A.M. asks from Bend, OR on January 05, 2011
Competitive SAHM: How to Cope?
A good acquaintance of my husband and mine started seeing a woman who has a difficult personality, to say the least, a couple years ago. We have always been supportive of him so we just rolled with it; we've gone out of our way to try to build a relationship with her but it's been rather unsuccessful. We became pregnant about 18 months ago, they also became pregnant about 17 months ago. I was excited and thought it would be a catalyst for our friendship. I couldn't have been more wrong. I tried to maintain a positive attitude throughout my pregnancy, often times smiling even when terribly uncomfortable; whereas she took the opposite approach and complained about every aspect of being pregnant when I saw her. She became the epitome of a stereotypical raging pregnant woman often making ridiculous demands of her husband, our friend. She did have a few issues early on, but in all reality they were fairly minor and rather common symptoms in a lot of pregnancies. I realized quickly that no bonding would occur between us during this time because of our differing outlooks and tried to look forward to when we both had our babies in our arms.
We both decided to be SAHMs so I thought we'd get together on a regular basis. I was looking forward to the fun of our kids growing up together, especially since we're neighbors. Well, as it turns out I was wrong again. Being a SAHM was a seemingly difficult transition for her, I think she still struggles with it. Without a career she now places her complete self worth in her capabilities as a mother. She seems to believe that what her daughter is doing is a direct result of her parenting skills rather than it just being a normal baby growing. She will proudly tell you what an A-Type she is, and is admittedly competitive. With two babies just a few weeks apart (and hers the younger) it isn't pretty for me. She is "convinced that her daughter is advanced" in all areas, of course. The few times we have gotten together I see that her daughter is exactly where my son was at that time, perhaps just slightly better or worse depending. Not advanced, just reaching milestones at the appropriate age. We were going on walks pretty frequently which is where I discovered the extent of her ugly side. (I also realize in hindsight that with both babies strapped in carriers it's difficult to gauge their true progress which is probably why she preferred it.) While on our walks she would ask how our son was doing and what he's been up to, so I would share with her what was going on. Regardless of what it was she would quickly reply that her daughter was doing the same. For example, I was sharing an anecdote with her about how our son was being especially grabby at changing times, (the zipper, rivets, & pockets on my jeans, going after strings on my hoody, &c). She replied with "Oh! (X) is grabbing at EVERYTHING right now!" Just a few days later her husband confided in mine that she was concerned that their daughter wasn't even reaching for things yet. I've also caught her in lies, too. We had to start feeding our son solids early, at 4 mo, because he is so large. She'd ask how he was doing in that dept and would then go on to tell me what a good eater their daughter was. She'd eat anything they gave her and proceed to list the various foods of which there were 3 or 4. A couple months later she proudly posted on FB that "(X) had her first solids on her 6 mo birthday!" I responded to it with an innocent inquiry questioning the validity, and she completely back peddled without ever admitting that she lied and exaggerated. I can't understand why she would say that her daughter was doing something that she really wasn't except to make her look "more advanced". When her daughter was about 5 months she commented that (X) was scooting remarkably well and eagerly announced that she anticipated her crawling in just a couple weeks. Go figure, it's three months later and she's still scooting which is absolutely fine, that's how she's growing. I was so disappointed to hear her make that claim though; her daughter has failed before she's even begun to do something, which is sad to me. I could go on with examples, but I think you get the picture here.
We have different parenting styles and I'm fine with that, I believe that each family needs to do whatever works best for them. We tend to lean toward letting our son explore and figure things out on his own, whereas they tend to be more helicopter-style. For example, if our son fusses I look at what he is doing before I address it to see if he needs help or if he's just working something out; on the other hand, if their daughter fusses they immediately pick her up and bounce her around the room (something which seems to be losing it's effectiveness as she grows). I can see that they don't want to cause her distress and can understand why they feel compelled to do it, but it's not the right choice for my family. Another example is with schedules. Our son hasn't given us a choice on that matter, we have to go with the flow with him; I can't imagine keeping him on a time table. The best I can do is routines with him. Flip the coin and there she is, very rigid in her daughter's scheduling with nearly every activity and minute accounted for. She has boasted at how well her daughter sticks to it while her husband has commented to me on the impossibility of it. They just have different priorities than we do. We've always maintained a respect for their choices and despite this I have received raised eyebrows and other indicators (such as the way she states something) that shows she doesn't respect our parenting decisions. Although she has never blatantly said "I wouldn't do that" or "That's not right" she obviously believes that her way is the right way, and probably the only way.
