Wednesday, August 10, 2011

the mothering competition

my astonishing girls, so grown

I was at the pediatrician's office the other day with one of the girls, and there was two other mothers in the waiting room.  These two women were younger than me, each with a two year old and a pregnant belly.  It seemed they knew each other from the preschool their little ones attend.  The waiting room is very small and the doctor was on his way from attending a birth, so we were stuck together for about an hour.  Even though I had a novel, it was impossible not to listen in on their conversation.  Do you remember when your kids were little and everything they did seemed so remarkable?  They were like that and at first it made me nostalgic for my own grown babies whose every step had also once seemed so astonishing.

But their charming, nostalgia-inducing, chatter quickly became a competition: whose baby had the higher fever the night before, who had called the doctor later, and then, which baby talked more, and which one was more active.  If you could just hear yourselves, I thought.  Of course then I remembered similar conversations I had participated in when my kids were little.  Height and weight, eating and pooping, like it meant something that my baby was bigger than her baby.  It's ridiculous, and I am grateful to be long past all that.  It's not that mothers of older kids aren't competitive, but when someone starts moaning (proudly) about how many activities their kid is in, I just nod politely.

It was a good reminder though, and I have been mindful of it in my conversations with other mothers.  I am a somewhat competitive person and it's easy to get dragged into to it.  I guess, as mothers we all need confirmation that we are doing a good job (especially in those early years), and a mothering pissing match is one way to get that--just make sure no one overhears you because it does sound rather foolish.

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