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.