If you're still reading this I appreciate it, because I don't know how to deal with this woman any more and really need some advice. I've tried all different methods of coping that I could think of. I've tried just ignoring it, which doesn't work because it gets under my skin too much. I've tried battling it and giving her a taste of her own medicine, but that just encourages her and makes me feel worse for stooping. I've also tried just talking about different subjects with her besides babies which has been mostly ineffective; she is completely absorbed by her daughter. In all the walks that I've had with her I don't feel like I know her any better as a person, which makes me question if there is even any one there to get to know? She's quite stubborn and proud of it (she clings to ideas she's held since childhood, and actually brags about it) so I feel like trying to address this issue will be a waste of breath and potentially make things worse overall because of frustration with her. We are neighbors so I can't just cut them out of our life, and plus we really do like the husband and would like to maintain our friendship with him. I'm not going to be fooled again and think that once the rapid milestone stage is over we'll be able to enjoy toddler-hood and beyond; I know that whatever (X) is doing it's going to be the most amazing activity and she's certainly going to be the best at it. There's no end in sight, except the end of our communication with her! I'm at my wits end, how can I handle this woman despite our extreme differences?!
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So What Happened?™
Thanks Ladies, for all of your support and advice! I know there are a lot of competitive moms out there and I appreciate all the wisdom you have to impart. I know she certainly won't be the last of this type in our lives, I think the magnitude of this experience will be enough preparation to help with others in the future. She absolutely does bring out the little bit of competitive side that I have, which is one of the reasons it bothers me so much; I feel that toxic mindset over take me after spending time with her and I begin to question my son's achievements and my capabilities which is an awful feeling. I think the distancing as much as possible is a great first step. Luckily it's winter so our walks have mostly fizzled out, and I'm hoping to find some activities between now and spring to fill up my schedule. On the positive side, I know when to plan these thanks to her rigid scheduling! :) It's definitely easier to deal with her in groups, even if it's only the hubbies around so I will be trying for more get-togethers with increased numbers. And although I had considered her insecurity before I never linked it to her needing validation. I do remember her husband almost marveling at how well we handled being first time parents just before they had theirs, perhaps they do admire us and our confidence (something I'm usually too humble to admit or even consider). Making her the priority is a great suggestion as well, and I would frequently try to do so on our walks; I would ask about her straight away and try to praise her daughter's accomplishments. Regardless she would always go on with the comparisons and "one-uppings". I've never gone "over the top" about it, so maybe just asking and polite praise isn't enough for her. I'll try to have some balloons and banners on hand in the future, lol. Thank you again for all of your support, I think even just venting has helped alleviate some of the stress for me.
D.P. answers from Pittsburgh on January 05, 2011
It is just really wrong for moms to compare their kids to each other OR their parenting styles to each other's. Better to learn that now. Or it's going to be a REALLY long life. Let it go and basically ignore her words/actions/opinions. It will drive you nuts. And this is just the beginning. "How?", you ask? Just ignore it.
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L.D. answers from Las Vegas on January 05, 2011
You can be friendly with someone and not necessarily go to lunch with them, if you know what I mean. Not everyone is meant to be a friend. Join a M.'s club if you haven't already, and start getting involved in their activities.
I know some women like this (my SIL for one) and all I can do is encourage you to find the humor in the situation as much as possible. If you see them as being these characters in a cartoon that always do these extreme yet predictable things, you may be able to get a chuckle or two out of her outlandish proclamations.
Hang in there. Just start seeing what you can do to bring other SAHMs into your social circle. Good luck!
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O.L. answers from Los Angeles on January 05, 2011
Distance. I would give yourself some emotional distance from her. People like your "friend" will drain you, suck you dry, tap into your insecurities, make you question yourself, your parenting, etc. I think some distance is in order. Just because you are neighbors, doesn't mean that you have to be great friends. I would keep your conversations as simple as possible and try not to get into detailed conversations about your parenting, etc.
Does your husband agree that this woman has issues?
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M.S. answers from San Francisco on January 05, 2011
My advice to you is to be kind to her in passing but don't get together with her anymore. She is a "joy- stealer" and I really think this will continue until you end up having a HUGE blowup and telling her to *&^%& off! She is the type of person that nothing you say or do will ever be good enough-she will always try to one-up you. It is exausting being around someone like that and with her being a liar on top of that- well, she is not worth your time. I would end everything with her asap. You can be friendly or say hi etc. but don' t waste your time with her anymore. If she asks why, you can tell her the truth--that she is a liar and you don't appreciate having to hear about how advanced etc. her child is and her trying to compete all the time. You wanted to be friends, not enemies. She is making that hugely difficult! Good luck to you !
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J.B. answers from Houston on January 05, 2011
I say get honest and let the chips fall. I have had to do this in some relationships, some made it...others didn't. Like if she says something like "what is your son doing these days" You could say, "oh the usual, being a baby!" and laugh. If she presses it, ask "why do you want to know?" If she continues to press I say come clean. "look, I am happy that we have kids the same age, I look forward to them growing up together. Then thing is you seem to want to compare them a lot and it makes me uncomfortable so I prefer to talk about other things." I mean hey, at least that is honest and gives you a prayer of having a real relationship if she is capable. She has the choice to say that is not what she intended or to get huffy and go complain to her husband. I don't think I could live a lifetime of fakeness when I had to do it right next door!! If you tell the truth and it doesn't work out at least you tried. I had one relationship totally blossom after coming clean and one completely die off. I know you worry about you guys relationship with the husband but let me tell you, at the end of the day if he has his woman he is OK and the fact that he is letting you guys in on all her quirks shows that maybe what they need is to just be on their own to work it out. If she does act silly and not want to be friends you can always be cordial when you see her around. Good luck, hope it all works out!!
