I’ve been using my blog as a platform to share some of my experiences from within the world of parenthood- the experiences that the baby guides and parenting books choose to omit…
*fake spluttercough*falseadvertising* coughsplutter*
…and this post is no exception…
THE PARENT COMPETITION is a term- that despite its existence you won’t find in the ‘Glossary’ section of ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting.’ For this very reason… I was unaware it existed until I had kids and I certainly hadn’t realised I’d entered…
I first became aware of THE PARENT COMPETITION when I took my little man to a mother and baby group as recommended by some other mummy friends of mine. (I am still friends with these ladies so they will probably be chuckling when they read this…not that I’m bitter about it… of course. *coughsplutter*lies*coughsplutter*)
I pull up outside the community centre… feeling nervous… (because anyone who tells you they attended a mother and baby group for the first time and didn’t feel nervous… is lying…) I leave the engine running whilst I mentally tick off a check list of all the baby equipment I am likely to require… and breathe a sigh of relief when the contents of my change bag meet the check list requirements exactly. (This doesn’t happen these days… nappies&wipes… I’ll fashion anything else I need from my own garments if necessary… or forage and pilfer them from my surroundings…)
Next I check the face… my face… although It doesn’t look quite how I imagine it… despite managing to wash and brush my hair and apply makeup… an achievement that has frankly left me feeling astounded by my own capabilities. I turn the engine off. Step out of the car… take a quick glance at the sideways- yet slightly warped- reflection of myself in the body of my car. Those massive pants I bought are doing an awesome job of containing my post c-section pouch… Love you massive pants. (I still do… sadly for my husband.)
I open the door to retrieve my son, who is sleeping soundly. Looking beautiful in a vomit free outfit I saved especially for this afternoon…
I carry his pristine, crumb free car seat (aah… those were the days…) over towards the entrance to the centre… pulling my best ‘totes casual’ impression as I approach…just in case anyone is looking through the window.
I walk through the entrance and guess I should probably sign in…
I spot my friend …the one who is always early… I wave and smile with relief.
I scan the room for my other friend… as expected she isn’t here yet (she’s always late… but we ridicule her for this and we still love her- so it’s o.k!) I select and perch gingerly on one of the chairs set out in a circle… and pretend to busy myself over my sleeping baby… hmmm what to do next… that took up 30 seconds. I look over at the group of other mums. My friend is busy setting up something and chatting to someone. I don’t want to look needy. I scan the room again *totes casual*
I notice the other mums have taken off their shoes. I should probably take my shoes off too right?! …CRAP… What socks am I wearing?!! I hope they’re matching and without holes…
Phew… they’re my husbands… they match and are in good nick. Winner!!
After a few more minutes Little Man wakes up…he’s realised we aren’t in the car anymore. I scoop him up and take him over to the baby toys to ‘play’ … (he’s 4 months old… but 3 months premature so looks and behaves like a 1 month old… there is no playing… just looking… if i’m lucky…) Sitting on the floor with him I politely smile at the group of women I’m sat near. There are 4 mums… 3 are looking over and smiling… one hasn’t noticed my existence yet.
My friend …who’s always early comes over… phew… we chat… she introduces me to the other mums. Winner. We talk about our babies, how old they are… birth stories etc… we comment on how cute everyone’s baby is and they look on with sympathy when I explain why little man is so small… well 3 of them do- one doesn’t notice I’m speaking. ..
I love a challenge me, so I take it upon myself to attempt to strike up conversation with the one who seems least reluctant to speak. After all… perhaps she’s just shy… or maybe she’s hearing impaired.
Little man needs feeding for the 500th time today. I sit on the chair next to my new best friend to feed him. I cover myself up well with a scarf- just incase she doesn’t want to be breast friends.
“Hi” I say as I sit down beside her.
She doesn’t say anything… she overly smiles and does a large reverse nod… you know… more of an acknowledgement than a greeting.
“How old is your little one?” I ask… unperturbed by her reluctance to converse.
“17 weeks.” she says with a flick of her hair… “she’s quite big and rolling over already though…”
I search my mind for an appropriate response;
“Such a clever girl! I think we’ll be waiting a while until you’re rolling over won’t we little man!” is the best I can muster.
The acknowledgement of choice…a reverse nod and oversmile are re-offered in exchange for my comment.
I try again…
” I don’t know about rolling over but I’d be exhilarated if you’d go a few more hours between feeds in the night little one! I’m exhausted…” I say with a chuckle… a chuckle because it’s funny… funny because it’s true.
She looks in my general area but not at me…
“We have an excellent bedtime routine, my daughter only wakes once in the night. My husband sometimes does that feed too so I can get my rest.” she boasts.
” Gosh you’re so lucky!” I reply… thinking *bitch* in my head.
“We have had a strict bedtime routine since day one” she continues. ..”My husband does it while I take a bath.” “We’ve been using the control cry method to teach her to self soothe… My husband told me I should take a bath so that it doesn’t stress me out.”
I realise at this point that actually…it wasn’t all that bad when she wasn’t speaking before.
“I’m up feeding little man every two hours at the moment.” I begin…
“I couldn’t do that…” she butts in- sharply.
I attempt a defence case;
“We get a few hours when we first put him down… but that’s normally because he’s fed continuously between 4pm and 7pm…” I continue.
“I couldn’t live my life like that.” She replies… not looking at me… “More to the point, I wouldn’t live my life like that…” She continues… glancing at my socks.
