Mompetitors: What to Do When Moms Compete
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What is a mompetitor?
You may not find the word “mompetitor” in the dictionary, but many mothers know its meaning: a mom who constantly brags about the achievements of her offspring and her own parenting qualities in an effort to one-up fellow moms.
In one breath, a mompetitor might tell you her plans to make the fourth grade class Halloween party completely organic and sugar-free, and boasts that her son is a finalist in the spelling bee. When you mention that your child got a singing part in the third grade production of Annie, a mompetitor will say her daughter chose not to try out for the play because she will soon be going to L.A. to audition for a new Disney series.
Anything your child can do, her child can do better. That’s a mompetitor.
What makes moms so competitive?
“Because there’s no external system of reward, we can always feel like we’re not doing enough, no matter what. So becoming competitive with another mom can be an unconscious way of trying to prove to ourselves that we are doing okay,” says Mary Beth McClure, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
McClure says mompetition is most pervasive in women whose careers were pushed aside by parenting. “Stay-at-home moms who had been on the fast track in their careers prior to motherhood need a place to put their drive and ambition,” she says.
Steps to handling mompetition:
- Comfort yourself with “the kind voice.” If another mom is making you feel insecure about your own parenting, McClure suggests using positive self-talk. “Remind yourself what you do well as a mom,” she says. “The situation just needs what I call in my practice ‘the kind voice,’ which reminds us that we are all doing the best we can, in any given moment.”
- Don’t let your kid hear about it. Any conversations about mompetion are best done when children are not present. Children should want to succeed for the right reasons, not to give their parents ammunition for bragging. Anytime another mom starts up around kids, try to casually change the topic. Don’t vent your frustrations regarding your competition with another mom around your child. If you need to motivate your child to do well in school, tell him that being a good student is in his own best interests, not yours.
- Be honest with other moms. Mompetitors often seem oblivious to their behavior and its effect on others, and they may just need a friendly reminder that what they’re saying could be hurtful. McClure says she once told a mom friend that her child was struggling in school and she was feeling insecure about it. “I was lucky that she was very compassionate and responded with a lot of support, which allowed us to stay connected to each other, and to get even closer in our friendship,” she says.
- Keep social media in perspective. Social media can foster mompetition. Learning on Facebook that your friend’s son earned another 4.0 GPA can diminish your pride in your own child’s accomplishments. Think about the nature of social media. People, especially mompetitors, are not likely to post anything negative about their children, so remember that there is another side that you are not seeing. If social media mompetitors are driving you crazy, block their posts.
- Send the right messages to children. “Ask your child for his perspective on his experiences and what he enjoys in his life. This way, he will not be getting the message that achievement is the means to parental attention and a sense of worth,” says Reese Laughlin, a social worker for children with developmental delays.
Kids rarely learn to walk, talk, or read at a uniform pace. Hierarchical comparisons and value judgments ignore the dynamic quality of childhood and each child’s special gifts. When mothers are in the throes of mompetition, what is best for their kids can be forgotten. As hard as it may seem at times, put mompetition aside, and focus instead on your child’s unique strengths and weaknesses.