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K.U. answers from Detroit on January 05, 2011
I would just spend less time around her.
So she drives you batty. So what? She might feel really insecure. Like you said, she might feel her baby is a reflection of her abilities as a parent, rather than a baby is just a baby and they all hit milestones at different times. Stop allowing her behavior to bother you. When you are no longer around her, talk to your husband and laugh about it. In the end, you only have your kid to worry about - their kid and their lives are their problems. She sounds like the type of person that will just suck the life out of you.
Some of it could just be her personality, which you cannot change. So I would not be getting stressed out over something that can't be changed. If she grates on your nerves that badly, and she's not being totally honest with what her baby is up to, just limit the time you spend with her. Let whatever she says roll off your back and accept that you can be civil to each other, while still being better friends with her husband but that will be the extent of it. We don't have to be best friends with everyone. Raising children and being moms shouldn't be a competition, and if that is what this woman wants to turn it into, let it be her problem, not yours.
I feel pretty bad for her kid though...
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J.L. answers from Minneapolis on January 06, 2011
I agree with those who recommend distancing. It sounds like she's too grating on the nerves for you. So there really isn't any other solution. Some people just don't click, so no need to force it.
Ways to distance since she's so close and the soulmate of your dh's best buddy? Get involved in activities for you and baby, and start associating with other moms during the day. When she wants to get together, you'll have a legit excuse for not being available so much. You can also avoid answering the phone and door if she's the type to call or pop in daily.
Lastly, the behaviors she exhibits that annoy you, come with the territory of being a M.. You're going to meet a whole lot more moms like this before your parenting days are over. You will also find, this phenomena has nothing to do with being stay-at-home or a working M. either. Your next best solution to coping with these types is to resolve now to be firm in your convictions. No one wants to feel challenged or that they are somehow missing the mark, but when dealing with these competitive types, it can create a viscious cycle of the comparison game, if you let it.
I think many moms are competitive by nature because so many of us are driven to do what's best for our kids, but need reassurance. I think that is what really is bugging you about this friend. You don't want to feel judged, and you don't feel a need to offer her constant reassurance. Reality is, she's probably not judging, but actually looking to you for reassurance. Her comparisons are really about how her child is doing and not so much about you or your child at all. Nonetheless, it's understandable if her way of being is toxic to you. If you need to distance, do. But put things in perspective as to where she's probably coming from. She's a little less confident in her parenting, and in a weird way, you should feel complimented that she comes to you with her weird and annoying habit of comparing her child to yours.
Just keep in mind, as you branch out and befriend others with young children, and even well into the years when your baby is in school, it's inevitable you'll deal with this scenario over and over again in everything from PTA to soccer as your child grows and you remain involved along the way.
I've certainly had quite a few competitive mama friends in the past, still do, and as my older kids are involved in sports, school activities and the such, have to associate with many more competitive moms. And it isn't just the moms either...dads can be like this too.
I think the key to dealing with people like this is to be confident in your choices and way of doing things as a parent. While these people want to play the comparison game, in the end, it's your child's needs that are going to matter. Anything they say or are doing with their kids is really a moot point, and to dwell on their paranoia, comparisons, or unsolicited advice is really a waste of time.
It's much better to just nod and move on, because your child certainly isn't going to care what they say or observe. If your child isn't ready to walk yet, or won't eat fiber, they're not ready to walk or won't eat fiber...and you as the parent are going to have to adapt to that.
Just resolve now that you are doing whats best for you and your child, and that no matter what she or any and all moms you meet in the future say, your opinion is what matters most and be content with that.
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B.O. answers from Portland on January 05, 2011
Well, it does sound like you are keeping score too...of the M.'s behavior anyways. Maybe when you get together perhaps you should be the one to ask her more questions about what her daughter is up to...to relieve the stress to keep up. I do believe that every parent is trying their best at any given time...and the pressure is enormous to raise a smart happy child...and as you said, every style is different. If you can repeatedly say to us that this is simply a difference of parenting style...then you should also to be able to realize that before letting it get under your skin so badly. I guess very simply...live and let live...and see this as her strength. Some parents are abusive, some don't care. She cares enough to compete and pay attention:)
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K.M. answers from Oklahoma City on January 06, 2011
I didn't read all your responses so I don't know if anyone said this already or not, but is it something you could talk with her husband about? Not in a "telling on her" sort of way, but just because he's married to her and surely sees this in her attitude/personality and has found a way to deal with it, so maybe he would have some good advice for you. If you don't feel comfortable talking to him, maybe your husband can do it over lunch one day with just the two of them? Kind of in a casual conversation-type way? Just a thought.
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