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Mommy Competition – Proud Mom or Brag Hag?

Leave it to the ladies at JuiceBoxJungle to hit on a secret fear of mine…

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… am I just another proud parent, or have I become <shudder> a “brag hag”?

Motherhood is not for wimps — and not just because of all of the bodily functions and yelling involved.  There are a lot of women out there who have mistaken it for some sort of reality show with a battle to the death for some imaginary Mother of the Year Award and somehow think that there is only one way to parent.

My personal philosophy is that each child is different, each mother is different, and that we’re all in this together — 18 years from birth we all hope to reach the “finish line” of having raised a generation of decent human beings who are well-educated, hard-working, moral, good-natured, productive members of society.  And that the parents are still reasonably sane.  If we’ve managed to have achieved that as a collective group, we’ve all succeeded.  At times we’re going to have to help each other out — it takes a village.  So I don’t see little Johnny’s successes as in any way taking away from JavaBoy’s successes or JavaGirl’s successes and vice versa.  But that’s not the way all parents see it.  Some believe that there is only room at the top for one family — theirs.

So should mothers be fitted with a no-bragging muzzle at the maternity ward?  No, certainly not!  Hearing about other children’s achievements is helpful — I’ve learned so much over the past 5 years by hearing what other children are able to do.  It’s been a developmental yardstick by which I can gauge my parenting and my children’s progress, with the huge caveat that I don’t let it overrule my own mommy instinct.  Sometimes hearing about what another family is doing helps me think, “wow, I never would have thought about trying that yet, maybe we can!”  If I hadn’t belonged to a new mothers group right after JavaBoy was born, I suspect I wouldn’t have taken him on nearly as many field trips so young, had him in a pool before his first birthday or taken him out to lunch (where he learned how to behave in public so well) so frequently.  I don’t feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, but anytime someone “brags” it does make me pause and think about what they’ve said — and I can decide whether it sounds true, whether it sounds achievable, and whether it sounds appropriate for my family or not.   I’m a much more confident mother as a result of learning from other mothers.  Sometimes I need a little prodding to know when my kid is ready to go to the next level on something, i.e. start riding a bike (I didn’t learn until 5th grade!), so when I hear that my son’s peers are doing it now, I say, “oh, okay, now is the time to start working on that!”

As for the need to brag itself, I try to see where it is coming from — if it is coming from true joy and pride in the child, I smile to myself.  Moms have a rough time while children are young, they are called “bragging rights” for a reason!  If the brag is meant as a put down or a way to one-up, then I find it tiresome.  If it is because the mother needs to brag as some form of validation or way to get attention, I count my blessings that I have my own achievements to fulfill those needs.

But every time I catch myself saying something about my kids, I cringe a little on the inside because I AM just so darned proud of them, how can it not sound like bragging?  Those in my closest circle know I also complain about them on those rougher days, but I try to keep that to a minimum.  And really, would it be such a bad place if all children felt like their parents were proud of them?

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