I literally have no words… very unusual for me…
“Your life must be so chaotic and disorganised” She snaps…
“Pretty much…” I reply bemused “He’s worth it though” I say… looking at my beautiful boy who’s fallen asleep mid-feast.
I hear footsteps behind me. It’s my friend who’s always late… smiling with her familiar red lippy and apologising for being late as her daughter was taking a nap. Thank Christ for that!
THE PARENT COMPETITION is the ugly side of ParenTown… the side that you accidentally stumble into and can struggle to find your way out of if you’re not careful. I don’t think anyone knowingly visits… but there are the unsightly permanent residents who thankfully… in my parenting world are few and far between…
Hopefully you don’t know too many ParentCompetitors… I pray you never come across them… but the unfortunate and sad truth is you probably will.
I’ve compiled a checklist that should help identify a suspected ParentCompetitor:
1. They are a parent
2. They don’t look at your children with any kind of fondness.
3. They avoid eye contact with you when they talk to you.
4. They don’t ask you any questions about your children or in fact your life.
5. They tell you a list of baby resume style facts about their little darling before they find out your name.
6. They smile and nod patronisingly whenever you speak.
7. They are likely to be stain free, perfectly dressed and beautifully groomed… complete with matching children.
8. They make comments about how easy they find parenthood… *coughsplutter*lies*coughsplutter*
9. They only post pictures and /or statuses of spectacularly joyous occasions surrounded by rays of joyousness for extra joy.
10. They post pictures of all the healthy foods their children are eating…
11. They make negative comments on other people’s pictures on topics such as the safety of their car seat, location, choice of snack, outfit… I’ve seen ’em all.
12. They post smug pictures of their parenting achievements and/or creations.
13. Write a blog.
Are you beginning to worry dear reader that I have described you? Fear not my friend… as I have also described myself. If I was ticking… I’d be scoring a big fat 7/13…I’m nearly 54% Parent Competitor… how embarrassing.
I am guilty of the following…
2- Pre-baby I used to think that all kids are cute. After having my own… I’m much more choosey… when it comes to stranger’s babies of course… not yours… obviously.
7- If I’m going somewhere… more so if I’m going to be meeting new people… I do endeavour to look my best.. and for my children to hopefully look clean. I don’t want people to see what I’m really like… or judge me… heavens…they might think I’m a bad mother..
9- I post photographs of joyous moments.. because I love them and I want to be able to keep them forever and return to them and remind myself of the joyous joy of it all. I post them because I think you might like them too.
10- I do this sometimes… but by accident… my kids eat good food.. if they’re eating in a photo it’s probably fruit… cause they love it! *air-fist-pump*
*coughspultter*idliketopretendit’scauseiman amazingmother*coughsplutter* butithappenedbyaccident*
12- I do post smug photographs of my parenting achievements. Mostly tongue in cheek… but sometimes because I do genuinely think I’m a ninja.
Look here’s one:
But it’s o.k for me to post pictures like this one… because:
a) I’m celebrating the fact that this never happens and subsequently laughing at my own life…
b) I also post pictures like this: #keepingitreal
13- Whoops… here I am blogging… but I’m not doing it in a look how amazingly awesome we all are- kind of way… I hope I’m doing in it in a… look- this parenthood stuff is awesomely ace…but hardwork…no-one tells you-we’re all in this together- kind of way.
Whether it’s at a mother and baby group, with a group of your mummy friends or online… THE PARENT COMPETITION is always waiting to rear its ugly head. Whatever the topic: Breast/bottle… puree/baby led weaning… rolling over… cutting teeth… talking… bedtimes…potty training… it’s always too easy to make it sound like the way you are doing things is the right way to be doing them… and that’s because it absolutely is, for you… and your family.
Motherhood is such a bizarre, powerful and complex phenomenon. It’s one that divides women in terms of their values and beliefs. Mothers compare their children with others, compare their parenting choices with those of other mothers and even if they don’t pass judgement aloud- I doubt there are many who can honestly claim they have not done so in their heads.
Inevitably, all mothers are likely to look like their warming up for the Parenthood Race… I stretch it out with the best of them… but I try not to be a douche about it. So long as you don’t actually run any races…on purpose… too often… I think we can still hang out.
In an ideal world… the world I like to pretend my children have been born into… I like to think of raising children in the same way as creating a work of art. No two people will ever make the same work of art. They’ll use different materials… even if they don’t they’ll apply them in different ways or orders… they’ll spend different amounts of time on various elements of the creation of their masterpiece. Regardless of the techniques they use, how clean or tidy their work space is… or indeed how you compare the artists and their choices…a work of art will still be produced. To the artist their masterpiece will look different to all the other works of art in the world… even if only very subtly. They will understand it better than anyone, they will see things no-one else can and they will find beauty in it where no-one else does.
Personally, I love the fact that motherhood is so different for every woman. I love that just as motherhood can divide women it can also unite us. No matter how old you are, where you live, what you do, what race, religion or baggage you carry… a mother is a mother. We might look different, think and do differently… but at the end of the day we all have the same thing in common… our children… and our job in raising them.
This is why over the next few months Raising Them is branching out…Monday’s posts will share a glimpse of the view of parenthood from where another mother stands. I’m super excited to introduce you to some truly awesome Mamas in our ‘Mum No 1’ feature… so stay tuned!
Big Love as Ever
P.S If you’d like to get involved with ‘Mum No 1’ even if you’re actually a dad… drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you some details… unless your name is Katie Hopkins… you need to take yourself outside and have a word love…