People are always asking me: "Glennon, Why are other mothers so judgmental? How do I escape from all the mom-petition?" My answer is always this: If you need it to disappear, stop believing in it. Competition is just like shame. It only exists for people who believe it does.
I used to believe in mom-petiton so strongly that it left me more than a bit paranoid.
I remember sitting in the food court of the mall one afternoon when my three kids were very young. I was cutting cardboard pizza and life-threatening "chicken" into itty bitty pieces, wiping up a million sugary spills, sweating, sweating, sweating, trying to figure out if I could be arrested for leaving my kids' side for one hot second to refill my coke, praying no one would have to pee because: THREE KIDS WHO LICK EVERYTHING IN A PUBLIC RESTROOM and just, well, UGH.
Out of the blue this woman sat down at the table next to me with her quiet child. The child wore a matching top and pants. With a matching bow in her braid. In her BRAID. Someone had BRAIDED this child. While I stared and then looked back at my ragamuffin children who sort of looked like nobody loved them -- the woman pulled out a high chair cover. To protect her child from GERMS, I think. And then. And THEN. Sister pulled an avocado out of her bag. An avocado AND A SPOON. This woman had packed a spoon. And she used that spoon to start feeding her well-groomed child food that came from a TREE. Or the ground? I don't know -- where do avocados come from? I'm pretty sure it's not from the food court.
And this mama's SHOW made my face start burning. I felt as if this woman had materialized for the sole reason of making me look bad. I am telling you that I decided right then and there that this mother was feeding her child avocados AT ME. And that also she had matched her child's clothes that morning AT ME. And also that she had likely disciplined her child effectively for years AT ME. And that as icing on her (likely homemade and gluten-free) cake she was enjoying a lovely, peaceful, well-planned, healthy lunch AT ME. I felt judged. I felt like her approach to parenting was maybe developed solely to shine a big old spotlight on my "not good enough" parenting. She was parenting AT ME, I tell you!
For years I lived in world in which people lived AT ME. For example:
Craig worked out AT ME while I tried to enjoy the couch. So aggressive.
People discussed natural child birth AT ME because they could sense my previous sixty epidurals.
People were constantly calm AT ME.
People attempted ATTACHMENT PARENTING AT ME. (I still don't know what that really is but it certainly doesn't sound like something behind which I'd rally.)
People threw Pinterest parties AT ME.
People trained for triathalons AT ME.
People refused to eat carbs after 8 pm AT ME.
I was constantly under attack with all of these judgy people living AT ME. I was living in a hostile world.
But after spending the last five years reading thousands of letters from mamas and the last year on the road hearing stories from every different "type" of mama -- I live in a different world. I believe differently now. I know that nobody's parenting at me and nobody's living at me. Feeling judged by other people's decisions is an insanely ego-centric way to live. Like my dad always says, "Glennon, nobody is thinking about you as much as you think they are." Everybody's just doing the best she can, mostly.
Other mamas are just weaving together families using the unique gifts and challenges and interests they have. They're using what they have like I am. They are much too joyful and scared and fulfilled and empty and tired and inspired and busy living their tough, beautiful lives to concern themselves too much with what I'm doing.
After five years - I'm ready to consider that avocado lady might not have even known I was going to be in the food court that day. It's not likely -- not likely, but possible.
What we seek we will find and if we're looking for a world full of judgmental mamas -- we'll find it. Parenting is the most important thing to many of us and so it's also the place we're most vulnerable. We're all a little afraid we're doing it wrong. But even when we're scared -- we can still choose. We can choose to see each other as competition or as fellow warriors -- fighting the same fight on the same team. One goal -- many paths. We can learn from each other. We can even ENJOY each other.
I live in a world where women do that now. It's cozier. Better. More peaceful. And much more interesting.
And if you have a friend who makes you feel competitive or less than -- just remember that it's likely not because she's bad or you're bad -- it might just be that she still believes, so she's living in a different world than you are. But you don't have to enter every world into which you're invited.
Stand your ground. Stay in your world. Stop believing.
A Folk Tale About Worlds
A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment.
"What sort of people live in the next town?" asked the stranger.
"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.
"They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I'm happy to be leaving the scoundrels."
"Is that so?" replied the old farmer. "Well, I'm afraid that you'll find the same sort in the next town."
Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.
Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. "What sort of people live in the next town?" he asked.
"What were the people like where you've come from?" replied the farmer once again.
"They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I'm sorry to be leaving them."
"Fear not," said the farmer. "You'll find the same sort in the next town."
P.S. I still think you marathoners are running at me. Cut it out.