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. 

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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?

No.

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. 

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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. 

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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.

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{{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)

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Comments

  1. says

    excellent … can you imagine how different everything online over the past few years would have been if we could all read and chat and share without feeling less than or greater than each other?
    WOW!
    P.S. Love the morning glories — pinning the third one to my Pinterest for the color combo — wouldn’t it make a lovely sweater or shawl?

  2. says

    When I started reading this chapter, I first thought, “Oh I don’t struggle with that.” :) I don’t in the TV drama way, but I realized I do in other ways. Like my close friend who also homeschools and who teaches not only the basics but also Latin and piano to seven children (I only have two and we don’t do near as much-by choice). Sometimes I leave her house and question myself about our choices. Thankfully, I usually get a grip, but I guess I do struggle with it more than I realized.
    Your comments on this book are what’s helping me continue reading. I normally don’t really get into these types of books, but I think this one is helpful.

  3. kathleen says

    I enjoyed your beautiful morning glory pictures. Last year I was disappointed when I saw yours had bloomed and mine had not. A few weeks later our vine finally bloomed. In the meantime I felt like what did I do wrong, why didn’t mine bloom. Boo-hoo. I guess I was acting a little competeitive.I do see myself feeling that way. When we compare we feel like failures. I enjoyed this blog entry today. A little wake up call.

  4. says

    Kathleen,
    Ours have exploded all of a sudden. I think they’re pretty late bloomers. And you’re further north, right? Are yours blooming now? I’m astonished at the color variety…

  5. Kathleen says

    I’m a little south of you. I have brilliant blue. I think later in the season last year,mine changed from blues to some pinks too. I love your intense colors on your vine. My side yard vine is healthy but not bloomed (a little shadier there).

  6. Denise B. says

    You have done a lovely job sharing your reflections in this series. This one reminded me of another one of your excellent posts, “We Eat Our Own”. Thank you for each day that you take the time to record life for your family and especially for being generous enough to share it with us.

  7. Natalia says

    Does comparison equal competition?
    I struggled with this chapter because I felt I couldn’t relate. Not because I don’t compare myself to others, but because I don’t feel that I compete. I wonder if it IS an American thing.( I always say that the reason why the Dominican Republic doesn’t win anything in the Olympics is that we don’t take things seriously enough. No baseball or soccer moms there!)
    Anyhow, whether you call it competition or comparison, comparisons are deadly. When we compare, we always come out a looser. What a waste of precious energy! And what a missed opportunity to see, really see, what the Lord is doing in our own lives!
    I don’t want to sound as if I don’t struggle with this. I struggle with envy. I see others and wish I had the talents they have, the house they have, the admiration they have. But I don’t feel is a competition. I don’t want to be better than they. I just want what they have, does that make sense?

  8. linda says

    Hi Elizabeth,
    First let me ask if you are enjoying Meeker’s book. I was reading one of your (first?) posts on it and then went to Meeker’s website. For reasons I don’t exactly now remember I was turned off by her. However, I am intrigued by this topic of competition. I have long known I cannot stand up to it. My emotional and spiritual side told me long ago to step away from it. While maintaing a smile and uttering encouraging words, I will remain cordial with those to whom I will not run the race. Noncompete friendships, however, are hard to find.

  9. says

    Linda,
    I read the book twice before beginning the book study online, so I can say with confidence that it is a book that very much resonated with me. I don’t know the author personally, but her message is one I think is thought-provoking and change-inspiring. I am sorry to hear you were turned off.

  10. says

    Natalia,
    You have definitely put your finger on a fine line:-) Meeker calls it competition. In my article, I spoke to comparing. I think both are dangerous. And maybe it’s a temperament thing. I’m not very competitive at all–it makes my stomach knot and I run from it. But i do fall prey to comparing. I think I’m a lot like the way you describe yourself.
    And the Dominican Republic may not win in the Olympics, but they send some very fine baseball players here:-). In all seriousness, I wonder if the laidback sports mom might not serve the young athlete better.

  11. says

    This is the chapter that so far has been most convicting. It is so true that in relationships, when we compare, we always lose. I have nearly compared myself out of wonderful friendships because I felt lacking, either in homemaking or homeschooling or such, every time my friends and I got together.
    Much inspired by Ann Voskamp, I have found gratitude to be greatly healing my heart from comparisons. How can I compare when I am quietly thanking the Lord for what He has given me, for this moment before me? It is truly the antidote for the soul sickness of comparison.
    Thank you for the lovely pictures, too. I am looking forward to seeing what your “new lens” brings!

  12. Linda says

    Hi Elizabeth, It is thought provoking. I appreciate your positive feedback. Since you give a good rating, I will definitely visit it again. Thanks for sharing your time and talents with us on your blog.

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