Obsessive Momming

We think of it as a competition, but it’s not.

 

For it to be a competition we would need a clear starting point, a finish line, and an impartial judge or two.

 

For it to truly be a competition we would need to be grouped according to various factors, because it would need to be fair.

 

No, it’s not a competition.

 

This thing that seems to fester below the surface, rearing its head only in response to the latest media craze, is all internal.

 

There is no prize at the end of the parenting journey.  In fact, once you enter into it, the journey never really ends.  Just ask your mom.

 

And yet, moms feel pressured.  They internalize input from various outlets and react accordingly.

 

They go to great lengths to demonstrate that they are just as much mom as that mom over there…

 

That they might even be more mom than the mom down the street…

 

That they are, indeed, mom enough…

 

The real problem, of course, is not finding a way to become the most mom.  Being the most mom ever is unattainable, after all.

 

The real problem is the fallout that our children experience when moms feed into this fabricated competition.

 

The real problem is the emotional repercussions of all of this obsessive momming.

 

Pressure has a trickle down effect.  It starts at the top and it slowly works its way down to the bottom.

 

And there, on the bottom, are the innocents.  The ones who are supposed to focus on fun, learn through play, and, above all, to be loved beyond compare.

 

Riley had mixed emotions as we walked down the street to attend her Kindergarten orientation this week.  For a variety of reasons, preschool has been a struggle this year.  Coming off a great first year with incredible teachers, this year just paled in comparison.  She felt different and less self confident from the very first week, and it hasn’t improved much since.

 

Kindergarten has, for the most part, been a source of pending excitement.  Walking to school appeals to her, as does going to school with her best buddy.  But, after a year of ups and downs, separating remains a challenge.

 

Needless to say, my expectations were low on this particular day.  I assumed she would stay by my side as we visited each classroom.  That would have been just fine with me.  This was, after all, an opportunity to get to know the Kindergarten classrooms and see the students in action.  It was a day meant for observation.

 

I was pleasantly surprised when she marched right into each classroom and made herself at home.  In one room, she drew a solar system.  In another, she colored a fish.  And in a third, she played house with some other children.  She had the time of her life.

 

I stood back, smiled often, and cheered her on.

 

But I couldn’t help but observe some other experiences throughout the morning.

 

One little girl preferred to stick close to her mom.  Her mom wanted her to join with the other kids.  The longer it went on, the more anxious the mom became.

 

At one point, she placed the little girl in a chair and told her to draw.  The little girl complied, scribbling a few colors on a plain white piece of paper.

 

When she returned to her mother with the finished product her mother took a quick look and said, “That’s it?  You didn’t make much of an effort.”  The girl quickly looked to the ground and disengaged once again.

 

My heart broke for that little girl.  While I’m sure that she draws more complex pictures at home and at preschool, it was probably the best she could do in a new and overwhelming situation.

 

The anxiety her mom experienced when her daughter didn’t meet her expectations (in front of many other moms) trickled right down to her daughter, and made her feel like a failure.

 

Obsessive momming isn’t healthy for anyone involved.  It leaves moms feeling inadequate, and children feeling like they aren’t good enough.

 

It causes anxiety and disappointment across the board.

 

It’s not that I don’t have great hopes for my children.  I most certainly do.  But, at the end of the day, my greatest hope for my children is that they live a lifetime of happiness.

 

And that happiness begins with a happy, pressure-free childhood.

 

Because it isn’t a competition.

 

 

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More Than Good Enough

A few months ago it seemed like there was a heavy focus on competition among moms.  The media loves a good conflict, and jumped at the chance to get moms talking/fighting about who works harder and various other things.

It worked, for a few weeks.

But then we all went back to our lives.

Because, at the end of the day, we have kids to raise, jobs to do, and laundry to clean.  There’s only so much time for debating.

But lately, I’ve noticed a new trend in the world of blogging.

There’s a negative vibe out there right now, but this time it’s self-imposed.

(Not that anyone is admitting to that last part.)

Twice in the last week I’ve read posts questioning whether or not Pinterest makes moms feel like “bad moms”.  Seriously?

