I’ve never enjoyed participating in competitive sports. Too much aggression and intensity. Too many extremes. Win or lose. No in between. I thrive in the balanced calm of the “in between”, so I didn’t quite fit in with competitive sports.
Cut to a clip of Breakfast Club, when Andy, the Jock, is impersonating his father, shouting at him to “WIN! WIN! WIN! We don’t tolerate losers in this family!” This is my vision of competitive sports. Of course, all of my views can be captured with a John Hughes film clip. Isn’t this true of every Gen Xer?!
I digress. Another quirk of a Gen Xer.
Parenting seems to be a new form of competitive sport. We’ve all seen the term “Mommy War”, yet this phenomenon is sometimes too broad. Too impersonal. As a competition, some parents get into personal debates about who is being a better parent. It becomes more specific than “working mom” versus “stay at home mom (SAHM)”, to members of these categories comparing specific behaviors and mantras. For example, I’ve seen various SAHMs debating about the use of electronic devices with their kids, not in a supportive “here’s how I do it, how about you?” manner, but more of a “this is what I do and it’s best and no one can tell me different and if you don’t do what I do you are wrong!” manner.
Sure, maybe I’m embellishing the drama a bit. But that’s what makes me view it more as a personal competition than a broad war.
We’ve also seen some of this competition play out in the media. Case in point, Gwyneth Paltrow. She made the controversial statement that 9-5 working moms have it easier than working actors. Seriously. Mackenzie Dawson, a working mom, used satire to deal with this statement in an open letter to Gwyneth. Several weeks ago, another mom posted a picture of her children engrossed in electronics, calling it her “Rock-Bottom Mom Moment.” Browsing through the comments, it becomes clear that many moms have moments like this and many would not consider any of these moments to be “rock bottom.”
It’s disheartening to me that many moms (and dads) feel the need to engage in a competition. That they feel the need to explain their behavior to others who they fear may quickly judge them for their sub-par parenting. Or, in the case of Gwyneth, a mom feels she needs to compare herself to other moms to gain some sort of sympathy or inclusion in the mom-club. It’s very strange that some parents engage in the comparing and competing and one-upping.
My first thought with all of this is “does ANY parent really have that much time and energy to spend engaged in this type of behavior?” And for those who do, what is the motivation for this? What is the goal? Are these parents fixated on the notion of the “perfect” mom, dad, caregiver?
Newsflash – the ideal of the “perfect mom” is just that, an ideal. It does not exist. There is no such thing as a perfect anything, including (and especially) parenting. Yet, clearly some parents are striving for the medal of perfection. They seem focused on sharing moments that seem oddly unattainable or even desirable. Even if giving your kids iPads to distract them truly is a low point in your parenting world, why broadcast it that way? It drips of competition, as if to say, “if this is your usual, than I feel sorry for you because this never happens to me, it’s a last resort.” It’s these types of images and moments that perpetuate the competition. These parents may or may not be striving for perfection at all times, but they certainly seem to be engaging in a competition. It’s quite amusing and sad all at once.
Luckily there are more and more parents who are not engaging in this competition. Those parents with strong senses of humor and no hidden agenda, who share tips and provide support. They are the ones who don’t judge another parent’s style, but rather watch to see if they can learn something new. To me, these parents embrace the imperfections of parenting and tend to be lighter and more inclusive about the whole thing. It’s refreshing. Those are the parents I gravitate toward.
When did parenting become a competitive sport? I, for one, have decided to watch from afar, with no intention of getting on the field to “WIN!” Thankfully, I’m in good company out here.