When Parenting Becomes A Competition

When I became a parent, I prepared for having a baby; buying the essentials, reading about what to expect, sorting out our house in order to accommodate another little human. By the time our due date rolled around, I was as ready as I could be to be a parent. What I wasn’t ready for was the competition that came with it.

You know what I mean when I say that. The conversations that start innocently but quickly plunge into the details of the whens, the hows, the whats of your child’s development. Perhaps you were discussing how much they’ve grown only to hear that it’s not quite as impressive as next-doors baby. Maybe you were divulging the appearance of a first tooth, only to find that your friends baby has a mouthful already. Surely you’ve talked about how your child sleeps, only to hear another that sleeps better. We’ve all been there. Trust me.

But who wins when parenting gets competitive? Do you, as the parent, benefit from holding yourself (and your child) up like a yardstick to measure others against? Do your days brighten when your child sits/stands/walks/talks faster than the rest of their cohort? What about when they don’t? Do you look at them and feel an aspect of failure?

The problem with parenting is that you inherently want the best for your child. You want them to be happy, be comfortable in their own skin, to do well. You pour minute after minute into them as they’re growing and developing, helping them, guiding them, supporting them. It’s inevitable that as part of this you’re invested in how they’re doing and it’s only natural that you want to share this with the rest of the world.

You don’t want to do this, only to be met with the comment that their child did that months ago; better, for longer, faster. It feels like you’ve let them down, like you haven’t done enough, like you’ve somehow failed at being a parent.

I can say this because I’ve caught myself doing it. I’ve found myself willing my son to cut a tooth because ‘all the other babies have one’. I’ve let him cry longer than I want to because ‘baby X can self-soothe’. I’ve marooned him frustrated on the floor because ‘baby Y can already crawl’.

By comparing our children like this we’re reducing their milestones into tick boxes to complete rather than actions to be celebrated. We’re dimming the excitement of a first word, a first tooth, a first step. We’re stealing our own joy.

But I have an announcement to make. I’m officially retiring from competitive mumming. I don’t care if he’s the slowest to walk, if he’s still gummy at 30 or wakes every two hours for the rest of his life*. I don’t want to compare my child to anyone else. I don’t want to resent his development. I want to enjoy him.

 

*okay, this is a lie. If he continues to wake every two hours for much longer, I’m sending him back.

19 Comments

    • DevonMamaOnline
      9th January 2017 / 2:13 pm

      This is totally true! I’ve found as soon as you admit things aren’t actually all roses, everyone else pipes in in agreement! Thanks for reading x ps. the last week he’s just started to crack sleep – typical, as soon as you write about it!!

  1. 9th January 2017 / 2:18 pm

    I find that almost all the parents I know seem to do this comparison thing. My Daughter is now almost 4 yrs and at school, so now it is all about which child is doing the best best with reading and writing. So at every stage your child goes through it seems to continue! I try to not comment too much as I know it is not helpful.
    #PostsFromTheHeart

    • DevonMamaOnline
      9th January 2017 / 2:21 pm

      It never stops does it?! I find my mum now doing it about her grandchild!! It’s a natural thing but it’s so hard ot stop yourself from taking part in it… I want to do my best to avoid it as much as poss! x

  2. 9th January 2017 / 2:21 pm

    Oh Yes! totally agree. We should be supportive not competitive. If I have learnt anything over the last 3 years, it is that all babies are SO different, right from the start (that includes pregnancy!) and a parent’s instincts are almost always right. Some people are just more confident than others, and we need to nurture confidence in all of our mummy friends. Some people really do not do “joined up thinking” (and some are wonderfully supportive!)! #PostsFromTheHeart

    • DevonMamaOnline
      11th January 2017 / 8:17 pm

      We should!! But I get where it comes from, I’m just as guilty of it as the next person!! Thanks for reading x

  3. 9th January 2017 / 4:10 pm

    This is so very true!! Loved your post xx

    • DevonMamaOnline
      11th January 2017 / 8:17 pm

      Thank you!! x

  4. 9th January 2017 / 4:20 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how we all compare and we all feel inadequate and guilty about something? We put so much pressure on ourselves for absolutely no reason! Enjoy every moment with your little one! #PostsFromTheHeart

    • DevonMamaOnline
      11th January 2017 / 8:18 pm

      I think it’s a huge part of motherhood that no-one prepares you for in the slightest!! Thanks for your lovely words x

    • DevonMamaOnline
      11th January 2017 / 8:20 pm

      Oh no, I think I’ll be awful at comparing siblings as well. It’s so difficult not too!! x

  5. 12th January 2017 / 8:13 pm

    You are so right, this is a trap that it’s all too easy to fall into, and one every parent has heard. It’s something we all need to stop and think about, before we unintentionally upset someone else. I’ve been so lucky with Number Two that we found a friendship group whilst we were still pregnant and we all love each other’s babies so much we probably champion their achievements more than those of our own. I wonder if I would be as careful with less familiar parents though. I’m so glad you shared this post with us at #PostsFromTheHeart it’s one all parents should read.

    • DevonMamaOnline
      12th January 2017 / 10:00 pm

      I have a group of girls like that, all the babies are born really close together (within the space of 3 weeks) and it makes everything so much easier! I genuinely feel proud when they achieve certain things! Thanks for reading x

    • DevonMamaOnline
      16th January 2017 / 9:24 pm

      It’s nice at the back isn’t it? Better views!

  6. Daryl
    15th January 2017 / 10:41 pm

    ARGH this is SO true. I have a new mum friend with a daughter exactly two weeks younger. She got her two bottom teeth months before my son so she kept referring to him as a slow developer. Months later he got 6 teeth in one go & now has more. He crawled first, so now she’s in walking competition with me. I’m not playing. He will walk when he’s ready & do everything else when he’s ready. This is THE WORST thing about mum friends.

    • DevonMamaOnline
      16th January 2017 / 9:22 pm

      There’s always SOMEONE who’s like that in my opinion! Drives me crazy. I keep thinking, if I don’t take part in it does it take the enjoyment away for them?

      • Daryl Pengelly
        16th January 2017 / 10:28 pm

        Yesss it does because when I say ‘ohh she’s such a clever girl’ she doesn’t do it as often ! I can’t be bothered with it all. All babies are so different and do things at their own pace. I for one am greatful for a happy healthy boy who will walk / stop being clingy / stop standing up in the cot at 3am etc in his own time (hopefully the last one sooner though haha)

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