I know these posts are written partly in jest but, still, the feeling must lurk beneath the surface to make it post-worthy.

Does it make me less of a mom if I’m not as crafty as some?

Do the amount of original crafts I create increase my mom-ish-ness?

Will my kids be smarter, better adjusted, or more prepared for school if I create more amazing and pin-worthy crafts?

Are moms really thinking about this?

If so, it makes me a little bit sad…

Please stop by Mommy Moment to continue reading this article.

Mompetition No More on Yahoo

“It might be the stilettos versus the yoga pants. Or it could be the organic fruits versus the fish shaped crackers. Perhaps it’s the home school moms versus the private school moms versus the public school moms. And let’s not forget about the PTA moms versus the working moms. They’re in on this too.

It doesn’t really matter which subset we’re talking about because it all boils down to one common problem: Mompetition…”

Hey Friends…I’m over on Yahoo today talking more about the “Mompetition” that seems to be sweeping the playgrounds, and just about everywhere else. Won’t you stop by Yahoo and read “Mompetition No More”?  Please share your thoughts in a comment over there.  Let’s get this conversation started!  Thank you!

Ending the Mompetition

““Mompetition” is not a new idea.  In fact, mom bloggers write about it often.  They might not be using the cutesy term, but they are writing about the feelings moms experience when other moms attack them.

It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

When I first became a mom I had high hopes that the mean girls from adolescence would have transformed into friendly moms who enjoy pleasant social interactions.  Wrong.  I thought a morning at the park meant instant connections with other moms with kids of similar ages.  Wrong again.  I thought that, at the end of the day, we would all be in this together.  Still wrong.

It turns out that those mean girls, and possibly a few others, have a new routine.  They’re no longer using words like “slut” to describe girls who offend them in some small way.  They are no longer spreading vicious rumors and writing hateful comments on school lockers.

Now…they are engaging in Mompetition…”

Please stop by Mommy Moment to continue reading this article.

 

Mommy Moment

The Rise of the Helicopter Grandparent

This week on Mommy Moment I’m discussing a new kind of helicopter in the world of parenting…

“But there’s another kind of helicopter up there too.  One that used to hover a little higher but seems to be moving lower and lower with each passing day.  It’s the kind that rarely accepts criticism and always knows best (or so it would have you believe).  It’s the kind that won’t take no for an answer and often uses manipulation to get it’s needs met.

It’s the helicopter grandparent…”

Please stop and read The Rise of the Helicopter Grandparent and let me know what you think!

 

Mommy Moment

Finding Me


Mommy Moment
This week on Mommy Moment I talked about feeling lost at times, and how we can think about ourselves in relation to others in order to remember that we have many strengths.  Stop by and check out my latest post for Mommy Moment:

Finding Me

Check back later for Preschool Developmental Milestones…

 

 

 

Feeling Lost in Mommyhood? (Tips for raising your mom-esteem)

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” –Eleanor Roosevelt

 

In my previous post, I addressed the idea that the overwhelming amount of external pressure in the world of Mommyhood can sometimes cause moms to suffer from low “Mom-Esteem” .  Being a parent is hard work and, even on a very good day, there is usually some amount of unpredicted stress that gets internalized throughout the day.

 

There seems to be a new level of mom competition out in the world today.  Moms are obsessively making comparisons, sharing their parenting stats, and commenting on the parenting styles of others.  It can be hard to know who your friends are with so much competition clouding the conversation.

 

And then there are the experts:  The grandparents, the friends and relatives with no kids, the people who seem to have the answers to all of the questions you never asked.

 

Add in the day-to-day stress of sickness, school issues, time management, trying to please others, trying to care for yourself, and, most of all, caring for your children, and you end up with multiple chances per day to see your mom-esteem plummet.  I know because I’ve been there.  Below are some tips to help you keep your mom-esteem high, even on the most tiring days:

 

1. Embrace your choices: You can’t please everyone.  This is not a new concept, but it is one that can be hard to remember.  Up until recently, I was a people pleaser.  I struggled to make decisions in my own best interest because it might upset someone I loved.  This past Fall I made a decision that some people close to me could not understand.  I made it because I had to put my kids first.  I had to do what was right for them.  Some people turned on me.  Some might never talk to me again.  That was when it really hit me:  You can’t please everyone.  As a mom, everything takes a backseat to your kids.  All important decisions come with the question, “what about the kids?”  It took this hard decision for me to realize that pleasing other people for a few hours isn’t reason enough to put my kids through something very stressful.  You can’t please everyone.  Feel good about your choices.  You made them for the right reasons.

