“This is the frenetic mother culture in which you and I live. The voice tells us that we must do something – improve our kids, don’t let them miss out. Make them more, get them more, and watch them more. Every day, do something to improve something about them and us because … that’s what we’re supposed to do. We want to stop competing, but we don’t know how and we are scared to be the first.” ~~ “10 Habits of Happy Mothers” by Meg Meeker, M.D.
One of the most rewarding parts of my own personal MomTrek has been the mothering journey I’ve shared with my “tribe” along the way. In her book, “10 Habits of Happy Mothers”, Meg Meeker says this: “Every woman needs a tribe. Force yourself to pick a few good women who will go the distance with you. Hang on to those you select for your tribe because you will need them as you age. And they will need you. Friends who love us know that motherhood is about transitioning, and adjusting constantly to the demands life brings.” I want to spend more time in this area, because ladies, this is where I feel strongly that God has led me to speak out about some things we CAN do better.
*Stop playing the comparison/competing game.
*Cultivate key friendships
Because there’s so much about this aspect of raising our kids that is key to our mothering journey, I will break down these last 2 points into 2 separate posts. So let’s talk about the first point: the playing of the comparison/competing game. I want to touch on a subject that has greatly troubled me over the past few years. There’s a span of 7 years between my middle and youngest, now 14. As I was raising my 2 older sons, now 21 and 22, I didn’t notice during those years the rampant sense of competing and comparing that seems to be prevalent in today’s mom culture, as I’m raising my 14 year old. In the parenting journey, we need to let go of comparing our mothering to our friends’ mothering and understand that it’s not gonna look the same. For various reasons. We all have strengths and weaknesses, our children are wired differently, and their temperaments are different. And if we force them to live up to this expectation that we have in our mind, this expectation, this perfect picture, we’re going to miss out on the best part of parenting, which is what happens as we’re going. The scenery along the way. So we’ve got to let go of those expectations.
“This is the frenetic mother culture in which you and I live. The voice tells us that we must do something. Improve our kids, don’t let them miss out. Make them more, get them more, and watch them more. Do something every day to improve something about them and us because – that’s what we’re supposed to do. We want to stop competing, but we don’t know how and we are scared to be the first. Because in our hearts, we long to just simply … be.”
Moms – what happened? I think it’s very simple. We forgot our objective. We took our eyes off the mountain. Instead of being led by truth, and confident in God’s provision, we have become driven by fear and self-focus. We got distracted by the frantic pace of life, by the constant bombardment of media telling us we aren’t doing it right, we don’t look right,our kids aren’t good enough, and we are failures. Oh mamas, this is one BIG LIE! When we allow the root of this lie to spread, it affects our confidence and life direction. It manifests itself most directly in our relationships with each other as women.
Being competitive professionally and athletically, and in other arenas can be a good thing. But when it comes to being competitive in relationships as mother, we always lose. Always.
So what do we do?
Recognize that we all do it. Examine your feelings about your friends. Markers that indicate unhealthy attitudes include: criticism, envy, jealousy, discontent, comparison. Meg Meeker touches on several key aspects of how we can achieve healthy relationships with other mothers and overcome these insecurities. I highly recommend her book, “10 Habits of Happy Mothers”. Here’s a few highlights from her book:
“Jealousy is an enormously corrosive feeling. It makes us feel bad about ourselves. But when we acknowledge our jealousy and admit it to ourselves and maybe a close friend, we diffuse the power that it has.
*Turns us against ourselves. Usually when we are jealous and want something that we don’t have, it’s because we are imagining what life would be like if we had the thing, but that vision isn’t necessarily the truth. So in a real sense, the jealousy remains a mind-set.
*Inhibits good relationships. It’s obvious that when we are competitive with another, we have less than wonderful feelings toward her. We feel inadequate and we perceive her as more adequate. When we compete with other mothers, we pit ourselves against them, and we grieve their successes. We can even be jealous of women who are just too nice. How in the world can we enjoy a healthy relationship with other women when we have these unhealthy thoughts and feelings floating around inside? Competition stunts the growth of any healthy relationship. It is a powerful force and has the power to destroy.”
I recently watched a National Geographic documentary about a team that was climbing the K2 Summit – the world’ 2nd tallest mountain. The team anchors a rope in the ice, and all team members ascend in single file with the rope as the guide. The team was facing a short window of time, and so one team member began to pass his team members in an effort to make it to the top ahead of them. Tragically, he fell to his death, and others died as well as a result. This is my point: If we’re constantly trying to beat each other up the mountain, we’re not gonna get there together. We need to help each other, come alongside one another, and understand that we have different things to offer in the mix. Instead of trying to compete with one another, we need to help one another. Stay tethered together.
So what can we do? Here’s a few more thoughts from Meg Meeker:
*”Recognize jealousy and don’t be fooled. Recognize symptoms and what is at the root of negative feelings. Only when we see this dynamic can we begin to stop it.
*Head competition off at the pass. Once we recognized the initial twinges of jealousy, we must act. This is war because competition with other mothers serves only one purpose: to take us down. Don’t just recognize but act. Get specific and stand against it.
*Give frequent verbal applause. One of the best ways to ward off jealousy is to speak well of the woman about whom we feel jealous. Give each other a boost!
*Focus on fullness, not emptiness. Once we feel we are lacking, we begin to dislike who we are, which leaves us more needy and wanting, and therein lies the trap. Happy people are fun to be around — why? Because they focus more on what’s positive in life rather than on what’s negative. We all choose what thoughts fill the spaces in our minds. Choose to be positive!
*Be deliberate in kindness. Reach out to help another mother, offer encouragement and a kind word. Don’t withhold gracious and genuine words of greeting or affirmation among the circle of moms you run in. Be who Jesus calls us to be with each other.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together … but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” ~~ (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Moms it’s time for us to all join hands and jump off this destructive comparison train together! It will take choosing to confront this issue with each other, deciding to take the hard road, and abandon it altogether. We must choose to confront it and rise above it every day. God has gifted each of us with everything we need to be the moms and women He has designed us to be — let’s choose to TRUST Him to empower us to raise the children He gave us for His purposes — not our own! Next week, we’ll take a look at how to cultivate healthy friendships.