I refuse to play the Competitive Mum game

June 29, 2012

A few weeks ago I bumped into the mum of one of No 1 Son’s friends (we’ll call him Jimmy).

‘How is the revision going?’ she asked me.

‘I’m not sure he’s doing enough work,’ I told her frankly, hoping for a bit of support.

‘Oh Jimmy is doing LOADS of work,’ she replied. (Which is odd, because No 1 Son told me Jimmy was on Facebook an awful lot.)

Yesterday I bumped into her again.

‘Have you had prom yet?’ she asked. ‘Yes, but I haven’t seen any photos,’ I replied, rolling my eyes.

‘Oh I’ve seen LOADS of photos,’ she said. ‘And Jimmy has had TWO proms.’

There are some mums who will never tire of telling you how brilliant and perfect their kids are. If your child does well in a sports competition, theirs will have won a cup. If yours is rude, theirs is the Golden Child. It starts when your children are small; their offspring reaches ALL their milestones before yours – they sleep through the night, use a potty, crawl, walk and talk. And they can’t wait to tell you about it, usually after asking an apparently innocent question which leads you straight into their trap. It continues through primary and secondary school and continues even when their kids are fully grown adults (my mum has several friends who are constantly boasting about their brilliant children.) Every time they tell you about how marvellous their child is, there’s an implied challenge to you to raise the stakes. They have what I call Competitive Mum Syndrome.

I’m very proud of No 1 Son, but I’ve never felt the need to show off to other parents about his achievements. I’ve always been mindful that all children develop at different rates. I’ve never compared him to other kids, because I only really care about him, and how he’s doing.

And the truth is, I’m not really interested in how brilliant Jimmy is. I refuse to play the Competitive Mum game.

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  • Martin Jones July 2, 2012 at 10:49 am

    This happens with us dads too – especially with sporting achievements. I find it sad above anything, as the majority of competitive parents push their children so hard to achieve everything that most grow up loathing their mums and dads! I’m all for celebrating my little ones’ achievements – but never as a boast.

  • Not a Notting Hill Mum July 1, 2012 at 12:21 am

    I have to say it’s not just mums. The thing that especially irritates me is the number of parents who tell me how they just had to take their (pretty normal/averagely bright) kids out of the amazing oversubscribed church/state primary school that most parents would kill to get their kids into – and send them to private school because their children are just TOO clever to stay at the school. My view- if they’re that bloody clever they will be fine at any school!

  • Liska June 30, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Oh I have come across this so so much since becoming a Mum. It is rife at Mum & Toddler groups which is why I can count on one hand how many times I have been to them.

    I forgot myself and went to one a few weeks ago for the 1st time in months and it was a Grandma that I received bad behaviour from.

    She was competitive in the extreme, but really over-stepped the mark with her comments.

    Aaron could feel her vibes so didn’t behave well, which didn’t make things any better.

    Love the image above that you’ve used.

  • Jessica Milln June 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    My first child made none of the early milestones. Sitting unaided, walking, talking etc. It was a shock to be told he had a General Global Developmental Delay. He still struggles to talk aged 15 (nothing to do with being a teenager!) so there was no way I could even think I could compete in the competitive parenting stakes and so I never have. I’d much rather have people compliment my 3 children on their achievements. After all it’s what my kids have done for themselves and I can’t take the credit. I particularly like it when they are surprised that my kids are really quite clever and to be admired. I normally tell them: “It’s amazing isn’t it? They turned out OK in spite of my lack of input.”

  • Baby Hampers June 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    We’re just starting to get this at primary school. But mostly at present it seems to be a comparison of who’s got the most naughty child. You know, “mine did this the other day…” “well mine did that and then some”. Thankfully I’m not winning this competition.

  • Linniecat1504 June 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I had no idea what a G & T list was! I thought it had something to do with drink! ???? We have just had prize giving at my sons school and I never posted anything about his achievements as it is unbearable what then happens from so-called friends…vile.

  • Amy and1moremeans5 June 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Yep I’ve experienced this over and over again but I just nod and smile. The parent is obviously over compensating for something and it is very annoying.

    My eldest is on the G&T list at her primary school, I’ve never told anyone just focused all the attention and praise on my daughter who deserves it not rubbing it in the faces of others.

    Life’s to short to make others feel smaller than you just a shame some parents don’t share the same theory xxx

  • Clare Mansell June 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Isn’t there a more basic issue? 99% of what someone else’s child does is DULL. Most mum’s I know need to seriously improve their chat!

  • Hollie Smith June 29, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Oh I ignore competitive mums. They’re twits.

