So, by now you’ve all heard of the competitive parent – the one whose baby sleeps through the night at 6 minutes old; who’s baby’s teeth just “appear” without the need for a system of subterranean sewers to siphon away the slobber; the one whose baby eats liver and onions for their first meal, who is never ill, never cries, and who walks at 10 weeks. Their precious bundle talks in sentences containing at least one adverb and a subordinate clause at 11 weeks, expels farts that smell like a fairy’s breath while their shit is good enough to eat.
You will know the ones I mean, all of you will have met at least one. I certainly have.
Sometimes I feel like the over-sharer at the party, the one with wild hair and crazed eyes who everyone greets by looking at the floor and pretending to find hitherto unfathomable meaning in an unidentifiable smudge.
I have greeted parenting with almost embarrassing honesty and I’ve still not learned to take the perfect parenting experiences of others with the proverbial pinch (bucketful) of salt they deserve.
I greet people’s comments of “Oh no, I have never been so busy cleaning up darling Beatrice’s massively shitty arse that I didn’t notice I’d dragged my hair through it until hours later when I tracked the smell down. Oh dear, that must have been awful” with surprise and bewilderment that so many people seem to find it all so easy.
Well, things need to change.
First of all, note made to self when The Eldest was 3 weeks old – tie my hair back when changing a nappy. But more importantly, no, actually, it wasn’t awful.
Awful is the European refugee crisis or the death of any child. It was poo in my hair. It was easily fixed. I repeat – it was not awful. And my reason for sharing, which you have clearly missed, was not to elicit sympathy but to share a giggle and hopefully a bonding experience with another mum who is battling with this brand-new-full-full-time-job.
But, it turns out that I am not the only one, after all! The mothering landscape has changed somewhat in just three years and since having the BSCB early in 2015 I have met, in person, and virtually, a whole new breed of competitive mums.
These mums take almost Machiavellian glee in sharing the mishaps of their parenting.
They are the ones who greet your story of how your 8 month old son was found inside the dishwasher licking last night’s curry off the cutlery with tales of even more scandalous parenting fails. The modern competitive parent competes in a bizarre show of oneupmanship about just how bad a parent you can be without Social Services knocking on your door with a docket from Accident and Emergency.
In this entirely fictional (well the Social Services part at least) scenario it would document the time you let your 1 year old put the end of a plugged in phone charger in her mouth – she reacted with surprise so you tried it too and received an alarming buzz on your tongue. Cue panicked rush to the hospital to admit the failing to lots of judgmental people who you realised could easily take your baby away… I know, exaggerating again (soz).
Of course, all of the doctors and nurses who have cared for my children over the last 3 and a bit years have been decidedly awesome and I’m pretty sure that things have to be significantly worse than that for them to even register you on their radar. Afterall, these are people who come into contact with ACTUAL bad parenting every day. And that there is the thing…
All of those parenting fails you ascribe yourself are actually not. They are just the shit that goes down when you are trying to keep a tiny Kamikaze-pilot-person alive while he or she attempts death defying acts from the top of the stairs, or the back of the settee, and you attempt to do something from real life like you know, blowdrying your hair. It’s real.
And that’s why I love the new brand of competitive parents because they are not actually competing – they are simply reaching out and saying “We all know what it’s really like. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.”