Monday, July 30, 2007

"The Other Mothers"

I think that one thing that is inevitable as parents (especially mothers) is that we tend to compare ourselves with others. It seems like no matter what I do, there is always another mother doing it better. And "better" can be on totally opposite sides of the spectrum. For example, I have one friend whose children attend a prestigious Montessori school from the time they are 4 through the time they are 7. In addition, her children are involved in numerous educational and social activities such as piano lessons, sports, girl scouts, etc. They travel extensively and are deeply involved in their faith community. Her children are cultured, very intelligent, well-behaved, and polite, but also have incredible imaginations and are fun to be around. On the other hand, I have another friend who homeschools her children. Her children do not in general move in such high-brow circles as those of the first mom. They play sports intermittently, and are incredibly committed to their faith. Two of her children dressed up as saints for Halloween! Her children are also pleasant to be around and are incredibly "good people." And the list goes on. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible moms. I love these people and enjoy their friendship, and at the end of the day feel totally inadequate by comparison. And then there are those, generally in my own family, who just throw criticism my direction. Sometimes, I just want to cry. Heck, sometimes I do cry (in private).

Today I read an article by comic Paula Poundstone in the April/May 2007 issue of Body and Soul magazine called "The Other Mothers" which speaks about this phenomenon. She writes of admiring the other mothers who seemingly have it all so together. She feels like these mothers must look at her with disdain. But then, one day, another mother turns to her and says "'You know, I always watch how patient you are dong homework with your kids. I wish I could be more like that.' Surely, I thought, she's talking to someone else. When I could catch my breath, I looked behind me. No one was there. As it turns out, I, too, have been an Other Mother all along."

I know it is horrible, but sometimes I can't help but hope that maybe some other mothers see something (anything!) to admire in me. Maybe everyone doesn't have it as together as they seem to. Maybe there is some hope for my parenting ability after all!

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