  • Kathleen June 29, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I entered the Mum’s race at sports day. Is that the same syndrome?
    Seriously though for new mum’s I don’t think it’s helped by baby books listing milestones for when babies and toddlers should achieve certain things. It stresses some new mums out because they take it as read and then other new mums take it that their kid is a genius because they do something a week before the book said they should. They do things when they’re ready!

  • Emily June 29, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I don’t compete with these parents but in some ways I feel sorry for them. In my experience the overly competitive parent is looking for an ego boost for THEMSELVES. As in my child’s brilliant therefore I am brilliant.

    The more fulfilled I am as a person the less I feel a need to compare myself and by extension my child with anyone else…

  • claire June 29, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Omg, I know this very well, unfortunately it is my sister thats the competitive one. My daughter is on the G&T list at school and as soon as my sister found out she made an appointment with the school head to find out why her son wasnt on the programme. Then I was so proud of my daughter doing her 100meters at swimming I posted a well done on f/book. Well the following week her son had done his 200meter. I was over the moon for him…..but then 3 weeks later we went on holiday together and he couldnt even doggy paddle…..I now dont even tell my mum of my daughters achievements because she will tell my sister and then her son will have to go ne better. It is such a shame that as an aunt she cannot be proud of her niece. Her boy plays football and once a month I go and cheer him on and tell him how well he is doing…I just wish she could do the same for mine 🙁

  • Rosie Fiore June 29, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I have a son who is nearly 20, and another who is 3, so I’ve gone through the whole growing one up thing, and it makes me smile to see mums of tinies play this game. “No dear, his xylophone bashing is not a sure sign of future musical genius”. I always have to bite my tongue as they list their darling’s accomplishments, because I want to say, “Did you know, Einstein didn’t speak till he was two?” I want my kids to grow up happy and healthy, to do something they’re passionate about and to be comparatively polite and clean. The rest is totally up to them.

  • Jo June 29, 2012 at 9:02 am

    I fear I might have competitive mum syndrome, but coming at it more in a “eeek, he/she’s doing that before mine, is something wrong with her?” – especially in her first couple of years. I’m a bit more relaxed now… good to know it never really goes away though, I’ll be prepared!

    I think I’m a bit of a worrier, so anything that can set it off does – although at the same time I think some of my mum friends might think I’m bragging when I’ll post about something H has done. I’m not, I’m just well proud of her as I didn’t expect it! But still… I can see how it could snowball from that…

  • Lulu Campbell June 29, 2012 at 8:57 am

    It’s such a minefield this competitive parenting – I agree – I avoid at all costs.

    Btw I’ve done a small prom blog and linked to your one – hope thats OK – let me know if you don’t want me to…..

    Lucy x

  • Lisa watts June 29, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I know what you mean! I have a couple of friends like that and it is tiresome. One told me how advanced her 6 week old baby is! I mean come on 6 weeks, I don’t think so. Another one makes their child sing in front of the entire group to show off and then told me how well her daughter is doing with potty training and that she had cracked it. I took great joy in the fact that she then preceded to wee all over the climbing frame five minutes later. I have always been conscious not to be a competitive mummy and sometimes don’t tell people about their achievements so I don’t come across this way. My little man is two and a half and was dry through the night after a week of potty training but I haven’t felt the need to tell the entire world! All children do things at their own time and pace and usually all catch up in the end! X

  • Crystal Jigsaw June 29, 2012 at 8:47 am

    The competitiveness with parents these days is pretty astounding. Haven’t met any at Amy’s current school because it isn’t a place where one can compare their children, each one having a disability. But at her other schools, especially first school, it was horrendous. There were some dreadfully boastful mums there and I admit I often went out of my way to avoid them. I was often accosted in the car park however, and made to feel like my daughter was the child who didn’t fit in. There were some “perfect” kids at that school, I dread to think what would happen if they ever put a foot wrong!

    I do have a lifelong friend who has two grown up daughters, 23 and 21, and they went to THE best boarding schools, got amazeballs qualifications, did exceptionally well in absolutely everything, yet the older one is a childish, irresponsible, spoilt brat, and always has been! The bragging that their mum has done all their lives is actually pitiful. I call it attention seeking.

    CJ x

  • sharon williams June 29, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Saw yourr link on twitter + clicked. Interested on the title and when I read I thought I couldn’t agree more. My sons are 18 + 15 now and it does continue. I remember when they were at primary school when this syndrome seems to peak for sufferers! Sometimes it felt almost like a form of bullying!