2. Avoid comparisons: Sometimes we do it to ourselves; sometimes other people do it to us.  Either way, comparisons rarely end on a positive.  No two kids are the same.  No two moms are the same.  All families are different.  Comparing milestones, preschools, language development, and eating habits is useless.  Try to flip it.  Sharing strategies that helped you might really help another mom with a similar situation.  But if the comparisons just won’t stop despite an effort to focus on the positive, walk away.  You know that you’re doing your best on any given day.  That’s all you can do.

3. Accept compliments: It seems so simple, yet it can be so hard to do.  There’s something about motherhood that conditions us to credit everything good in our lives with a little luck.  You’re working hard every single day.  If someone notices that your kid shares well, has good manners, is respectful, that you handled a situation well, or even that your hair looks great…just say thank you.  You don’t need an excuse for your greatness.  You earned it (do I need to remind you about the endless night feedings, diapers, and bouts of the stomach flu you’ve endured?).  You’ve done the work; accept the praise that comes your way.

4. Choose wisely: Did you know that excessive complaining and negativity among women is actually contagious?  It’s true.  Studies have been done.  Everyone needs to vent and blow off steam, but if you find yourself in a friendship fueled by complaining and negativity, it might be best to take a break.  Try to surround yourself with positive friends who are willing to listen and show support, but who also know how to make you smile.  I have one girlfriend who quite literally lights up every room she enters.  Due to work schedules and kids we don’t get much alone time together, but when we do we spend the first 15 minutes discussing how happy we make each other.  At 36, I’ve finally learned that it’s ok to walk away from negativity.  I don’t have to be there for everyone, especially if other people are not willing to be there for me. Choose wisely.

5. Keep a small moments journal: Parenting is all about the small moments.  Days can be wonderful and days can be overwhelming, but there are always small moments of pure joy at some point during the day.  Capture them with your camera when you can, but use your words to remember the details.  I’m not talking about a lengthy essay, just a couple of sentences.  Like when your two year old finally figures out how to put the Mega Blocks together.  Or when your three year old draws a picture of the whole family.  Maybe it’s just a few funny comments you heard, or the first time your baby says, “I love you, Mommy”.  Look for the small moments of wonder each day and write them down.  Twenty years from now you won’t remember the sleep deprivation or the unfriendly comment that left you feeling defeated, but you will want to remember those little moments of happiness.

6. Challenge yourself: Whether or not you work in addition to being a mommy, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.  When Sean was on tour I felt like I was just cycling through the same day over and over again.  This blog is as much a challenge for me as it is a creative outlet.  Every time I hit “post” I panic.  Will I get any comments?  Will they be positive or negative?  Does anyone even care?  But I truly enjoy the time spent doing the research, writing the articles, and communicating with other moms.  It can be a challenge to keep up with it, but it’s incredibly rewarding.  After years in the fashion industry, and then time spent at home, my best friend recently took a new job that is completely different than her previous life.  She’s doing really well and always sounds really positive when I ask her about it.  Whether it’s training for a 10K or taking an online class that interests you, try to challenge yourself.  I think you will find that you feel really good about yourself when you are able to step away from the routine, even for just a few hours a week.

7. Avoid personalizing: I have to admit that I struggle with this a lot.  Someone makes a comment intending to upset me, and I let it.  Sometimes even just a look can leave me feeling unsettled.  Here’s the thing:  You never truly know what someone else is going through.  On the days when I remember to just laugh things off or turn the other way, I always feel much better about myself.  At the end of the day, I know that I’m doing a great job as a mom.  If someone doesn’t agree with my parenting style it doesn’t mean that I’m wrong; it just means that we’re different.  Try not to personalize the comments, stares, and feedback.  Make that Eleanor Roosevelt quote your new mantra and release yourself of a huge burden.  You don’t have to take on other people’s negativity just because they’re dishing it out.

