We all have our Supermoms – those woman we look up to and admire, as well as envy and compare ourselves with. I think we can agree that the former are good things that may help us become better mothers, the latter break down our confidence and destroy our self esteem. But what about when we do the opposite? What happens when we compare ourselves with our "at least I’m not like her" moms?
I’m sure we’ve all done it – I know it’s something I’m especially guilty of. I watch a show, be it Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, One Born Every Minute or (gulp…) Honey Boo Boo. After watching I feel a small glow of smugness, because I KNOW I’m a better mother than they are. I won’t allow my (theoretical) girls to dress provocatively, I had my children at a good age with a husband, I’ll emphasise education and teach them good manners. I get a break from my mommy-guilt because I’ve seen the others side – the ‘bad’ mothers.
And don’t just think I wait for an extreme show to do it (and I understand those are). As much as I’m a lot more understanding since having children, I still judge the mother who’s smoking while pushing a pram, the grossly overweight one with a child heading the same way or the one that's yelling at her child for being a child. And while I’m judging them, I’m congratulating myself for being such a wonderful, health-driven, calm (insert adjective here) mother.
So, why am I making these confessions (and maybe changing your opinion of me?!). Because I reckon I’m not the only one. Having the moral high ground is something I think most people enjoy, but when it comes to mothering I wonder if it can do even more harm than our Supermom comparisons. Here’s why:
#1. It sets my standards too lowSome women are unfit to be parents – that is a harsh thing to say but something I believe. But those people – paedophiles and abusers – are those the people I want to compare myself to? Not abusing my child does not mean I’m a good mother, it means I haven’t had the background that has pushed me to that kind of desperation. I want to be a good mother by God’s standards, not by the worlds. And finding the lowest denominator of mother and comparing myself to her will not improve my mothering skills, it will lower them.
#2. I’ve probably been an "at least I’m not like her" momI am sure that at some time in my short life of mothering, another mom has looked at me and thought ‘I’m a better mother than her’. Maybe it was that time I lost it in ASDA and yelled at the frog, or when I hoisted him by his arm and marched him to the car. It could even be the day-by-day way I raise my frog – I’m sure some people worry that I’m brain-washing my child with all this ‘religion’, or that I’m not strict enough and he could do with a good wallop. If I’m judging other mothers, surely they’re doing the same to me?
#3. It stops me encouraging other mothersIf I’m too busy thinking that I’m better than another mother, I’m certainly not going to be encouraging her. I know how much it would mean to me when the frog’s throwing a tantrum if someone came up to me and told me I was doing a good job and to hang in there. Or if someone told me that they’ve been watching the way I do things and they’re impressed with my patience (oh how I’d love someone to think that!). Instead of judging these women, I should be encouraging them.
The truth is, I like being able to say I'm doing a better job than someone else. I liked getting better grades than my classmates (which made me popular, I can tell you), I liked being the 'good' one who avoided worldly influences (well, tried to...). But mothering shouldn't be another one of those things I try to 'win' at. There shouldn't be winner and losers in mothering - there should be a group of women, trying to do better and encouraging each other to do the same. Does it mean I'll stop judging other mothers (or stop watching those shows)? Maybe not entirely. But it does mean that I'm going to try to raise my standards and encourage other women, while always remembering that there are many things I could be judged on as a mother.