The Mommy Competition

The Mommy Competition

Before Pesach, in response to the Mishpacha article Liberation: One Formerly Frantic Mom’s Pesach Cleaning Journey by C. Saphir, an older woman sent in a letter to Mishpacha’s editor which really got on my nerves.

The letter’s author, Rivka M. of Brooklyn, wrote:

“Was I the only reader who found the ‘Liberation’ story frustrating, and part of a bigger pattern?

“…I speak to young women who place their 2-year-olds in playgroup not because they’re working, but because another baby is on the way and ‘How will I manage?’ Or young women who expect others to send them meals for a couple of weeks after they give birth because, ‘how will I manage?’ Or women who buy take-out food for Shabbos every week because, ‘I have a job outside the home and if I also cook, how will I manage?’ In my generation, we enjoyed our blessings and responsibilities, and understood that they came along with less sleep and more work.”

Rivka M. admonishes this generation of mothers to, “Stop thinking of themselves as fragile beings who will collapse from one or two sleepless nights!”

I was actually fuming about this letter for days, and wrote up all sorts defensive responses personally attacking Mrs. Rivka M. of Brooklyn, NY in my head, which I (b”H) never actually wrote down or sent anywhere.

And then I opened up this week’s Mishpacha, and saw a response to Rivka M. which I thought was better than all of my defensive responses put together.

I.L.H writes, “I’ve been following the recent back and forth about whether today’s mothers are working hard enough, and I want to say, kol hakavod to the wives and mommies or today’s generation!…I think that women expect way too much of themselves…

“If you don’t get sleep, how can you feel good? How can you be cheerful and patient, and not feel stressed out? If you do feel stressed out, it will come out in your interactions with your husband and kids.

“Do yourself and your family a favor, and cut yourself some slack. You do not need to prove yourself by being a superwoman. If this must be a competition, let it be a competition about who can be the most patient, loving, nurturing wife and mommy, not who can do the most all by herself.”

Isn’t that lovely? If we must feel that motherhood is a competition, instead of the competitions we are used to:

The “I lost weight more quickly after I gave birth” competition.
The “I personally made all the food (including the kugel and challah) on my Shabbat-table” competition.
The “I haven’t slept well in weeks and am more tired that you can possibly imagine” competition.

Let’s have competitions, instead, like:

The “I sat down and ate 3 healthy meals today, and felt like I had a lot of energy for my kids” competition.
The “I made a simple Shabbos, and found that I felt relatively calm when Shabbos came in” competition.
The “I slept 8-hours last night/ took a nap today and feel so well-rested” competition.

But, of course, the best competition of all is the competition between each mother and herself– to be an even better, calmer, well-rested, and happier mother than she was yesterday.

IY”H.

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24 comments

  1. Shulamis

    Beautiful!!!!!!

  2. ty-couldn’t agree more!!

  3. Allison

    Thank you for posting this!! That letter also bothered me for multiple days after reading it.

    Thank you also for posting the response; a much healthier attitude…

  4. so important!! love the new mommy competitions! good healthy meals, plenty of rest, simpler meals for shabbat, buying challa,and dessert. so much healthier for us mommy’s!

  5. We have recently undergone a lifestyle change that moved us towards simplifying Shabbat (although I fought it at first) – store bought challah, desserts, and very easy to make, simple meals, and it’s reduced erev Shabbos stress and on-Shabbos stress immensely. It is so much healthier for our family, although it’s hard to feel okay about sometimes, so thank you for this reassuring message! Now I really need to get on board with the “I got 8 hours of sleep” competition!!!

  6. Malka Krames

    I didn’t see Rivka M’s response, but I would have been upset had I seen. Your last paragraph says it the best. We should be competing against ourselves, according to our own strengths and weaknesses, ready to improve on ourselves in the most productive way. Some people get a chiyus from baking, but does the bare minimum in the housekeeping department. You get my drift. We’re all working hard, putting in maximum effort, and no one should be made to feel as if doing our best is not good enough.

  7. I love this. I’d like to enter the “My new infant wants to be held all the time and I stayed sane and happy through this by not feeling stressed out by any other responsibilities”! Anyone joining?

  8. I ate a reasonably healthy breakfast for 3 days in a row and haven’t felt like a zombie mother at bedtime since!

    I am IN!

