Monday, April 13, 2009

The Mommy Wars

Let me let you in on a dirty little secret about motherhood.

Are you listening closely?

Mothers are OBSESSED with comparing their children to yours.
Here is another deep dark secret.
Ready again?
Motherhood is NOT a competition.

While I find it flattering that someone would use my kid as a standard of measurement, it drives me CRAZY.

Why? I have yet to figure it out. I have my theories, but I have yet to pick one that sounds plausible enough to make sense. However, I do feel like it is one of the biggest mistakes moms make.

I can't say I don't do it. Ask any of my friends who have kid's Addison's age. I use them to gauge where Addison is developmentally fairly often. I ask how many words they say, if they know their alphabets, what number can they count to? So I am by no means innocent.

But here's why I feel like constantly comparing your kids to others is doing your child an injustice. Its due to their mothers own insecurities. Do you really think your child cares whether their vocabulary is larger, has a more expensive wardrobe or reads at a higher grade level than anyone else on the playground? Of course not. They just want someone to play with. So the only person being affected by the comparisons is the mother, who is more than likely suffering from some type of insecurities herself, driving her to make wild comparisons with other children to bolster them.

Why is that a problem? Because in doing so, a child learns that their worth can only be counted in comparison to others. Put a child in a room by himself and he doesn't have confidence. Add a few more kids, and he can then compare himself against others to decide his worth. He will never be independently confident, relying always on someone else to tell him where he fits in the spectrum of children who may or may not be cleverer, more attractive, or funnier than he. See how dangerous that can be? Conditioning a child so their worth is always attached to someone else is wrong.

Besides that, its silly. Making a broad statement like, "My child is better/smarter/cuter than that child" is ridiculous. It is completely subjective and chances are that very few people agree with you - most people a) don't care or b) don't have an opinion either way. I hear that and automatically wonder if the mother has some self esteem issues of her own that she projects onto her child. Its generally agreed that most moms find their kids sweeter, funnier, cuter than other kids - it doesn't need to be reiterated time and time again. It again only teaches measurement against other children.

I often say, "Addison, you are so cute." But I would never say, "Addison, you are cuter than so and so." Because I don't want to teach her to make a point to compare herself to anyone, ever. She doesn't need the extra validation of doing a side by side comparison of her and another child. I want to instill confidence in her that is purely self-reliant. Not to mention, what an disrespectful thing to teach a child; that its okay to belittle other kids as long as it makes himself feel better.

Of course, it's easier said than done. We want constant validation that WE did a good job and WE are good mothers, and OUR kids are adorable, and we think the only way to measure that is through pitting our children against others and comparing, so we can sit back smugly and figure we have it right and wait around for someone to agree. We like to bring out our magical child ruler and measure them up. If there is another kid less "smart" then we get our warm fuzzy feelings that we're doing it right.

The truth is, there will always be another child who is prettier, smarter, stronger and more charming than our own. What we need to teach our children is that they have strengths AND weaknesses, and both build character. Our time would be better spent helping our children to see their own worth and not worrying about how they stack up against other kids. Because in the end, they are just that. Other kids. Not your kid. So why are you worrying about them?

So moms, stop with the guilt and lay off the comparisons. They are selfish and are for your benefit only. Don't project your insecurities and confidence issues on your sweet kids. Let them grow into their own skins by teaching them to be comfortable with themselves, no matter what kind of company they keep. If they are a member of MENSA, or eating dirt at the playground, they should get the chance to grow their own confidence. Don't teach them that their worth relies on whoever else is around them. Make your job a little easier and let them know that they are funny, sweet, adorable and whatever else, without dragging another kid into the mix for comparison. Let them be funny, sweet and adorable in their own rite.

Alright, Stepping off my soapbox here. I just hate to see a mother set her child up for a lifetime of self esteem issues when they are taught to constantly compare themselves to others in order to gauge their confidence level. Just let them be kids, dig in the mud, make a general mess and be blissfully unaware of any type of feelings of inadequacy... they have their entire adult lives to spend working on those.


Carolyn said...

AMEN! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you finally said something!!! Maybe certain people with figure it out....probably not, but hopefully!! Go Jae!!!!!!!!

Beth said...

Great post! I really need to hear that. My son has two cousins close in age and I find myself comparing for about a minute but then remember how special each one is.

Derek and Mary said...

That's awesome and every mom should read it!

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