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I have spent my life as a dancer and dance teacher. I’ve been to auditions with over 200 people, and I’ve been cut immediately and I’ve also been hired. I have been in large classes, and have been both corrected harshly and asked to show something because I was pretty dang fierce. I’ve been both intimidating and intimidated.
And, like most women, I know how underhanded and psychologically cruel our fair sex can be–in and out of the dance world.
So, you would think that with all this experience with competition (and the desire to go gently into parenting), I’d be fine with this ‘mompetition’ stuff.
Nope. It gets me every time.
Maybe it’s because when I’m with my kids, I feel like all parents should be BFFs. It’s like I’ve swallowed a whole bottle of extra-strength Kumbaya.
Take my latest. I was with Aria at Trader Joe’s. The store was distributing free samples of a green vegetable juice. Aria had 4 one-ounce sample cups, and would have climbed in the fountain had I let her. I talked to the sample lady about how we used to give Riley the Naked or Odwalla brand of the stuff, which we nicknamed Froggie Juice. Containing spinach and broccoli, it seemed like a great way to get veggies in a one year-old who might otherwise only eat green in the form of a crayon.
A mom happened by with her son. She had a taste and then looked at the bottle. “Oh! It has SO much sugar!” she tut-tutted.
I immediately became defensive, even though I saw on the bottle that it did have a lot of sugar, as juice generally does. “You can cut it in half with water. That’s what we do with juice.”
“Oh, well, my pediatrician says that juice is not necessary,” she continued.
Well, I’ll be! My doctor dun tole me that if it wuzn’t still movin’ or stinkin’, it was good eatin’!
That is what I wish I said.
For some stupid reason, I tried to defend my watered-down-juice-drinking kids by going into their very low weight percentiles and their hatred of milk. Then it was ‘on.’ She countered with her son’s potential ability to drink loads of milk and high metabolism.
Where at first I wanted to give her a card for my blog, at that point, I wanted to slap her like I was a pimp and she was a stealin’ ho. But leaving Trader Joe’s in a squad car would merely have proved her point-that she was, by far, the better mother.
And, really, that was all it was. A female pissing contest about who-according to all the literature and expert advice out there-was doing the best by her child.
When the mompetition starts, it is hard to remember that you’re a good mother because you are meeting the confluence of your child’s needs and your child’s wants. Every child is different. And every family has to put the EFF THIS stamp on some ‘rule’ at some point.
So, then what’s all this mompetition stuff all about, anyway? Awhile back, Christina Simon, blogger at Beyond the Brochure, discussed moms on the offense and low mom-esteem in her article, “When Moms Verbally Attack Each Other We All Lose.” While I do think that attack is too strong a word, I completely agree with the low mom-esteem.
Low mom-esteem is a result of profound self-doubt. After all, is there any more important project? Many women have been, or continue to be, highly competitive in their field of choice. They were once in control of whole departments, classes of students, themselves as artists, and now they are defeated trying to get a small person to eat peas and put away a puzzle. It’s a mind-boggling change; one that can sap your will to even try to leave the house.
Furthermore, moms sometimes feel as though there is nothing left for themselves anymore. Their wardrobe, body, career, hobbies, social life, marriage/partnership–all in shambles. The kid(s) took everything.
Which means that this kid better be damned AMAZING. Or at least as good as the next mom’s. The idea that a child the identical age of our own can walk/speak in full sentences/is potty-trained/knows the alphabet/can count up to a hundred can make some us panic a little, wondering if our child will be the one child left behind.
So with a stranger, because she wouldn’t DARE do it with a friend, an insecure mom seizes on something exemplary in her parenting life and goes right for the carb-loving/TV watching jugular.
Then there is the commiseration (or mommiseration, I might say) factor. A new mom hasn’t slept in months. She feels like the universe is using her as a punching bag. She longs to chat with another mother who knows exactly what she’s going through.
Unfortunately, she confides in some lady who has no idea what she’s talking about. Her baby slept six hours a night from the time she brought him home from the hospital. It is all poor Sleepy Samantha can do not to weep openly, if not wrap her hands around this chick’s neck. She feels horrible, wondering what she is doing wrong, and the other lady (who is cautiously stepping away from her because of the Hannibal Lechteresque glint in her eye) feels crazy lucky that she has gotten some sleep.
Not competition, really, but many parental discussions wind up with one person feeling cursed and the other feeling extremely blessed, if not smug. All over something that pretty much boils down to luck, sometimes. However, It can feel like insensitivity to the one who hasn’t been so fortunate.
Also, there’s negative mompetition. Maybe Sleepy Samantha finally meets another who has likewise been barred from the Land of Nod. Except, this woman, instead of feeling that she’s met someone from the same tribe, says, “Every three hours? Ha! Since birth my baby has woken up every hour and a half, and stays up for another hour and a half. I’d kill to be as rested as you!”
What is the point of this? What is the honor in being crowned “World’s Tiredest Mom”? This broad is a freakazoid.
But maybe freakazoid lady is merely the far end of the spectrum. For so many moms, the day often feels like a losing battle. So desperate to win at something, it feels good to be the most martyred-to win at losing.
Yikes! That was negative.
On that note, I think I should go. I have to put my 20 month old on the potty, coach her counting in English, Spanish and Mandarin and work on her pointe.
Keesha Beckford is a former professional dancer who is currently teaching master dance in the Chicago area. She blogs to keep her creative juices flowing, and to explore the question “How does she do it?” for herself and other moms in the arts. Read more at Mom’s New Stage.