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Mothers And Competitiveness

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Dr. Meg Meeker

We mothers are a bossy lot. We come by it naturally. I like to believe that God gave us a warrior spirit- the kind that sees red when someone tries to harm one of our kids. We are protective, territorial and, well, a bit rough to deal with when it comes to the health and happiness of our kids.

I was recently talking with Dave Ramsey on-air about being bossy and I admitted that I have a “side” to me. One woman once referred to me as a pit bull. I’m not exactly proud of this.

Protectiveness with our kids is generally a good thing. But it can also get us Moms into trouble. When protectiveness suffocates our kids, control stifles them and competitiveness brings out our inner beast, we need to change. These three are on the same continuum. One can quickly morph into another and get us into deep trouble.

When our children are born, we feel pressure to breastfeed. We are told that good mothers breastfeed. And we want to be good Moms. If we don’t breastfeed, we feel guilty. As our children enter grade school we look around the classroom to see how the other kids are reading. We want to be sure that our son is keeping up. Sports come along. If Johnny’s best friend plays soccer and hockey, well, we’d better find Johnny two sports to play.

Then comes junior high and friends. The other kids are popular, and we don’t want Johnny left out. So we do all that we can to make sure he has enough friends. And somewhere along the way, we meet the other boys’ mothers and we size them up too. Some work outside the home. Others exercise regularly and come to school dressed in bike shorts to pick up their kids. Ouch. And we wouldn’t even be seen in bike shorts on a bike. We go home and throw the pan of brownies away.

High school arrives and there are Varsity sports, prom, dating and colleges to consider. Every step along the way we feel pressure to make sure that our kids don’t fall behind. No, we really want them to outshine the other kids. We don’t want our kids to be snooty, we just want them excellent. But we don’t stop there. We feel pressure to keep up too. We need to be better mothers, in better shape and of course, always working on that last 10 pounds. A recent poll showed that 83% of women are dissatisfied with how they look. We feel this way only because we look around and compare our figures to other women.

Why do we do this? And where does it stop? I worry about us because feeling constantly competitive with other mothers hurts only two people: us and our child. Period.

We need to let this go.

When we compare our children with those in their classes and size up our women friends to see if we are as successful as they are, we lose. We lose God’s perspective of who we really are. We can’t see the deep character that God instilled in the kids beneath our noses and we can’t see the real beauty that God hand carved into each and every one of us mothers.

Think about the way we women greet one another. When we see a friend after a number of months, we greet her by saying, “How are you? You look so good!” What we really mean is ‘Have you lost weight, because you look like you have?’

This has always bothered me so I decided to change the way I greeted my friends. For one year, I refused to comment on a friend’s weight. After six months something wonderful happened. I had difficulty even seeing whether a friend gained or lost weight. Changing the way we talk, changes the way we think.

So let’s do something extraordinary. Let’s slay the beast of competition with other mothers. When you feel yourself taking mental inventory of another woman, stop your thoughts. Interrupt the comparison and refuse to finish the task. And when you find yourself signing your son up for something, ask yourself if you’re doing it because he really wants it or because deep down you need him to keep up with the other boys in his class.

God made each of us and our children perfectly different from one another. Let’s keep it that way.

Have you played the competitive game?

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