Sunday, 24 January 2010

Competitive Mummy Syndrome? Guilty as charged!

Yesterday afternoon we all went along to the pub to celebrate a friend's birthday. There were a group of parents there who we didn't know, whose babies were all around 14 weeks old. One of the mums took a quick glance in the direction of me and the twins and said, 'oh, your babies are really young, aren't they?' I told her they're 20 weeks, and she replied, 'but they're so tiny.' Now, for some reason, my defensive inner voice kicked in and I bristled. What she probably meant was that they're cute because they're still quite small and dinky but this got translated in my mummy brain and what I heard instead was, 'They're too small. Why are they so small? Is she feeding them properly?' The 'tiny' comment felt like a slight against me and my little darlings, and I went into defensive mode.

So it's time I held my hands up and admit that I'm not immune to Competitive Mummy Syndrome! It started way back when I was pregnant and was endlessly comparing my bump with other bumps, exchanging morning sickness stories (for the record I don't think many people can beat my five months of nauseating morning sickness!), and quizzing people about how prepared they were (I was at home obsessively reading parenting books and compiling endless lists). Now Mr A and Miss E are here there's even more to compare, judge and dissect. I wish I didn't do it, but I'm guilty of sounding off to Young Daddy after a chat or meetup with fellow mum friends, 'oh, you won't believe what so-and-so's doing now.' But the particular strain of Competitive Mummy Syndrome that I suffer from is not that I think my babies are better than everyone else's, it's actually the opposite - I'm my own harshest critic!

At the end of the day, I know that everyone has their own approach, that every baby is different and I have to remember that I HAVE TWINS and things are likely to be a bit more difficult for me. It's natural to find it tough going, but that doesn't mean I'm failing. So when I catch smug mothers (who think they are acing the parenting test because their baby is a happy little cherub who sleeps at all the right times and reaches all the milestones bang on schedule) looking at me with disbelief/shock/distaste because the only way I can get Mr A and Miss E to (perhaps) stop crying is to stand by the fairy lights in the pub and sway violently, I shall just hope that their second baby is a nightmare. Ooh I'm evil!


  1. Five and a half months of morning sickness (hyperemesis)!... I do feel for you though. I never understand why some mums think it's OK to compare your child with theirs... in terms of growth, development, behaviour, or anything really. The point about children is that they're individual and they're descended from you (and your partner), not the women at your friend's birthday. Some women simply cannot help themselves... but I'd no more comment on the growth/weight of a child I wasn't related to than I would tell the mother she needed to lose a few pounds. And you totally did the right thing ignoring their looks when your babies were crying. There's a feature in this somewhere...

  2. Great comment - thanks Liz! Glad it's not just me. And hyperemesis - poor you...

  3. My daughter was always really slight, but so was I as a baby, as was my partner, my sister, and her children. She was exclusively breast fed for 6 months, and only went on to formula at 10 months, so was always going to be 'leaner' than babies who switched to bottle feeding at a younger age. I remember have the exact same reaction when an antenatal friend (who bottle fed from birth) let out a sigh of relief at the sight of my daughter's chubby thighs. 'Thank goodness she's put on some weight,' she exclaimed dramatically, 'she was sooooooo skinny - I was worried for her.' I know she meant well, but it was exceptionally annoying. Firstly she was NOT THAT SKINNY!!!!!! Secondly, I was getting her weighed every two weeks and she was at bottom end, but still in the normal weight range for her age. Thirdly, she should have been more worried about her own kid who, quite frankly, was turning into a spoiled little brat. Smug mums make my blood boil. Now I've worked myself right up, and don't think I can sleep... :)

  4. I have a theory that the competitive syndrome is more a first time Mum thing. By the time you are onto your second and beyond, you are aware of all the things that you said you would NEVER do, yet do, how much of a stinker your own children can be and about how hard this parenting lark actually is. You did the right thing, just ignore those comments and remember that there will be something else that that mummy is worried about!

  5. It's hard to actually admit being a competitive mum isn't it?! I always swear that I'm not but deep down I do bristle, I do bite my tongue and I do drop in the odd 'aren't my kids great' comments almost involuntarily.

