It makes my stomach and (very untoned) abs hurt just thinking about the competitive sport that plays out across the sisterhood of motherhood—making our already long days feel even longer. It begins during pregnancy: Who can gain the least amount of weight while effortlessly pulling off the chicest maternity outfit? After our kids are born, we proudly announce how they’re growing, how fast they’re learning, what new foods they’re eating. I thought the competition would end once my youngest started school, but it has actually intensified.
We’re all guilty of it, whether we realize it or not; we are the culprit of all the competition—the race to see whose child is smarter, nicer or better behaved. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s up to us to start making real change among our circle of mom friends, co-workers and even family members. Because motherhood is hard, and we don’t make it any easier by turning this already tough gig into a competition. Here are three ways to turn this competition on its head.
Look inside. The competition often looks something like this: We see other mothers posting pictures on social media of their smiley, perfectly dressed kids and assume they have this job down pat. My friend Lauren refers to Facebook as “Fakebook” for this very reason. They’ve got their act together and we suck. Good for them, but sucks for us. The reality is that we are all on different journeys, with separate paths that cannot be compared. The sooner we come to terms with this, the happier we’ll be.
Honor the mess. Motherhood is filled with both mess and magic. Let’s not leave the competitive sport to just the magic. Let’s bring in the mess. Share with your family and friends the honest (and sometimes ugly) parts of being a mom. It might make you uncomfortable, but go ahead and try it. Sit back and watch the love and the competition take a completely different turn. I promise you won’t even have to entice your friends to one-up your mess.
Speak the truth. The next time another mother asks how your summer vacation was, tell them the honest truth. Don’t say how great the weather was and how your kids are perfect travelers. Instead, share how you really feel. After a week at the beach with my family, I can honestly say I need a vacation from my vacation—and a mimosa (alone). What you’ll get in return is real, authentic conversation, because nobody has it all together. In truth, aren’t we all whispering to ourselves, “It’s going to be OK”?
Katherine Wintsch is a working mother of two and intimately familiar with the highs and lows of trying to keep it all together. As CEO of The Mom Complex, she studies mothers around the world and helps businesses develop better products and services to meet their needs. Read Katherine’s workmom blog, In All Honesty, follow @kwintsch, or visit The Mom Complex. Also see her TEDx talk on motherhood.