10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Say No to Competition

This is probably my favorite chapter.

If only we could eradicate competition in the mommyhood. Oh! the friendships there would be. Oh! the work that would get done. Oh! the creativity unleashed. Oh! the peace that comes of knowing we are well loved.

Instead we compare. And we compete. And in so doing we defeat ourselves and our neighbors. What a huge waste of potential. What a thwarting of God's will. 


Dr. Meeker writes, "We want to stop competing, but we are scared to death. In out hearts we long to just simply be. We know that life is more than producing and competing and we wonder, Why can't we simply live differently? What would happen if we pulled back, slowed down, and rested for a while? Would we be okay?"

Is this an American thing? Are we just taught from a very young age to compete? There's that whole academic competition thing, even in little girls. And then, many of us heard our mothers competing with other mothers. The ways women compete with one another seem timeless: how big is your home? how beautifully decorated? how clean? how fit are you? how blonde? how thin? how well paid? how well educated? And we haven't even begun to discuss your success as measured by the achievements of your husband and children. 

Why are we "scared to death" to stop competing? What harm can possibly come of that? Someone will get ahead of us? Play that out in your head a minute. Ahead of where? Ahead how? How does the success of the mom next door at all impede our own personal progress? If she's an awesome wife and mother, does that somehow make me less of a wife and mother?


I am called uniquely to this one (dashingly handsome) man. And I am called uniquely to these nine children. No one else can answer this call, never mind answering it better than I do. It's my call. Only mine. 



Mothering is not a competitive marketplace. And you know what? Homeschooling isn't a competitive endeavor either. Neither is crafting home. Or cooking family meals. Or loving your man. "Being competitive professionally can be good, as long as healthy boundaries are maintained. But when it come to being competitive in relationships as mothers, we always lose. Always."

So why do we do it?

Because we are insecure. Because we need affirmation and validation, some of us desperately. Dr Meeker points out that we have been conditioned to size up and judge our neighbor and that some of us don't even see it coming. We measure her against ourselves because we are afraid we aren't good. (I didn't say "good enough"--my mail indicates some of us don't think we are good at all.) We compare. And then we compete. And then we complain.

It's funny (sort of); a few years ago, I wrote a column about women comparing and the unhappiness it caused. Instead of "Quit Comparing," the title I gave it, the copy editor at the paper mistitled it, "Quit Complaining." That's what happens, though. We compare and we compete and inevitably, we complain.(They fixed it at the Herald, but you can read it here, still mistitled.) Comparison and competition breed discontent. 

We have to get a grip on this. Dr. Meeker believes that saying "no" to competition is crucial to all the other habits. "Breaking the habit of of competing helps break many other important habits in areas we're examining: money issues, living more simply, loving others better, improving friendships. [Stop for a moment and think of all those issues in light of competition: she's got a point, doesn't she?] If we can't get our drive to compete under control, we will have great difficulty getting the other habits under control as well.

So, we need to really examine our insecurities. Comparing and competing are bred in insecurity. I think that's an intensely personal process best done in prayer. And then shared with our spouses and maybe a close personal friend. Look hard at them. Stare them down. Bring them into the light of day and watch them shrivel. 

Be rid of them. 



That's all for now. I'm off to capture the glory of the morning with a new lens. Literally. At the suggestion of someone who could easily be a blog competitor, but chooses instead to be a close personal friend, I have taken Michael's lens as my own until I get a new one for myself. And I'm literally seeing my world differently. In the email where--quite out of the blue--she suggested a new lens, she opened a flood of fresh ideas and happy thoughts. 

How to abolish competition?

Encourage instead.


{{This post is the 7th in a series discussing The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity.}}

The rest of our discussions of  The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity can be found here. The first two conversations are 

Part 1(discussing Habit 1)

Part 2 (still discussing Habit 1)

Part 3 (still more on Habit 1)

Part 4 (Habit 2: key friendships)

Part 5 (Habit 2: your thoughts on friendship_

Part 6 (Habit 3: Value and Practice Faith)