The mommy community is a highly competitive one, the cut-throat competition and the stress that you feel at your workplace just before an appraisal interaction continues 24 by 7 in this world. There is an unsaid rivalry about proving how “my parenting style is the best style”. Everyone here is trying to beat the other by organising lavish birthday parties, giving expensive return gifts, holding fancy play dates, and exchanging notes on the endless hobby classes.
- Mothers are perpetually worried whether they are doing enough for their children.
- Various choices put mothers into different groups.
- The schism between the working mothers and stay at home mother is an age-old one.
- Every mother has her child’s best interest in her mind, and this constant feeling of being on your toes is unhealthy for both the mother and the child.
Wondered why most mothers get drawn into this competition? Is it because we are perpetually worried whether we are able to do enough for our children? And is this constant need to compare and exchange notes just a way of telling ourselves that we are not lagging as primary caregivers?
Within a mother’s world there are clear markers which put her in the different subgroups, such as the choice of a paediatrician, playschool and subsequently the K12 school, hobby classes enrolled and so on.
Now mothers love comparing their kid’s milestones. So, one of the first places where your parenting-style gets judged is at the paediatrician’s office. It is not an easy task to deal with an inconsolable infant after immunisations but conjectures will be made should you be unable to deal with the situation (read howling) under split seconds of exiting the doctor's chamber. Your choice of doctor, whether they encourage breastfeeding, or are okay with you supplementing it, how much medicine they prescribe are all factors that define your parenting style in the early days. These decisions, always taken in the best interest of your child, put you in compartments and it is very difficult to break out of these tags. But this is just the beginning of your struggle as a mother.
The schism between the working mothers and stay at home mothers is an age-old one. If the stay at home mother is looked upon as a helicopter parent, the mother who goes out to her workplace every morning is judged for every choice she makes, whether she puts her child in a daycare, or if she engages a nanny to look after the little one, or even if she is putting the child in care of the grandparents. She receives criticism for putting herself first over her child, for not being selfless enough and giving up on her career. But isn’t her child’s well-being her top priority too? Now to complicate things there is a third category of working from home mothers. In my opinion, they are jugglers par excellence but are looked down upon equally by the other two categories. They are shunned both ways, either for not having enough time on their hands to make it for every single play date and also for being able to attend a midweek parents-teachers meeting.
Even if as new-age mothers we are trying to break every preconceived mould when it comes to early childhood education, why do we go for the most traditional systems?
The choice of a big school is the most contentious topic and divides mothers all the time. I have seen mothers going berserk over securing their kid's seat in the most traditionally popular K12 school in the neighbourhood. All these schools are known for having a dismal student-teacher ratio, yet that doesn’t take away for their popularity. A fellow mother, who had a full-time job, had confided that she was asked during the parent interaction for admission if she thinks she can take good care of her child as she spends most of the time outside for work. This makes me wonder, even if as new-age mothers we are trying to break every preconceived mould when it comes to early childhood education, why do we go for the most traditional systems?
Another thing which groups and regroups mothers is the choice of hobby classes for their wards. Around me, kids as young as four are enrolled in three to four different hobby classes. The dotting mother loves running from one trial session to another, exchanging notes on which dance teacher is best, what form of martial arts is the latest rage, which art teacher to go to so on and so forth. Here too there are some unsaid rules to be followed. Even if your sole purpose behind enrolling is to keep your child busy so that you have some time to yourself, as a mother you have no respite, you cannot drop your hawk-like gaze even when there is a professional who has been entrusted with the responsibility of teaching the craft. Yes, enjoying your free time by doing an activity which is not "work" is relaxing but with this underlying sense of competition are we able to achieve any relaxation or develop any genuine interest among the children?
Let’s ask ourselves are we gaining anything in this game of one-upmanship? Undoubtedly every mother has her child’s best interest in her mind, but this constant feeling of being on your toes is unhealthy for both the mother and the child. Then why are we so paranoid about projecting ourselves as the best? Won’t it be better to be able to sit back, relax and unwind with a fellow mother whose journey, in fact, mirrors yours?
Picture Credit: mediaresources.idiva
The views expressed are the author's own.