any of those responses? Even if not with the issues they describe, but with the heart behind these mamas. That when we compare ourselves to others, when we see what some other mama is doing, it leaves us with some kind of feeling of inadequacy, as though what they are doing somehow makes us less of a mama.
I can’t emphasize enough as I did in my first post about competition, that I’m convinced this kind of thinking is a tool of the enemy, something he uses to bring division between mamas as well as bring you down personally.
There’s another way he uses competition among mamas that wasn’t mentioned yet. But this brave mama brought it to the forefront.
“Being the mother of a special needs child, who is both physically and emotionally disabled, I struggle a lot with comparing not only myself but my children to others as well. I know she will never be able to do everything everyone else does, and I understand the basis to her emotional issues, she suffers from extreme anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, but watching her struggle so much with every day life, makes me feel like I am failing her. Especially when I look around and I see parents posting about their kids and all these different sporting events and making honor roll and being social butterflies. It is something I continue to work on. I know God gave her to me for a reason, and I know he is letting her deal with the things she deals with for a reason, but that whole not being able to see the big picture can really be frustrating and overwhelming at times.”
Did you catch it? The way we mamas tend to compare our children.
It might start subtle, the way comparison usually does. Someone posts a picture of their child with a trophy, or winning a race, or having a good grade, or learning to do something like ride a bike or read a book or whatever. What started as one mama’s pride and joy ended as another mama’s deflation. It might start innocently. But suddenly you might find yourself looking at your own child and pushing them to learn or do what you saw another child doing. So somehow you can say, well my child can do that too. Or, hey, my child is good at something too!
And when I say “you,” I mean me too. I’ve been guilty of it without even realizing I was doing it. It’s so sneaky, the comparison game. I’m pretty sure the reason it happens is because we tie much of our identity into motherhood. We become so focused on our little people, doing our best, raising them well, wanting them to be good at what they love, that somehow we see their abilities as a reflection of us. Of our ability as a mama. That somehow our children’s successes or failures are a result of something we did. Or didn’t do.
I think it happens when our focus isn’t on celebrating each other, but thinking about our own selves a bit too highly. Like Amy said yesterday, if we would run the race WITH other mamas, and stop worrying about when we (or our children) finish the race, as if the race even has an ending anyway.
Remember. You, mama, and your children, were born for such a time as this. You are uniquely created with gifts and talents that God has for you to use, to influence those He’s put in your path. That doesn’t have to look like me. Or anyone else.
Comparison tends to make us forget that. We’re too worried about how we stack up against others that we forget God only wants us to be who He has created. He’s not comparing us to other mamas. He’s only asking us to listen to Him, to do what He asks of us. We can lose sight of that when we start to think that needs to look like someone else.
And the same for our children. They are uniquely positioned with where they have been placed. We can’t all have kids who are the best or who are talented in every area. My goal is to find what stirs the heart of each of my kids, and provide support so they can do that with all their heart, for the glory of God. Competition for them is a part of life, and sometimes some healthy competition is a good motivator to work harder. But only when we can reach across and shake the hand of someone else working towards the same thing, celebrating what they can do.
In my post tomorrow, I’m going to share some strategies, so to speak, of how we can combat those feelings of comparison when they arise. Some I’ve found success with and some suggested by others.
So let’s try this today. Let’s celebrate each other, mamas. Let’s celebrate our children. Take the challenge. Comment below and celebrate another mama you know or her children. Tag them in this post and tell them to read this post and the comments. OR, share something you appreciate about a mama you know on their FB page or IG page. Tell them how awesome they are. Tell them their kids are awesome.
That’s how we fight the darkness. With love. With light. With celebrating we are all unique and so are our children.