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Pauline Millard

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Navigating Competitive Motherhood Is A Job Unto Itself

Posted: 10/14/09 10:24 AM ET

Back in June I had my first baby, which, as it should be, was a very happy occasion. The boy was healthy, large and loved to sleep in long stretches. Having a summer baby was a fantastic turn of luck as well, since I was able to spend my afternoons in Madison Square Park. It was during these visits I started to grasp the complicated terrain of Manhattan Motherhood, and how I wished someone had written a guide about what to expect when breeding in New York City.

In Madison Square Park, the lines of delineation were clear: the nannies, the high school equivalent of the Bad Girls, hung out around the playground in clumps, gabbing on cell phones and ignoring their charges. The Stay At Home Moms, Manhattan’s version of the popular girls, with their cushy lifestyle of avoiding the daily rat race, were spread out on blankets on the lawn, celebrating leisurely motherhood (and lunch from Whole Foods.)

Like a new girl at school, I parked myself on a bench with a novel, preferring not to talk to anyone. While many I know jam up their day with mommy meet ups and classes for their infants, I’ve taken early motherhood in stride and cherished the time alone. Like most women, I worked up until my son arrived, literally answering e-mails while I waited for the Pitocin drip to kick in (I was induced. I got tired of waiting). Time away from the daily grind was a gift, and one that I needed.

Navigating the world of Motherhood in Manhattan, though, has proven to be a job in itself. The key in Manhattan, and, to an extent, anywhere, is that you can’t question anyone’s choice about anything, or risk being considered utterly rude and insensitive. Like, spitting on a corpse rude. I’m not allowed to say that I think that baby nurses are a waste of money when you only have one kid, that I don’t trust nannies, and that C-sections are my preferred mode of delivering a baby. There’s no shame in being too posh to push. After all, no one is waiting at the end of a delivery with a medal if you choose not to use the drugs. More important: No one cares.

Which isn’t fair.  If the Lactation Crazies can run around declaring BREAST IS BEST!!!!!!! and admonish those who use formula, then why can’t I say that it’s thanks to formula that I can sleep at night and therefore divide childcare duties? That  when your kid comes out already ten pounds, as my son was, producing enough milk to adequately feed him may have involved defying a few laws of physics. And not for nothing, many of those Lactation Crazies were probably formula babies as well, so it’s unclear where their zealousness is rooted.

There are plenty of theories as to why women become so competitive with kids. There’s the obvious one that the overachieving women of New York City like to transfer their competitiveness into every area of their life. After all, if they were awesome enough to land a high paying position, why shouldn’t they seek alpha when raising their children? I like the flip side of the coin, that some of these Momzillas never actually succeeded in any other aspect of their life, and so they’re giving child rearing a go.

I’m aware that I’m only in the first chapter of  Motherhood Madness. This will all soon lead to Competitive Preschooling, which segues into the Need to be Labeled Gifted and Talented and eventually turns into the Race To The Ivy League. And all of it is rooted in insecurity. The way I see it, deep down people fear most that their kid will be average. At least if there’s a condition, no matter how small, they can treat or manage it or salve it with a pill. Thus far researchers have found no cure for mediocrity. Or Lactation Crazies.




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