Let’s Be Collaborators, Not Competitors!
by: Harriet Connor
As a mum, I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of seeing other mothers as competitors. When we meet another mum, we immediately start making comparisons; we want to know how we “rank” against her in different areas: our parenting, our appearance, our children, our cooking, our job etc.
Why Do We Judge Other Mums?
If we think we’re doing better than that other mum—if we rank higher on the scale—we congratulate ourselves and feel proud. If we think we’re doing worse than her, we feel guilty, inadequate, and envious.
I think we judge other mothers like this because we are insecure within ourselves; we are not confident or content in our own life and decisions. When we meet someone who seems to have it all together, our self-confidence quickly evaporates.
The worst thing about competing against other mothers is that it gets in the way of us supporting one another. It means that we’re only willing to help another mum if it makes us feel better about ourselves—if it pushes our “ranking” up higher than hers.
It also makes us reluctant to accept help. It’s impossible to truly support another mum if we’re busy competing—looking down on her or putting her on a pedestal.
To Stop Competing, Deal With Your Own Insecurities
The first step to developing genuinely supportive relationships with other mothers is to deal with your own insecurities.
What are the areas of your life and your parenting where you feel “inferior” to other mothers? Try to put aside what others think and ask: Do those things really matter to me? Some things will matter, and others won’t.
Does it really matter to me if :
- I don’t have a consistent routine with my kids?
- My clothes are outdated and unfashionable?
- My children don’t learn to play an instrument?
- I cook the same simple meals every week?
- I don’t have an impressive job outside the home?
As mothers, we need to work out what we value most in life, and confidently make our decisions accordingly. If we are secure within ourselves, then what other mothers are doing won’t threaten our self-confidence. And we won’t be tempted to start competing.
We can simply respect the fact that they are making decisions in line with their values. Dealing with our own insecurities frees us up to support others.
Get to Know the Mum Behind the Mask
You can never really compare your life to someone else’s based on superficial first impressions. Underneath the masks we wear no one really has it all together.
When you have honest conversations with those mums that you think are “beneath” you, you realise that they are doing their best under very difficult circumstances. When you have honest conversations with those mums that you think are “above” you, you realise that they have their own struggles.
We are all given a unique set of circumstances in life—our bodies and personalities, our health, our partners, our children, our financial situation—and so we can’t simply measure one life against another. We are all trying to make the best of the hand we’ve been dealt.
So the second step to stop competing, and building supportive friendships is to have honest conversations, speaking as one imperfect mum to another. Instead of making assumptions and judging other mothers, we can ask questions, seeking to understand what drives them.
Instead of putting on a mask and pretending to be “Supermum,” we can be honest about our own faults and limitations.
Don’t be a Competitor – Build Supportive Friendships
Whatever our differences, all mothers have one thing in common: sometimes, we need help. Our shared humanity makes a good starting point for building genuinely supportive friendships. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t actually matter if we disagree on some things. What does matter is that we back each other up.
Whatever our differences, all mothers have one thing in common: sometimes, we need help.
All of us need one or two other mums we can count on when we need help: someone to talk to when we’re stretched to the limit; someone to mind the kids at the last minute; or someone to bring around a meal when life falls apart.
For the past five years, I’ve been going to a playgroup at our church. It’s a very diverse group: married mums and single mums; working mums and stay-at-home mums; make-it-yourself mums and packet-food mums; strict mums and gentle mums. But over time, it has become a really supportive group, in spite of our differences.
We have learnt that behind the masks we wear, all of us are just imperfect mums who are doing our best. In times of crisis we know we can count on the others for encouragement and practical support.
Mums—the truth is that we really need each other. So let’s choose to be collaborators, not competitors!
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Galatians 6:2-5 (NIV)
Take Action to Sop Being a Competitor
Have you noticed a tendency to be a competitor with other mothers instead of collaborating? It’s so easily done. But you can take steps to collaborate instead.