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Isabella working in the cloud

From High Pressure Sales Meetings To Competitive Coffee Mornings

Isabella, Jemima, Michele

Jemima saving a goal at Footie Tots

I came into the “Motherhood Business” in my mid 30’s. Before then I lived the competitive, yet hedonistic life of a sales rep, working flat out during the day and entertaining clients late into the night. So you’d think the long hours and high pressured environment would put me in good stead for motherhood. And in a way, it had. But nothing could prepare me for the target driven, competitive nature of my new work colleagues, other parents.

Sales was a game, I always play to win. Outwitting and outworking my colleagues was fun as well as financially beneficial. There were rules though and some limitations. Granted we didn’t always stick to them but it was comforting to have certain guidelines and ethics. For example making someone else look a bit of a nob to make yourself look better was absolutely and quite correctly frowned upon.

After enjoying a few weeks cocooned with my newborn. I realised it was my responsibilty to get off my backside and get us a social life. I’d moved up North from London so had to start afresh. I went to a Coffee Morning at the library where “new babies and new parents can socialise in a fun, friendly environment”. It sounded harmless enough. Although when we walked in everyone swung round to look at us, similar to that stare you get when you walk into a local pub and you’re not local. It would be fair to say I didn’t feel the fun or friendliness immediately.

I quickly learnt that “The Coffee Morning” is a dirty old battle ground. The enemy is vicious and the rules are, there are no rules. It turned out that your birth story was the ice breaker. Bit different from the firm handshake and football banter I’d been used to but i’d just been through IVF and childbirth so had very little dignity left. I could go with it.

These introductory birth stories had a different slant to them though. They were along the lines of “Well I gave birth completely naturally, in a kibutz with nobody but a mountain goat in attendance, Good grief did you have Pethidine?” Spoken in a tone that may suggest Pethidine was equivalent to swigging Vodka Tonics throughout your labour and delivery. There was a definite sense of point scoring going on.

I kept up with this coffee morning as I do love a challenge but I explored other social avenues too. I quickly found out that competitiveness was consistent in most baby groups. I do find that an activity usually calms us all down a bit. So if for example you go Baby Signing you have to concentrate on the class rather than just bragging about your children. Of course this opens a whole different problem of “my baby’s better at Baby Signing than yours”.

I also realised that the battling only begins with the birth story. The next subject of much heated debate was breast feeding. This worked out fairly well for me but my limit was always 6 months or teeth whatever came first. I completely understand some people may want to carry on and some may not want to breast feed at all. However I do remember when a lady at “The Coffee Morning” pulled out at a bottle of formula, it was regarded as if she’d pulled out a packet of fags and popped a Marlborough Light in the baby’s mouth.

Then there’s weaning on to solids, you’d hear comments similar to, “Oh Tarquin was eating a full roast dinner from the moment he was 6 months, Goodness you don’t give your child jars of processed rubbish do you?”. Er no, not now. Then there’s movement, being able to sit up, roll over, crawling, pulling themselves up and of course the big ones walking and talking.

From about 18 months people generally become obsessed with the proficiency of your baby’s bowels and bladder. “Is your child potty trained yet? No? Really?” Potty training is on a par with breast feeding when it comes to parents antagonising each other. Never did I believe a group of adults would become so obsessed with when and how someone else could piss in a pot.

I used to wonder why as parents, we are so quick to criticise at a time when we are most vulnerable? Surely we should be showing solidarity, sympathy and God forbid even support.

Recently however I was speaking to an acquaintance at my daughters dance class, not someone I know well but someone I like. We were talking about our 3 year olds sleeping habits and I asked if her daughter was still in a cot. My use of the word “still” completely transformed her. Her pleasant face contorted and she looked like she wanted to grab me by the hair, drag me outside and handbag me. I managed to dig myself out of a cat fight by explaining I didn’t mean any offence by using the word “still”. My own 3 year old, Izzie is “still” in a cot for her own safety and my sanity. But I can totally understand why my choice of language infuriated her.

So is it the case that we are so sensitive about our children that in our highly strung, sleep deprived state we react badly to other people’s insensitivity? Or are we are so passionate about doing the right thing for our children, we attack others who parent differently? What do you think? I’d really like to know your thoughts. As 3 years in to this game I’m definitely a better player but still no closer to winning.

Isabella all ready to go dancing

    1. Thank you for the lovely comments & all your support in writing the blog. Very humble of you to admit being a ‘stay at home Dad’ may be too much for you. In hindsight the Corporate World was probably good preparation for Motherhood, it taught me to keep my trap shut!

  1. The very worst part of having kids is the whole competitive parenting thing. Especially when you’re 15 years younger than the others! Great piece – scarily accurate!

  2. Oh GAWD I hate bragging parents. I may be competitive but when it comes to parenting, there is no way everything works for everyone so I try to rein it in. If I feel like I’m being judged I will walk away or bite my tongue. Woe betide anyone who tries to tell me I’m doing the wrong thing! Moo was formula fed, isn’t potty trained yet and at 22 months doesn’t say much apart from ‘ninga ninga ninga’ but I don’t give a shit cos she’s my daughter, she’s ace and she’ll do it all at her own pace. Aaaand, deep breath. Rant over. Make friends with some cool people and ignore the haterz 😉

    1. Seriously though why would you need to say anything else when you can say ‘ninga ninga’? Love the things you say about Moo, brilliant how you can convey exactly how much you adore her without it being ‘airy fairy’. You always keep it real. It was great when you asked if anyone had a blog they’d like you to read. Gave me a real opportunity to shamelessly plug mine, so Thank you. Very much.

  3. Brilliant read. I’ve blogged about something similar this week too!
    I genuinely believe it’s an insecurity of parents, but that said, I have never felt I need to compare myself to other parents, I’m open minded unless it’s the obvious, swearing and abusing children. I don’t believe there is a “right” or “wrong” way to parent, it’s all down to what’s best for you and your child, and only the mummy can tell what that is!
    Bragging parents are the absolute worst, especially if it’s about how much money they have or what amazing toys they’ve bought their child, no amount of money, or boasting will ever make anyone a better parent.
    Being young I get judged so often, but I hold my head up high knowing I don’t care for judging, my daughter is happy, loved and well, and that’s all that matters 🙂

    1. Great to hear you enjoyed reading & lovely of you to take the time to comment. Always so nice to read such positive comments. Sounds like you’ve got a lot to hold your head up high about. Without wanting to sound like a hippy, love & happiness should be what parenting is all about.

  4. I would love to tell you that parents settle down and become less competitive as time passes and their children get older but I would be lying. Instead of ” My child is eating a roast dinner and reading at 6 months” you will hear. “My child is in advanced math and English and is also writing a book”.

    Really enjoyed the blog. Can’t imagine where you find the time. I think you have a real talent for writing 🙂

    1. Still loving the flattery but scary to know the competitiveness just begins when they’re babies. Wonder if our parents still brag about us? Thanks for always taking the time to read and comment. Great to hear you enjoyed reading.

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