Moms Lie. At the very least, they embellish the truth. If you’re saying to yourself that you don’t do either, you’re lying! For whatever reason, as moms, we believe our children’s development, most of which we have no control over, is a complete reflection of our performance as a parent. More than that, moms judge other moms harshly. If you’re saying you don’t, you’re lying again. As a result, we moms tend to tell a listening ear what we think will be received as stellar parenting advice about our child’s development, eating and sleeping habits, academics, etc. This starts the vicious cycle of moms lying because at the end of the day, moms are also competitive.
I cannot begin to tell you the amount of times I would come home to my husband with regard to our first born and say to him “so-and-so’s mom just told me he/she can do (insert whatever crazy notion you want in here) and our daughter is nowhere near doing that!” I’d be on the verge of hysterics because my child might potentially be underdeveloped. (Now, before I go any further, I do want all moms out there with children that face mental/physical challenges to know I don’t mean to make a mockery of these challenges and do truly appreciate all of the hard work and effort that goes into caring for your child on a daily basis. But as a first-time mom, I just didn’t know what to expect of my child.)
During every episode of hysterics, my husband would say, “I don’t care what those other kids are doing, as long as our child is happy and healthy, then all is good!” He would then proceed to tell me, “Moms lie.” I, of course, did not believe him. In fact I would become infuriated with him, in part because he wasn’t even remotely concerned about our child’s development (as he shouldn’t have been, she was developing just fine.) In other part because I was so jealous that he could keep his cool and never let what other children were and were not doing even remotely enter into his purview of our child’s development (yes, we are Claire and Phil from that episode of Modern Family when Claire is so agitated that Phil remains so calm when Haley got arrested!). I have come to the conclusion that the reason my husband can stay singularly focused on our child is because dads don’t lie. Dads quite frankly don’t get involved in the competitive nonsense, and really just are out to have a good time with their child. That is the beginning and end of it.
If you are fortunate to live in a city like me that has a dense population of these competitive moms, you’ll find you need to check yourself more often than not. New York City breeds a special kind of uber-competitive mom that has truly made me question every blessed thing I have done as a parent at one time or another. They come in various types, some of which include:
(1) The Hippy - the crunchy mom who literally competes with you on how long she breast-fed her child and the fact that she brushes her child’s teeth with organic toothpaste.
(2) The Suit Mom – the mom who works in some high position and makes ridiculous amounts of money, and therefore judges you on the type of clothes your child wears, the activities your child is involved in (activities in NYC are absurdly expensive), and how many languages they are learning (at the age of 1); and
(3) The Stay-at-Home-Mom – the mom who just appears to have it all together and really makes you feel like you are a crazed lunatic at all times and you are doing your child a disservice by actually working.
While I realize that moms in other areas of the world are not as crazy as the NYC mom (acknowledging my EMBELLISHED characterization of them), versions of these moms are everywhere.
My husband has been privy to the world of competitive, crazy moms as a result of being an extremely active dad and spending a fair amount of time with moms. He, therefore, has validated my perception of these moms. He has said to me on more than one occasion, “I don’t know how you do it. Moms are just crazy. They are so competitive with one another that they just lie.”
For some reason, hearing “I don’t know how you do it” made me feel like I didn’t have to compete anymore. This started the trend of trying not to pay attention to what other moms say about their children (ok, I am human, I do my best not to compare), and telling the truth about my child - maybe to a fault. (I definitely went through a period when I claimed my child was a horrible eater. It’s not true. She is actually a good eater and will try everything). I can honestly say it feels good! I have come to the realization that children have enough stress in their lives they don’t need to live up to these embellished ideas of themselves. Regardless, kids have a tendency to tell the truth just when you don’t want them to, and will sell out on your exaggerations. I have also made the decision to surround myself around moms that appear to limit their amount of embellishments (look, we all do it to a degree) and to “call BS” on moms that do (at least in me head).
So my advice to all moms:
(1) Learn a little something from your husband and stay singularly focused on your children;
(2) Take everything another mom says about their child with a grain of salt, we have an uncanny ability to sometimes make our children and parenting skills appear better than they are; and
(3) Try not to exaggerate, it is insanely freeing and actually makes another mom feel like she is in good company.
Me: “My daughter? Oh. She starting walking around 10 months or so I think.”
Me: “My daughter? Oh. She starting walking around 10 months or so I think.”
Raven’s Mother: “ Oh really? My little Raven was walking at 8 months. By 10 months she was potty trained”. *insert gratuitous look of pity*
There is a phenomenon that happens on playgrounds, PTO Meetings, soccer fields and the like. These places are breeding grounds for Competitive Moms. Competitive Moms are a virus that seemingly normal women contract upon the birth of their first child.
Whether it’s an issue of insecurity, peer pressure or something else is a separate issue. The fact of the matter is that, in my experience, Moms have a unique competitive streak when it comes to the development of their children. Different from the Dads that are competitive on a little league field, these competitive Moms focus on boasting and touting their child’s developmental superiority.
It’s fairly common and actually pretty natural. Dealing with your child’s mother when she comes home in complete hysterics because little Mindy is speaking a little more clearly than your daughter at 18 months old? Now that’s where the fun begins.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for patient pediatricians that also act as counselors and the guideline police of “acceptable development”. There can be an obsessive element involved with whether it’s OK if your child still has a pacifier at 2 years. Or 3 years.
I found myself constantly reminding my wife that there is no greater equalizer of child development than time. Folks, your kids will not go to college with a pacifier in their mouth. I promise you. It is so easy to get sucked into the worry and concern over minor developmental milestones that it can make you crazy. Moms don’t have the market corned on this either.
Living in a city like NYC is like living in an exaggerated Petri dish of over-zealous parenting. I am sure everyone experiences these things and it really is important to benchmark your child’s development with himself. I don’t mean to dismiss true developmental issues that children face. We certainly are not talking about those here. I am really lucky to have found a group here in the city that is a truly supportive, knowledgeable and accessible called the NYC Dad’s Group. To the extent that Moms and Dads alike out there can find a group (this one is a Meetup Group that is in all 5 NYC boroughs, Hoboken and Jersey City), I highly recommend it.
Fundamentally, we all have different children with different needs and are all just trying to figure out what’s best for them. Contrary to what you might hear at Gymboree, it’s not a contest. We all win.