  9. Totally agree. For all we know, this lady does have above average energy and stamina and cant understand why others cant cope with more work and less sleep. She may have also had alot more cleaning help to be able to mind her babies and cook shabbos from scratch. (Although i agree that its best for babies to be home with their mommies and if possible to make it a priority…)

  10. my husband said the old generation WAS stronger

  11. Mina Gordon

    What’s worse than the women’s ‘good housewife competition? It’s the men’s ‘good housewife’ competition! And, may I add, the women’s ‘good husband’ competition. (As in: “My wife makes everything from scratch. She even makes her own noodles, from her grandmother’s recipe.” and “My husband buys me a new piece of jewelry for every chag.”)
    Teach your children (and spouse) that what your family members do or don’t do is nobody’s business.

    • JewishMom

      rabbanit yemima says a bad friend is:
      1. someone who tells you how amazing her husband is
      2. someone who, when you complain about your husband, agrees with you!

      i think the bad friend is also someone who tells you how amazing/gifted/brilliant her kids are.

      • Hadassah

        Miriam Adahan always says that comparison produces temper either fearful or angry. Whether it is the Pesach preparation contest, kids, housecleaning, cooking, baking, you name it – we all know how to make ourselves feel lousy and inadequate, or superior, and inflated… time for the only comparison – how do we measure up to our own selves.. Was I more patient? more loving, more understanding and helpful? healthy? It is not cutting slack to purchase ready made food or having someone clean our floors. No one else can be your husband’s wife or your child’s mom.

        • She even said “comparing yourself to others is a form of self abuse”. Have to keep remembering that

  12. B”H

    I think it might also be helpful to think about this not in terms of a “competition” but as a sisterhood. We are all on this mothering journey together. How can we help each other feel good, loved, supported? Maybe it’s a walking group one night a week. Maybe it’s a women’s gathering every month. Maybe it’s a chavrutah. Maybe it’s a cooperative tefilat yeladim on Shabbat mornings. Maybe it’s a shiur in the park. When we reach out for connection and simultaneously do everything we can NOT to judge each other negatively, we ALL win the “mommy competition.” Because it’s not a competition anymore–we’re all on the same team.

    • As I think about this, two images come to mind–1) Women being nasty to each other. 2) Women sitting in a circle massaging each other’s backs.

      The latter image is so much healthier for all of us.

    • JewishMom

      thanks sarah. if only all mothers could have a supportive accepting atmosphere like the parenting group you told me about.

  13. About the comment of what a bad friend is. A “friend” recently bragged to me many times how her husband fixed this and fixed that and she knows it’s a sensitive subject for me because my husband is not so handy. She kept mentioning how (husbands name) fixed this. Repeating herself, trying to see if she can make me jealous.

    • Dear All,
      By giving much more than we can for a long time, many of us become resentful. That is not our mitsva! Before we say it is too much we gave already everything we got! So it is good to be aware and be kind to ourselves 🙂
      Every day we say thank You Hashem for making me as You want. So we are “ALL” the way Hashem want us to be! Everyone is different, some have military dissipline, than it is easy to criticise others, so that is her minus! Hashem made us all human. We have to work on something. This JewishMom website, helps us to be able to listen to our Inner Voice from our Neshama. We are the Nashim Tsidkaniot! Lets be Besimcha that we have a very special task(although it doesnt always feel like that) We make light when we work on ourselves. May all these small lights get together and become the big light of Moshiach.

  14. Wow! Reading that woman’s response really did start to bring up insecure feelings (as I just signed my two year old up for playgroup next year since b”h yes there is another one on the way) and I always had mixed feelings and guilt about sending such young kids out…. After all being with mommy is the best for them…!
    But I love what all you gals are saying.
    That may be the yetzer hara speaking! We each know our own individual challenges in life and what it takes for us to be the best mommies we are trying to be.
    That’s one of the reasons why I tend to stay away from those magazines. Not good to get a voice in ur head that makes u feel bad!
    We are all trying to do our best and we don’t need the older generation always rubbing it in about how spoiled we are these days lol
    This generation has different challenges to face….

  15. Hadassah

    Mommies are good for most things. I don’t think playgroups are an evil substitute or crutch for challenged moms! Getting out, learning to play and share with others, doing messy art that some moms don’t do at home are all advantages of being in a play group that 2 year olds enjoy. I think there is more of this available in Israel. But if a mom is not working at a ‘job’ the time spent in a playgroup or daycare should be limited if possible. Buying ready food – if prepared healthily can be more expensive but worth the money if time or energy are in short supply. Who is the best judge of that if not ourselves. We don’t have to criticize others or ourselves for using what is available.

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