Wednesday, March 2, 2016

MOTHERHOOD ISN'T A COMPETITIVE SPORT (GASP)


I know I said I was probably not going to write much about being a mum, but today I am making an exception. It is 5:50 am.  Minibot has been sleeping on my arm now for 30 minutes. We are curled up on a rocking chair together while I help her to sleep. Today is one of the earlier starts, but every day she wakes up too early and screams because she can't get herself back to sleep. 

And, no, before you ask, she has never slept through the night. No, we don't need to feed her. Yes, it probably would be easier to let her sleep in our bed/put in ear plugs and let her cry/emigrate to a different continent.....but that's not for us. Oh....It worked for you? Well that is JUST super! (insert appropriate hand gesture here)


Do I sound a teeny bit defensive? Yes, but just a teeny bit. You see for all of the well-meaning - sometimes ludicrous - advice out there, the people saying it mean well and at the heart of it want to help. There is, however, an increasing number of mums in my social circle who choose to see this as an exercise in comparison, with anyone who behaves differently to them automatically judged. I can't tell you how many times I have had this conversation with a competitive mum (other c words might apply...):

CM: "You look tired, is minibot still not sleeping through?"
Me: "I was up at 5:30am holding her again, so a bit sleepy."
CM: "Oh, poor you. I wouldn't be able to do that anymore. My little angel has slept through now since 12 weeks and since she's been crawling at 7 months, she barely even makes a noise at night. How old is minibot again? 8 months is it? Well, maybe when she can crawl, she will sleep better too."
Me: "I think she's just teething and needs the cuddles. She's chewing everything."
CM: "How many teeth does she have?"
Me: "This is her third."
CM: "Oh it will be fine. My little princess has 7 now and it barely bothered her. In fact, we were surprised to see them pop out....she was too busy playing Mozart on her plastic baby piano and pooping rainbows*

These conversations drive me nuts. Whether a baby has teeth or not, can sit up or do algebra can be an interesting conversation. I love hearing about how the other little ones are progressing. It is also natural for a parent to feel proud of these little milestones and want to share them. It's when these chats have the poisonous subtext that your child is somehow 'behind' the others, usually at the fault of the parent, that I want to tear my hair out. I think it's also putting us mums more and more into defensive mode.  

I was very excited to see that a friend's baby had learnt to stand and walk independently at 11 months. We hadn't seen each other for a couple of weeks (and being normal she hadn't announced it on whatsapp with an accompanying video). I congratulated her little girl and asked when her first steps were. She had always been a very coordinated baby with a talent for learning movement, so it wasn't a huge surprise. Yet, her reaction was one which sought to reassure me that one day minibot would also walk and I wasn't to worry. I guess the competitive mums got to her first, because her reaction was one which I also adopt with competitive mums of younger babies, who fly into a panic when their child isn't following another baby's exact progress - the need to reassure (so that you don't come across as a judgemental harpy) is worryingly necessary nowadays. 

My little girl, like other babies discovers something new and wonderful every day (like ALL babies do). I love that her favourite thing yesterday was blowing raspberries and then wobbling to herself in amusement; that she dances when she hears music and that she understands the word wave in both English and German (and responds to the word in both languages with a karate-chopping motion). The sad thing is, I don't feel I can share this joy with all of the mum's without being questioned about if she is walking yet, or doing something else on the 'average' baby's milestone list. So instead, I am going to hold on to these golden little moments and hug them tight - because for every new fact about the world that she discovers, I want her to remember the giant smile on my face when she looks up proudly to show me what she has learnt.

Am I the only mum in this situation or is being a competitive mum the new normal? In some ways I hope that I really am the only one tearing my hair out over this - as the alternative doesn't even really bear thinking about.
 

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