three words that should be a four-letter word

GIRLS NIGHT OUT. What a godawful phrase. It’s right up there with Mum’s The Word. So, call it what you will—Hen Party? Really?—but last night I was invited to a gathering of eight women. Over plates of sushi, I’m amazed to report, sex didn’t come up once. What did?

japango girls
Bet Ya My iPhone Camera Is Suckier Than Yours

Pediatricians. Good after school programs and places. Neighbors and their hoods. Jewish geography, and then mom competition. We weren’t competing, but the subject came up, the fact that so many women, mothers specifically, become competitive through their children. If you’ve seen the movie Baby Boom (if you haven’t, you are dead to me), there’s a sandbox scene where Diane Keaton’s character, J.C., has just decided to officially inherit a baby girl named Elizabeth. J.C. is watching her daughter suck on something as another child remarks to his mother that the sky resembles a Cézanne painting.The line that ends the scene, “She’s gonna be waaaay behind all the other babies.” Or maybe it was “The other babies are gonna be waaaay ahead of her.” Some anxiety-inducing phrase.

This type of dinner talk never, ever, interested me. In fact, it repelled me. I wanted no part of “mommy talk,” or mommy blogs, especially. For the most part, I still don’t. While, yes, I want to, and have begun to make mom friends, I can’t force myself to be friends with someone just because she had fruitful unprotected sex. I need to connect with a person outside of all her assigned roles.

So, I was surprised to find myself holding court, speaking in mom. Revealing my Montessori obsession, I heard myself saying these words, “Here’s my problem. Who cares if your kid can read at three, four, or five? Look, my son is four, and he can sound out words, knows his phonics, a lot of sight words, simple sentences, whereas my daughter would rather dress up like a pop rock. Do I think it matters? No, I really don’t. Eventually they all learn to read, and they all level off. I’m just saying, I’d rather my kids be the ones to invent the ipod, not the ones who can read off one.” Creativity dies the older we get. I’d rather nourish that than a skill you can teach to anyone.

“Yeah,” someone said, “that’s probably true, but moms are just competitive.”
“Yeah, it is what it is.”
Is it?

I mean, just look at me. Always in the slowest reading group, I might add boast. And, yet, years later I’m able to fully own it, along with the revelation that I’ve been speech-delayed… in mom-speak. But, I’m coming around.



  1. I disagree with your mom friends that moms are inherently competitive. I think some women who have no other outlet than their children may focus so intently on them that they really think their children’s accomplishments are their own. But they are not. When I get together with friends, we complain about those competitive moms. They’re really pathetic, it’s like “get your own life!” Also competitive implies you want to take down other children, which is sort of disturbing. I may share my child’s accomplishments, as a proud mother, how can you not, but I’m not guilty of anything more than bragging:)

    There was a woman who was a FOAF when my oldest daughter had just turned 2 and she was just horrified that my daughter was not potty-trained. HORRIFIED! It was like it was a personal affront that my child was not potty-trained yet. I couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. We are still on the same online Mom’s group and I can’t help but gloat a little every time she writes about a problem she’s having with her children. Let’s just say it’s a lot. Guess they can shit and piss in the toilet, but the rest of their life is a mess:)

    Okay, maybe that was a bit competitive;)

    1. Sooo… You like to brag about your children and gloat when someone else’s children aren’t doing as well as your own. Yeah I think you contradicted your first paragraph.

  2. I’m fairly new to the area so I don’t have a whole lot of friends here yet – but I do have a few “mom” friends. I totally agree that there are definitely 2 different friend groups. Just because our kids are friends does not necessarily mean that I think you and I would get along. We may have that in common, but like you, there needs to be more than “the kids”.

    With that said, I can immediately tell and am immediately turned off by moms who are competitive about their kids. And even more irritating than the moms who brag incessantly or pass judgement about the job I’m doing are the ones who emphasize the contrary…the “my kid is more challenged” or “more difficult to handle” or “my life is harder than yours” set.

    Why can’t moms just realize that parenting isn’t a contest. There is no “right or wrong” way to do things. We are all learning as we go. Kids or not, the friends I hold near and dear are the ones who admit their fumbles as a mother (we all have them) and laugh their asses off with me about mine.

  3. Truth. ‘… I’m just saying, I’d rather my kids be the ones to invent the ipod, not the ones who can read off one.” Creativity dies the older we get. I’d rather nourish that than a skill you can teach to anyone.’

    Oh, how I wish more people recognized this. Stephanie, if you’ve not come across this, I really REALLY think you would enjoy this book. Please don’t be put off, it’s not the same old same old ‘find your passion’ cheese that some may fear. I think you would love it.

  4. I do think a lot of moms get wrapped up in the “my kid’s shit is better than your kid’s shit” and those that can’t “compete” end up feeling, well…shitty. But I think it’s in all walks of life, not just upperclass country club moms, or middle class moms, or stay at home or work at home moms. And I don’t think it’s limited to people who have nothing else going but their kids. Some of the women that can get wrapped up in these “mommy wars” are very much accomplished themselves.

    It’s easy to say, Oh I don’t pay much mind to things like complex sentences and reading Proust, my kids will catch up. They are artsy and bohemian and I want to keep that child-like wonder as long as possible, but I think that’s a form of, “my shit don’t stink” as well. It’s all a battle over who’s cooler, or hipper, or smarter, or more granola, or whatever. It’s city v. suburbs. It’s hipster v. yuppie. It’s power to the public school v. must sign my fetus up for the best private school or country day school. There’s always competition, not only within your own sphere (competition with all the other private school mommies), but also in different spheres (sneers and maybe jeers from the hipster parents who wouldn’t dream of private school). From who is the most regimented parent, who makes the scheduling look easy, who’s kids rolled over first to who is the most laid back. Who let’s their kids roam free, tiny bottoms bare and beautiful as the wind, who is the most natural.

    I think there’s envy and competition everywhere. And I think A lot of moms fall into it without even realizing it. I find it hard to believe you haven’t fallen victim to this, at least a little, in some form or another. It wouldn’t make you bad, just human.

  5. I take some issue with your “assigned role” comment. I don’t see being a mom as an assigned role. It is a role I dreamed of for many years and have ecstatically chosen as a 45 year old mother of a toddler. Having said that, I don’t think being a mom means that I have anything substantive in common with another woman just because she is also a mom, even if our children are the same age, etc. But if we connect meaningfully over the way we choose to parent our children that’s just great.

  6. Ha ha ha! You’ve just launched the new kind of mom-competitiveness:

    ‘I’m so much better than you all, I don’t care if my kids can read and write, I just want them to be creeeeeeative’.

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