8. Find your outlet: I read.  A lot.  I sometimes drive Sean crazy (when he’s home at a decent hour) because I read by way of Kindle on my iPhone.  I hide under the duvet and cruise through chapter after chapter while I should be catching up on sleep.  I can’t help it.  It’s my outlet.  Years ago I was in a book group and loved it.  Sometimes we talked about the books, but often we spent the time catching up and talking about whatever was happening in the world at the time.  If I had the childcare, I would be back in a book group for sure.  I have a friend who has a monthly girls dinner out with a group of old friends.  She really looks forward to those dinners.  Another friend joined a running group and can’t get enough of it.  Find what works for you.  As much as we LOVE our kids, we also need a break once in a while.  Take one.  You deserve it.

9. Prioritize your marriage/relationship: Parenting can easily take up your whole life.  It’s wonderful and amazing and everything you ever wanted, but it’s a full time job.  It’s easy to put your marriage/relationship on the back burner.  Plan date nights.  Even staying home can be a date night.  Turn off all electronics, light a candle, eat at the TABLE (gasp!), and spend quality time talking and connecting.  It’s amazing how much a wonderful night with your significant other can truly help you forget about your stress and feel better about yourself.

10. Exercise: Believe me I know, it’s hard to find the time and the motivation.  But, wow, it feels good when you’re on a roll.  Whether you invest in the treadmill at home or find the YMCA (or gym) with the daycare, allow yourself some time a few days a week to get moving.  It’s good for your body, it will help you sleep, and it will rest your worried mind.  You do so much for everyone else; try to focus on you.

 

High mom-esteem won’t come overnight.  It’s a gradual process of changing your thinking, your responses, and your ability to put yourself first some of the time.  Hopefully some of my strategies will work for you.  If not, maybe this will inspire you to figure what will work for you. Everyday I work a little bit harder to try to turn away from negative input and focus on the small moments of success instead.  I hope you will give yourself permission to do the same.

 

You tell me:  What coping strategies work for you?

 

“Mom-Esteem”: How Do You Rate Yours?

**It’s mom week at Practical Parenting!  Today I’m tackling the way we feel about ourselves as moms, and Friday I will provide tips for improving our “mom-esteem”.

Self-esteem.  Some people spend a lifetime working on it.  The Random House College Dictionary, Revised Edition, defines self-esteem as:  (n.) respect for, or a favorable impression of, oneself.  I have counseled many children, and their parents, through periods of low self-esteem.  Recognizing your own unique greatness can be a difficult task.

People struggle with self-esteem for a variety of reasons.  Some internalize their feelings and feel compelled to compare themselves to others on a regular basis.  Others feel like they just can’t seem to catch a break and that life is out to get them.  Many have been the targets of bullies, either within their families or in the outside world.  Loss, traumatic experiences, medical conditions, and various disabilities can all cause people to question their self-worth.  There’s generally a trigger (or a series of triggers) that requires some working through in order to raise self-esteem.

Having spent the past four years at home with my kids (with a little work on the side), I’ve seen (and felt) how moms are on a constant ride on the emotional roller coaster.  It’s hard work being a mom.  In fact, I’ve come up my own term for how moms feel about themselves:  “Mom-esteem”. I would define mom-esteem as (n.) respect for, or feeling good about, the choices one makes as a mom.

When you’re raising kids, some days are great, some are ok, and some are downright difficult.  You never know what you’re going to get.  And at the end of the day, moms have to find a way to decompress and cope with whatever was sent their way that day.  On a good day, it’s easy.  On a difficult day, your mom-esteem can really plummet.

Trying to rely on the theory that you can’t control everything and it’s not always your fault is easier said than done.  While this is certainly true, moms are conditioned to feel like they need to be able to handle everything.  Moms are the ones who keep everyone healthy, well fed, and, above all else, happy.  Moms are running things from the control tower.  When something isn’t right, or a day is really difficult, it’s the mom who is left to internalize the resulting emotions.

