Monday, September 15, 2008

Competitive Mothering (and some self-defense)

Competitive mothering.
In a word: DON'T.
It's just not okay. It's unkind to the mother you decide to compete with and it's unfair to your kids for you to compete on their backs. It's hurtful all around. Just don't do it.

I bring this up because I've been the victim of competitive mothering a few times in the past couple of weeks. People are surprisingly conservative here in Perth, and a lot of moms stay home with their kids (as I am fortunate enough to do). This means there are a lot of moms out there watching other moms, and sometimes they feel the need to make comments. I'm (overly) sensitive to begin with, so when these comments come my way...well, one comment in particular hurt me so much last week that I cried off and on all afternoon (when the kids weren't watching so as not to upset them too). In fairness to the wounding party, Markus does think I took it the wrong way (too seriously, as is my custom). Still, it was hurtful and unnecessary, and the little comments have piled up to make me critically look at my mothering.

The paradox of parenthood is it simultaneously makes my heart burst with love and my brain implode with exhaustion. I am not perfect. I never claimed to be, and I know I never will be. I make mistakes. Sometimes I react poorly to things that deserve better reactions. Sometimes I lose my nut. Stephanie has yet to sleep through the night. If you count back from now to pregnancy insomnia to Ellie's night wakings, I really couldn't tell you the last time I slept through the night myself. I can't even remember the last time I slept for more than 4 consecutive hours. My current level of exhaustion is considered torture under some international treaties. And yet my house is acceptably clean. Though less so for our challenging eater, my family is healthfully fed meals cooked from scratch using fresh, local and organic when possible ingredients. And wouldn't you know it? I believe my kids are well-loved, well-looked-after, and well-supported in their pursuits to become incredibly busy little beings. Despite a major international move that has yet to be completed (our things aren't here yet)--heck, make that FOUR MOVES in THREE YEARS (3 of them international)--and routines being thrown to the wind, we are all keeping our heads above water, usually with smiles on our faces. Yes, I would like to be better at many things. There must be a hundred things on my imaginary to-do list of what I could do/make/arrange for them in an ideal world. I wish I had the energy at night to keep at it after they go to bed, but I just don't. When they go to bed, the most I can do most nights is finish cleaning up from dinner (unless the world's most fabulous husband/father is doing it) and sack out on the couch like a lump. After all, it won't be long before at least one of them is up again.
With more sleep being the obvious exception, there isn't one bit of it that I would trade. Sometimes I envy Markus the time he has away from the house while he's at work (after all, he gets to use the bathroom by himself!), but at the same time I know I wouldn't want any job other than the job I have. We aren't perfect...but then again, we are. We are a family, and we're in this together.


Anonymous said...

Dear Jennifer,

I noticed when I lived in WA that a number of "natives" seemed to be utterly lacking a sensitivity gene. They were very happy (and self-satified) in their limited little world, never realizing that most other people think that WA falls somewhat short of the Utopia the "natives" imagine it is.

Let's face it -- lots of Australians from other parts of the country refuse to move to the West Coast because of how backward the people are.....I felt like I dropped into the middle of the 1950's...and not in a "good" way!

In short, don't let the "w"itches get you down. Most of them are incredibly boring any way.

You will soon meet up with some younger, more interesting people. (Get Markus to invite some from the office :-)

I had completely forgotten the house inspections (we had those too) and I used to go nuts trying to get the garden into some semblance of order. (Which it wasn't when we moved in...)

That being said, you have ALWAYS had a more orderly house then we did....

So, keep your chin up -- there are some NICE people there, you just have to find them :-)



Anonymous said...

Jennifer, we said goodbye to my parents today and I've had time to catch up on your escapades. I'm so sorry someone reduced you to tears .... I thought you'd have escaped that kind of situation having escaped these shores. And, if it makes you feel any better, you a shining paragon of motherhood and I wish I was 1/10th of the mother you are.
Gayle x

Karly said...

Oh Jen,

I'm sorry that you've had to encounter competitive mothering...and just after a big move, in a new place. I think a lot of times when mothers feel that they are not doing a great job, they feel the need to pick on others. It is mean. The fact that it's gotten to you to the point where it made you cry makes me want to fly over there and set some people straight! You are an AMAZING, WONDERFUL mother...I don't think I could have handled all the international moves and other things you've dealt with with so much love, humor, grace, and strength. And with two kids!! Most days, I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water, and I only have the one! And don't even get me started on my house...thank goodness I don't have to have inspections every three months...they'd kick us out! You just do your best to ignore those who make hurtful, thoughtless comments. Remember, that you have tons of people reading this blog every day that are in awe of what a great mother you are and what a great family you have...and I'm one of them!

Sending so much love your way...

the dipe squad said...

Okay, ladies, now YOU made me cry! But in the best way! Thank you for the love and support!

gail said...

Jennifer, you're doing beyond amazing with your family. Your time and energy is precious and you are focusing it in the exact right place: your family. Please don't waste anymore of it on people who do not deserve the consideration of either.

meghan said...

I want to know what she said! The fighting Irish in me ready and rearing to go! I'll show that backwards mom what I showed those ladies who cut in front of Eric and I at the local grocery store! Need I remind you the cops were called to break up the fight!

Eric is learning to deal with my super sensitive side so I know how you feel. I'm usually hyper critical of how something was phrased and the intonation it was given in. Maybe markus has some advice to share?!

Eric's been trying to have me focus on brushing things off my shoulder because people usually are too stupid to realize they insulted someone, or if they did intend the insult, they are trying to compensate for what they don't do or don't know how to do. I've been trying to teach him that sometimes a girl just needs to have a breakdown :-)

All my love across the seas!

Anonymous said...

OKay well now I need to get in on the righteous indignation! HOW DARE SHE!! Aside from the fact that you are a spectacularly beautiful woman, talented and funny and smart and patient and a saint of a Mother, I see no reason for anyone to be the least bit jealous of you. So the only explanation is that they have lived "down under" for so long (upside down on the globe!) that the blood has all gone to their heads, made their heads swell beyond any reasonable human being size, and left their hearts COLD! Big headed cold empty hearted people! I SPIT on you! Leave my Jennifer ALONE and go pick on someone your own big headed cold hearted size! (now they've done it, they have gone and made Mimi mad. Big mistake, people, BIG mistake!!)

azure said...

I would like to say that people that engage in such behavior often do so because they lack something else in their own lives and it's easier to tear someone else down that working on their own shortcomings.

Besides one of the more valuable lessons that I've learned and am still learning to apply to my life is that when incidents like this happen, the person moves on almost immediately while the other party holds to that energy, which is most cases is wasted. So, don't worry about it. All that matters is that you do right by Markus, Ellie and Stephanie, and all those other heffers can go by the wasteside. Next time happens, you should break out a "What talkin' about Willis?" and keep on trucking. :) Then I would repeat to myself, I must have it going on that someone wants to challenge me. Ha! Take that world!

If that doesn't work, you tell the offending party that will have to deal with the likes of mimi, and I just don't think they really want to go there....

Hang in there! You can do it!

Take care...