The One-Up-You-Mama

In case I haven’t completely spelled it out, I’m a stay at home mama with a husband who works copious hours, recently transplanted in a town without family, and on a limited budget.  Needless to say, my opportunities for purely adult interaction are rather limited at this point in my life.  Thus, any occasion of this nature is a fabulous treat.

At one such event recently, I met a woman who, for all intents and purposes, could be my newest best friend.   At least in our brief meeting, we seemed to have similar political leanings, senses of humor, tastes in music and movies– you know, all the important stuff.

Then we started talking about our kids.

And really, I’m sure we probably espouse  many of the same values as far as our “parenting philosophies” are concerned.

However, it’s got to be said, she was a one-up-you-mama.  When I talked about feeding my daughter frozen blueberries, she had to point out that her children only got fresh foods.  When I talked about my daughter’s love of all things Elmo,  several minutes later, it had to be squeezed in that they don’t own a television.  You know this person.  She’s everywhere.

Sometimes, she’s even me.

The One-Up-You-Mama.

So what’s this about?  Because really, really, I know that it doesn’t matter whether my kid gets organic frozen blueberries or fresh (not organic, I’m sure!) blueberries in the middle of winter.   Not for anyone (besides generations of people benefiting from my morally superior, ecologically minded choices, of course!).  So what’s with this competition?  What’s going on with a mama’s constant need to validate her choices by demeaning the choices of others?

I mean, we’re all pretty reasonable people, really.  Right?

I would love to hear your take on the situation.

Here’s one of mine:

Parenting is the hardest, most confusing task that ever existed.  There are almost NO clearly “right” answers, and even a lot of the “wrong” answers are. . . probably not so bad  (I recently got in an online discussion with a child-free friend about how letting your toddler drink Mt. Dew– though not a sound nutritional decision– probably is not grounds for declaring a parent unfit).  And, because every child we know has a different personal schedule and personality, we can’t really measure ours against anyone’s to see if we’re successful (though, believe me, the temptation is always there!), so we grasp, desperately, at anything we can– even when we know it’s ridiculous.   We create crazy benchmarks of success–

“My child has only ever slept in his crib.”

“My child has only ever slept in the family bed.”

“My child has never had formula.”

“My child has never had any screen time, ever.”

“My child has never had a babysitter who is not family.”

“My child was potty trained before his first birthday.”

And, while those all might be great things for particular children in particular circumstances, they are not necessarily predictors of Nobel Laureates.  They’re just not.   We’re all just doing the best we can without any perfect algorithm that equals a well-adjusted, productive adult.

When I was a classroom teacher, I would get so angry at the parents who were just not towing the line.  I would think, and say to other teachers, that there’s not a whole lot to being a successful parent.  “You do the laundry, you pay the bills, you put the cereal in the same place every day, and you ask them how their day at school was, right?”  And wow, I was arrogant (and obviously childless at the time!) in my oversimplification of the situation, to be sure.

But maybe, just maybe it’s that simplicity that we’re missing.  Maybe being a good parent isn’t being perfect, but rather showing up to the job every day and putting in a good effort, and if that’s the case, what is all this one-upping about anyway?

What do you think?

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5 Comments

Filed under Jen

5 responses to “The One-Up-You-Mama

  1. Jason Perry

    Well said (er…written). Indeed, it is tempting to engage in the Great American sport of one-upping. I can see the magnetic appeal to it. It’s difficult to circumvent as it has permeated nearly every corner of our culture.

    Personally, I don’t really care if the neighbor’s baby is riding a unicycle at 12 months. While it’s a terrific annoyance to listen to parents blither on and on in this manner, I suppose at the end of the day it does me no injury. I just tune them out until I hear something slightly interesting. I’d like to believe everyone does it without any sort of malice. Generally speaking, I think people just get carried away and they’re proud of any given recent “milestone” and blah blah blah. Having said that, I think if someone was some sort of weird cultural (and consumer) competitive carnirvore before becoming a parent [high school, college, etc], that child may very well follow suit.

    Simplicity gets such a bad rap and that’s unfortunate. We do our best to keep things simple with Benjamin. However, we do it not out of arrogance but as a mere continuation of our pre-Benjamin simplistic lives. As long as he’s happy, we’re happy. I recognize that whatever we deem as “milestones” in his life are simply

    Arrogance and one-upping should only be reserved for music arguments. Want proof? With reasonable certainty, I can state that the world probably didn’t need any albums by Toby Keith.

    • Thanks for your comments, Jason. I agree with everything you’ve said here (especially the Toby Keith part).
      Simplicity is probably best in most things– parenting, music, food. And, whatever you and D are doing with Benjamin, it seems to be working splendidly, as he is a pure delight.

      -Jen

  2. Pingback: Full-time, Part-time: Cloth Mother, Wire Mother | Pax (Ro)mama

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