  6. I used to get comments like that with my first one. People just didn't realize that she was a premie. I make small babies so what!!! Best thing to do is ignore them. Your kids are beautiful. Small is beautiful! X

  7. I think I suffer this syndrome in the same way you do! My kids are pretty average in how they are developing, but if they do anything well I tend to down-play it, which is actually awful if you think about it and I feel quite guilty for it. (Apart from with my husband when we of course acknowledge that our kids are in fact amazing!)

    I'm much more relaxed with my son, who is my second child. I'm also happier to accept praise of him. If someone complimented my daughter I always used to make a joke out of it. But I'm really trying not to - while you don't want your kids to think they are they are better than everyone else, you don't want them thinking their achievements don't mean anything either.

    It's a balancing act, that's for sure! S x

  8. My daughter was (is) very small to the point where people were still commenting how young she was to be walking after she was 2. I do get annoyed when folks stick their face in hers and comment on her size, I wonder how they would react if I said 'you're quite dumpy, aren't you?' Sadly most people don't think before they talk. Having looked after twins in the past I know that people find themselves even more desperate to comment :)

  9. I had a super competitive mum in my first NCT group. To the extent where I'd ask her if her 6 month old child was down for the 2012 Olympic swimming team, because apparantly she just LOVED swimming at about a week old, and she was crawling at 3 weeks, and talking at about 3 months and you get the picture. She was a right pain in the arse. My todder was 'slow' to crawl and walk by 'normal' standards and my 8 month old still doesn't roll over or sit up, which I'm sure would have the aforementioned competitive mum aghast. I've learned to ignore them, but like you a misplaced comment does get short shrift from me. My step mother takes it upon herself to tell me I do everything wrong and I frequently tell her to piss off. They're my kids and I'll do it my way thankyou very much!

    You have 2 beautiful healthy babies, you have nothing to worry about. Ignore the compeitive mums, they are just not worth bothering with x

  10. I know how you feel! But I think with me, I actually was happier that Little Miss P was not leading the way. I really didn't want her to start crawling or walking too soon. Maybe I didn't want my baby to grow up too fast! it's really tough because we don't really know what we are doing and look for encouragement, and when there is a question mark by what we are doing, it eats us up. I am trying to chill out but our protective nature is natural! you sound like you are doing a fabulous job with the twins!

  11. The thing with twins is that it is, as you say, an awful lot harder (could have said something much more forceful there, but decided to save your blushes) than just one. I know, I've been there with both. The fact that you were out, in a pub, having a good time, between the swaying and the fairy lights is AMAZING and the thing you don't realise is that probably that is precisely what everyone is saying. They're not judging you, so don't over judge yourself. And when someone says, which they will, with irritating regularity "Goodness me you're doing amazingly well", smile politely, say thanks and think "yeah, too f-ing right I am, and I've got both the best babies in the world to boot". 'cos it's true.

  12. No you're not evil at all! My heckles would have risen at the 'tiny' comment too. I have two, one 8 and one 2. The first was a breeze, sweet, contented etc.. the second has had horrific colic, breathe holding syndrome and is now most definately in the terrible two's but I still love her to bits and heaven help anyone get the picture! Us mums are always too hard on ourselves, we all do our best and thats all we can do!

  13. MLM - hope you managed to get to sleep!
    BiB - I reckon it's a first-time mum thing too and it's natural I guess to be really caught up in your first baby
    SM - Our kids are, of course, great!
    FM - small babies rock!
    Solveig - I turn compliments into jokes too. Must stop doing it...
    Kat - twins do definitely invite a lot of comments. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I don't..
    IAML - I'm so lucky that I have the most supportive and lovely NCT group ever. They keep me sane!
    MB - I'm torn between being impatient to see them develop into little people, and wanting them to stay small forever. This reminds me to get out out the camcorder tomorrow and capture them on film more while they're little.
    PlanB - Yes, I'm AMAZING!!
    Clare - It's fine for us to complain about our little angels (!) isn't it, but if anyone else should dare...

  14. Sorry I'm late commenting. Your post struck a chord with me as I only have little babies who have turned into lean toddlers. It's only natural to compare your children with others, but people should keep their comparisons to themselves. It sounds like you're doing a great job x


Thanks a lot, I love getting your comments!


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