Saturday, May 10, 2014

Motherhood as a competitive sport

For all my childless friends out there, I'm going to let you in on a little secret I had no idea about until I had a baby. It's a secret most mothers know but few will admit too. You've probably bared witness to it from the outside but had no idea how deep the iceberg went underneath the surface. Men don't understand it and balk at it. I tried to resist myself but have gotten swept away with the tide when I went over board.

Yes my friends....motherhood is a competitive sport.

I suppose it all begins with the pregnancy. Social media has exploited every last shred of our privacy so there's the pressure to make some grandiose announcement that you are expecting. Then comes the baby shower which, thanks to the Kardashians, has turned into more of an expectation for a huge party complete with gift bags rather than some tea and cake celebrating the mom-to-be. I'll admit I wanted the Pinterest perfect baby shower complete with a signature drink and monogrammed napkins but that just wasn't reality. After the baby's born then there's the "baby's here" announcement to which you must post a photo that's both timely and creative and nowadays - professional. With the introduction of professional birth photographers, there's the opportunity to have the biggest day of your lives documented to share with who else but your hundred closest friends and family. You don't even have to be camera ready...that's what blurred effects and photoshop are for.

Once upon a time, "keeping up with the joneses" meant professional landscaping and having a nice car in the driveway. We compared ourselves with our friends and neighbors but only to the point of what we could outwardly see. We didn't have a glimpse inside the private moments that we do now. Today we see everything from how many presents our frenemy in high school bought her child for Christmas to what our neighbors five year old birthday party was like. Social media has allowed us to share and overshare and consequentially has simultaneously lowered our self esteem and raised our expectations.

Let me tell you friends, the other mothers out there are fierce competitors. Seeing professional photos of other newborns led me to believe I too needed to pay for this luxury. And it is a luxury I must say. When I was born my parents took a few polaroid's and called it a day. Apparently however there's a deadline for when said newborn photos should be taken and at four weeks, my baby was past her baby modeling prime. The result was less than stellar pictures that made me feel horrible and my bank account sad. Never mind that I had taken about 300 other photos with my perfectly nice camera, in comparison I had failed my first duty as a new mom- professionally document life.

So I tried my best to keep up to this self imposed standard of being a good mom. We bought costumes and took photos at the pumpkin patch. We sat on Santa's lap and paid $40 for the "first Christmas" package. Charlotte had a professionally monogrammed stocking and I tried my best to fill it with baby appropriate toys. I tried my hand at making my own baby food, blogged about the major milestones saved every card and note Charlotte received to put into the baby book. Everything I saw other moms do that seemed like a "good mom thing to do" I did. I thought, if I could just have what the other moms had and do what the other moms did I might actually be considered good enough to join the ranks.

Charlotte's first birthday party was my moment to redeem myself from my shortcomings through the year. I hired a party planner and caterer and almost had a photographer come as well. Almost. My husband didn't understand why we needed to do one year photos or have a cake for Charlotte that was specifically for smashing in said photos. "Why are we doing this again?" he asked over and over. "What is the point?"

That's a question I started to internalize after Charlotte's birthday once I regained my sanity. What indeed is the point in trying to keep up with other moms? What is the use in comparing? If our child's birthday party isn't Pinterest worthy are they still loved? Do we ever do enough? The answer, I have found, is that we will always fall short when we start to compare and to compete. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." With social media I had been able to get a glimpse into the life of mother's around me and everyone it seemed was on a mission to outdo one another. So I have decided that from this point forward I would try and take myself out of the game and instead love and celebrate my child in a way that benefits us both.

Because no one sees the things that truly make us wonderful moms. People don't post pictures of themselves reading to their children at night or cleaning up vomit from the carpet from a sick baby. Friends don't share late night breast feeding sessions or

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