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Competitive moms

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Pride or insecurity?

Every so often I come across them: moms who are so ultra competitive, ostensibly on behalf of their children, that there's no having a simple discussion with them. Nothing light, nothing collegial. Everything turns to how their child does this or that so much better than everyone else.

I first encountered such a woman when Alfs was just a few days old. A friend, she came for a visit with her son, just a few months older, and the way she slid into competition over birth size, length, sleep stretches and the like really challenged my new mom glow.

>> Pregnancy and Baby: Competitive pregnancy

I did lapse into responding competitively for a few minutes, but then Alfs needed to nurse and the time alone with my new baby in another room brought me back to my senses. I was able to avoid the competition trap for the rest of our visit, but sadly, that day has set the tone for our relationship since. When we see this family (infrequently), I can't mention anything that my kids are doing without this mom starting in with, "Well, my son..." It's exhausting!

We all think highly of our kids

I think most moms I know think their children are the greatest kids ever, and in our own worlds, that's true. Of course I like my kids better than other kids. I'm their mom! I'm proud of them, just as any mom is proud of her kids. But do I need to convince other moms how great my kids are? For me, no. For other moms, apparently yes.

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Where does this need come from? Some people just are more competitive than others; it's a personality trait. I suspect my friend had this trait all along, but I just hadn't noticed it. But beyond that, competitiveness on this level -- and I have heard of moms competitive over the frequency and consistency of newborn poops! -- must stem from a touch of insecurity over the role of parenting.

A job for which few have training

Hey, I'm as insecure as the next mom about the job I'm doing as a parent. Kids are not identical absolutes, and they don't come with instructions. There is much learning on the job. I usually think I'm doing a passable job with a fair number of errors, but I don't really know. I often joke that I won't really know until I see the therapy bills when the kids are in their twenties. Low bills, I pass; high bills, start apologizing and seek more therapy myself.

>> Annoying mamas: the nothing you do is right mama

Another question is whether I can or should do anything about these competitive moms in my life. Aside from avoiding them, which doesn't seem quite right, I can't do a thing. I can only accept them as they are, and try to focus on their good points, remember the reasons they are friends in the first place. And perhaps a bit of acceptance is something that is missing for them, playing into the insecurity that feeds the competitiveness.

Maybe by taking care not to compete, too, and offering just that tidbit of acceptance, I can help a competitive mom relax just a little and feel a little support. I'd sure like that.

How do you deal with the competitive moms you know? Post in the comments!


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