Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

March 20, 2010

Competitive? Me? Never!

I think all parents are secretly competitive. While we might pretend to show disdain to the mothers in the playground who ask you how old your little boy is and then inform you that their little boy had been walking for six months by that stage, the reality is that most of us are hiding a competitive streak behind the façade of niceties and polite conversations; covertly on high alert for a snippet of information which we can use to bitch to someone about at some point later in the week.

“Alice said that Ella needs assistance with her scissor skills. I don’t think we need to worry about that. Did you see this perfect cutting out of the Taj Mahal that Little Jonny did today?”

We eye up the artwork on display in the classroom and do a quick scan for our own child’s work before checking out everyone else’s. Of course we are delighted to see that our child’s painting is one which has managed to stay, mainly, within the lines and has some nice colours in it rather than the page covered completely in black which some other child has produced.

We ask our children furtive questions as a way of gathering information about the other kids and their parents. “Did you eat all your snack today? What did everyone else take?” we enquire, secretly hoping that our selection of smoothie drink, muesli bar and apple stacks up well against the cans of Coke, packet of crisps and king size Mars bars sent by the other parents.

Maybe it's just me? Or is the truth of the matter that we are actually all competitive souls underneath; it’s just that some of us hide the fact a little better than others.



  1. I was drawn in to this terrible cometative world woth the NCT mums and it drove me to PND, as Maxi was last for everything, I thought I was the worst mum in the world, so it is all far to easy to fall into.

    Thankfully I received help, I was suicidal with mini just 6 weeks old and thought that they would do better without me.

    Light hearted competativeness is fine, but sometimes it just eats away at you little by little

  2. i remember my first parent techer meeting and was so shocked to find that the teacher wasn't elaborately describing what a genius my son was, yes it was wonderful that he got on well with everyone and that he was pleasant and well mannered but I kept waiting for her to tell me how he's so advanced intellectually and is streets ahead of all the other kids and what her plan was going to be for how she was going to keep him stimulated, it was hard for me to keep smiling and be grateful that he was settling in well and was happy, so really I think, with hindsight my own competiveness was bordering on insanity and i needed to get a grip, thankfully noone else ever found out, but I feel great getting it off my chest now. I certainly had my fair share of pretending that I didnt care that he couldnt do algebraic equations at 5 and for what its worth,he's still not very good with scissors.

  3. That competitivess gets a bit much alright, mine a bit older now so not as obvious,
    read this old post of mine if you like, might give you a laugh, your mention of lunch-boxes reminded me of it.

  4. Oh god, I totally identify here. We moved to a new town last year and had to swith public health nurses. Well, I pretty much wrote mine off as completely useless after she failed to smother me with praise for the fabulous job I was obviously doing. Mortified.

  5. I don't mind a bit of joking around, or a genuine conversation but I avoid the real competitiveness like the plague. It can get nasty and hurtful far too quickly and I just don't have the time or energy. My eldest is great at reading, some of his friends aren't but they produce fantastic artwork whereas my fella absolutely does not!! We joke about this, or other stuff, amongst ourselves as we parents are friends but only in the lightest of ways. Have seen the nasty stuff go on though, or the parent boasting about their 'gifted' child and just have a giggle to myself and move on. Would be very easy to fall into the trap. Jen.

  6. Interesting what Madhouse Mum said. My NCT group with my first was a nightmare for that. Eliza was last to do everything too, in fact she only really became Eliza in the last 12 months (she 2.5) if you know what i mean. Tilly (10 months) only just sits up and shows no interest in crawling. I'm totally relaxed about it as I think it's just the way things are. Babies are different. Competitiveness to me is something that's inherent in me, but I really hope not to put it on my kids. But frankly I'm the sort of person who'd say "yeah well my 2 and a half year old is sitting her first GCSE next week so shove that in your pipe and smoke it" if met with intense competitive mummy syndrome. Can't stop myself.

  7. Oh, I'm just as guilty as you. I obviously try to suppress it, but hey I think it's human.

  8. I'm with Mwa. It's natural to be competitive. My four year old refuses to write his name whereas all his friends can do it. But I gloss over that and tell myself how advanced he is in other areas to cope with it. You want your children to do well in life. Some people overdo the competitive stuff and they're draining. I avoid their company. I just watched you with Sybil and Martin, check you out. Very televisual! (I should have perhaps watched it nearer Christmas when it was clearly filmed - slow to catch on).

  9. Yes - I think we're all a little competitive, naturally. I think in part it's about reassuring ourselves, that yes, actually, we are doing an okay job raising our kids. Or something..!

  10. I can honestly say that I am not in the slightest bit competitive when it comes to my daughter. She gets on with things at her own pace. I don't compare her at all. Maybe I should?

  11. Rosiescribble, I'm with you. I don't feel competitive about my sons. Although maybe it's because I'm super determined not to be a hyper-competitive American mom? Am I competing to be non-competitive? Hmmmm....

  12. All the other Mums used to be competitive with me when Chick was young because she was the first in our group to walk and talk.

    I try very hard to tame it within myself because School is such a tough world that she doesn't need competitive Mummy to add to her list and they all learn at their own speed!!


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