Now that I’m back at work full time, it feels like months are literally zipping by. I’m trying to treasure every moment, but everything is starting to become a big blur. It feels like any moment I’ll have to start planning her first birthday (and I’ll admit, I’ve already been filling up my Pinterest board with ideas). Every day she grows cuter and cuter, does more and more new things, and finds new ways keeps us on our toes. With four little teeth coming in and her finally mastering the art of crawling, I tend to think my baby is AMAZING!
But, so does EVERY other mother I know, about THEIR babies. Now, we all can’t be right, can we? I mean, I know every mother sees her baby as being the most incredible child in the universe, but why does it feel like we’re all in this unspoken (often completely amiable) baby competition? Granted, it’s not a hostile or bitter competition, but there is a definite phase of comparison–where you are constantly looking at other babies and wondering if your own baby is measuring up (which really just is the question if you as a parent are measuring up). When Charly wasn’t crawling and other moms would talk about how their babies would zip all around, why did it make me feel inferior? When other parents would mention that their baby was sleeping through the night, if Charly had just had a particularly fussy night, it made me feel I was doing something wrong.
Don’t even get me started on the breastfeeding vs. formula debate! Charly was born almost six weeks early and had to spend her first 10 days in the NICU. I tried to breastfeed, but once she was given a bottle, she stubbornly decided that it was the only way she was going to take food. I pumped religiously, every three hours, for three months–during which time I managed to give her about 70% breast milk and 30% formula. But when I went back to work and couldn’t keep up the pumping schedule, she went to 100% formula.
My brother and his wife had a baby boy four months ago, and of course little Liam breastfeeds like a professional. I know it’s nothing I can control now, but every time my sister-in-law puts him under her breastfeeding cape while I shlep to the kitchen to make/heat up a formula bottle–I get SO jealous! I think, is there something wrong with me? My rational mind knows that it’s nothing I can control and that every baby’s different, but we always want what we don’t have, right? And on the flip-side, I’d be lying if I said whenever another mom whips out her phone to show me adorable pictures of her little one, I didn’t reach for my own phone to counter her photo with a photo of Charly. It’s not anything I consciously want to be doing (and is actually something I’ve been trying to stop doing), but that competitive spirit is always there.
I guess that brings me to the ultimate question–from my experience there’s a weird love-hate relationship that all new mothers have for other new mothers. The love we have for each other is genuine–it’s literally such a relief to be in the presence of other new parents and babies because everyone gets it. We seriously love each other because there is quite literally NO ONE else who understands what we are currently experiencing–the lack of sleep, the overwhelming new love we have for our children, the fear of not being able to fulfill all our new child’s hopes and expectations, the tidal wave of information that is currently being foisted upon new parents, and the undeniable need we have to photograph every moment of our precious baby’s development.
We hate (and I use that word with a hint of hyperbole because I don’t think we really hate each other, probably more of a sisterly-annoyance, but “hate” provides more of a contrast) each other because we’re constantly comparing our babies, judging each other’s offspring as they compare to our own (and beating ourselves up when our babies are on different pages), and holding up our own parenting styles to other people’s–trying to convince ourselves that our way is really the right way.
All in all, while the competitive nature of baby parents may seem off-putting, it really is just human nature and is coming from a place of kind-hearted fear. We all fear that we’re not doing a good enough job as parents, because ultimately we all want was is best for our fabulous little babies. By having other people tell us that our baby is hitting all the correct milestones, or jealous that our baby is sleeping through the night, or telling us how cute they are, we are validated. We feel like what we’re doing is good and that we are good parents. If we can deal with the competition, and focus on the camaraderie–how we all have these wonderful little people in our lives – we really are strengthened by supporting each other and our community.