Monday, May 10, 2010

It's Not a Contest, Competitive Mommy

I am constantly telling my kids: "It's not a contest". They compete over everything - who should get in the car first, who should get out of the car first, who gets to pick the movie, who gets to sit next to the baby, who brushes their teeth first. It never ends and it drives me crazy.

That phrase is so often on my lips that I almost spit it out at another mom recently. That’s right. I was nearly guilty of mom-on-mom snark. Do you know why? I was provoked by Competitive Mommy. Where I live this type of woman is everywhere. You can identify her easily.

Competitive Mommy comes in a couple of varieties:
Type 1: Can’t Help Herself
Type 2: The One-Upper
Type 3: The Pretend to Be Concerned
Type 4: The Soccer Stalker Mom
Type 5: Mean and Evil

Let me specify a little something. To a certain extent, we all do it. We all have moments when our kids shine and we think: “There goes the best kid EVER” and we want the world to know how proud we are. I am not talking about that. We are moms. We’re supposed to brag about our children and talk about them and their accomplishments. What Competitive Mommy does is take that very natural part of parenting and twist it to make you feel like schmidt and make herself feel better. And that sucks and should not be allowed.

Type 1: Can’t Help Herself
A lot of us at times can’t help but ask questions that maybe we shouldn’t – “can she read yet?” or “does he have a strong back stroke?” or “is she potty trained?” Sometimes it’s because we’re really interested or wondering if our own kids are keeping up with their peers. But other times it’s because we already know the answers but want to hear them anyway because they validate that we are awesome.  If that is your motivation for asking, even if you can’t help yourself – please try NOT asking these questions. Because the compulsion to compare your kids to everyone else’s is actually pretty douchey. And you may find that the only moms who want to hang out with you are other Can’t Help Herself’ers and that will quickly become a big cluster of not fun.

Also, this mom is all over Facebook. Good Lord. Block her updates. They are bound to be annoying as hell. You can be a proud mom and not make people want to Square Up and kick you in the taco (as Sue Sylvester would say).*

Moving on to…

Type 2: The One-Upper
Did you throw a great birthday party for your little dude? Then hers will be better. Ruthlessly, aggressively better. Do your kids speak French? Well hers speak French and German. Do you love your fancy phone? Well guess who just got the second generation and it’s way awesomer? I have even heard of this phenomenon occurring with getting pregnant. Because don’t think you’re going to get all the attention and fancy Baby Showers.

Why? Why would you choose to live like that? Only being happy when you’re showing someone else up? Getting pissy when someone else has or does something that you want? Why is it so hard to just be happy for other people? It’s ok to be jealous – everyone gets jealous. I for example, would really like the following: a husband who comes home early, a cleaning lady, a mom/m-i-l who lives nearby and babysits all the time for free because she loves her grandkids so much. I try not to let my occasional bouts of jealousy be yucky. I constantly remind myself how grateful I am for what I have. And how quickly something bad can happen and take all of it away.

So I have no use for the One-Upper. Suck it, Fancy French Cell Phone. I’m going to drive my smelly van to Kate’s house and drink wine from a box.

Type 3: The Pretend to Be Concerned
Have you ever had someone ask you something out of their deep and abiding concern for you or your family’s well-being, only to realize it was actually an opportunity for them to be a dick? It’s a really low and base form of competitive momm’ing. Because it’s snitchy. If you’re a first time mom, this type seems to be everywhere (often disguised as a family member) and they can really undermine your confidence.

I had variations on the following conversation with various snitch-tastic moms and thought I’d share:

“My son is not walking because he is only 9 months old. Yes, he is big for his age but he does not have a glandular problem. No, there is nothing wrong with him medically. He’s just big. 27 pounds and 28 inches tall. Yes, I am sure he’s only 9 months old. I’m not lying about his age no matter how much you seem to want to tell me that he’s “failing to thrive”. Thanks for sharing all about how yours walked at 9 months but guess what? I don’t care and please back up because I have an egg salad sandwich and I'm gonna slap you with it.”

Ok, that last part was made up. But if this has happened to you too, please know that it’s not you or your amazing kiddo that has the problem. And if you don’t believe me, read the Open Letter to Stupid People we posted, where literally hundreds of moms wrote to us about the stupid crap people have said to them. You’re fine. They suck. End of story.

Type 4: The Soccer Stalker Mom
You buy a new shirt or get a hair cut. She comments on it favorably. The next time you see her, guess who has the same shirt or haircut? You get a rare breed of dog. Guess what kind of puppy her family just got! You grow a big garden every summer, now she does too. You sew a dress for your daughter and guess who busts out the Singer? She’s not trying to one-up you. She’s trying to be you.

Friends have common interests. Friends encourage each other to do things that they can enjoy together. That’s not what I’m talking about. These are the things that when they register – “Isn’t that my shirt you’re wearing?” - get real awkward, real fast. Like awkward turtle. This is me (Lydia) we're talking about here.  I am not a fashion icon.  When some random mommy I know shows up in lavender yoga pants and freshly striped hair, it's pretty obvious that something fishy is going on. 

So if you find yourself doing this, please oh please stop. If you find someone doing this to you, it's perfectly fine to pretend you have contracted an infectious disease that prevents you from spending time with her.

Type 5: The Mean and Evil
Let’s be honest. There are bad people out there. There are some mommies who are so competitive that they will actually try and sabotage another child’s opportunity to succeed in order to enhance their own. It’s never happened to my family, but I’ve seen it and it made me sick.

A mom went whining and complaining to a coach that it’s not fair that so-and-so made the tennis team because she didn’t deserve to be on it. That girl was 12 years old and she almost got kicked off the team. You were trying to hurt and disappoint a little girl so that your daughter might get more playing time? Lady, you have issues. Nothing justifies that kind of behavior. If you see this rare and pernicious type of CM – run, Forrest, RUN.  And if you are this type of mom – why are you even reading our blog? We’re about niceness and silliness and supporting each other – concepts you clearly do not understand or else reject. In either case, you also can suck it.

There are a lot more of us than there are of you. We choose to use our powers for good. And good always triumphs over evil in MommyLand. So suck on that.

So, Competitive Mommy, as I always tell my kids: "It’s not a competition."  But if it were, we would totally win.

*Facebook example: my friend Ellen’s daughter was just accepted into a GT program which would require her to switch schools. It’s a big freaking deal (the kid is a genius). So her Facebook update was like: “My daughter Una just got accepted into to the GT program at Blah Blah Elementary. We’re thrilled! But confused. What do we do now? Does anyone out there have good scoop about the program?”

That is a badass update. Does she brag a little? Hell yes. Does she brag perfectly? Even yesser. Because that’s the kind of bragging that makes people genuinely happy for you rather than sighing and rolling their eyes at you.

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