Then there are the external factors.  The moms who insist on sharing their greatness at the park.  The moms who allegedly never let their kids have any sugar and cook everything from scratch every night using only organic ingredients (my two year old currently lives on bagels, yogurt, and fruit.  Does that make me a failure?).  The moms with impeccably dressed children with clean faces and perfectly coiffed hair.  The moms who found the perfect preschool with the perfect teachers and the perfect play yard.

Not long ago I was at the grocery store with both kids.  They were on foot, “helping” me pick out the groceries.  I’m sure it’s a familiar scenario:  Two items in, one back out.  It takes three times as long to shop this way, but the kids have a little more fun.  If I have to do it, I might as well make it fun.  The check out line is always the hard part.  They compete to see who can put the most items on the belt.  It gets a little hard to control.  And that’s when an elderly shopper shot me a dirty look and commented, “it would be easier if those kids were in a cart, you know”.  My defenses went up.  I bit my tongue (respect your elders) and feigned a smile to avoid a sarcastic reply.  But she got me.  When my defenses are up, my mom-esteem is down.  I tell myself to ignore the people passing judgment, but that can be hard to do.

Another time I picked up Riley at school to have a teacher make a comment about her hearing (while I was signing her out and Liam was running toward the parking lot unattended).  Hearing loss?  Impossible.  It never occurred to me.  I speed dialed Sean and then my sister, and then spent the rest of the day sneaking up on her to check her hearing.  She later passed the hearing screening with flying colors.  Low mom-esteem.  One questionable comment and I immediately assume that I’ve failed my child in some way.

And then there are the endless comparisons.  The race for developmental milestones.  Did you potty train him yet?  Does she get herself dressed in the morning?  Do they sleep through night?  Can she write her name?  Does he know his letters?  These are the conversations I quietly walk away from.  Sometimes even a compliment seems like an accusation, “wow.  He really talks in complete sentences at a young age”.  The subtext is there.  This conversation won’t end until the other mom is back on top.  It can really cause the mom-esteem to take a hit.

Forget about a public temper tantrum.  It can take a week to come back from one of those.  A few disapproving stares and the mom-esteem is almost non-existent.  I’ve learned to grin and move on, but I’ve had some experiences where I ended up emotionally exhausted after coping with the tantrum, the exhausted child, and the input from the passersby.  It’s hard to tune it out every time.

Do I need to mention the constant feedback and unsolicited advice from older (who might think they are wiser) family members?  They always seem to remember having done it just right.  Did they really?  Was their mom-esteem always a perfect ten?  It’s doubtful.

Great days are amazing.  You end the day feeling very connected to your children. You had fun.  They had fun.  Everyone ate something green and lots of fruit.  The stars were aligned.  Your mom-esteem is at an all-time high.

But the bad days are horrible.  The kids are tired, cranky, sick, and picking on each other every time you attempt to make a meal or clean a dish left in the sink.  The house is a mess.  The laundry still isn’t done.  You end the day in a state of complete emotional exhaustion.  You question whether or not you raised your voice just a little, and what impact that had on your child.  You wonder if that trip to the germy indoor play space caused the colds.  You might even start to envy someone who seems to have an “easier” time with this motherhood thing.  Your mom-esteem ceases to exist.  So you break out the chocolate and ice cream, because what else can you do?

The truth is that we all have hard days.  I’ve been told that I make it look easy.  More than once.  It’s not always easy.  Some people spend years working on their self-esteem, but from the minute your first child is born, you will likely spend the rest of your life working on your mom-esteem.

And you know those moms with the perfect kids who only eat organic everything?  Let me let you in on a little secret:  They struggle with their mom-esteem too.  Why else would they feel compelled to share their stats with unsuspecting strangers at the park instead of just enjoying their kids?  They strive to feel good too.

What causes shifts in your mom-esteem?  How do you cope with difficult days?

**Please remember to check back Friday for “Tips on Raising your Mom-Esteem”, and look for my weekly article at Mommy Moment on Thursday, where I will be talking about mom stress.