Being in a room full of moms brings me back to middle school. Whether that room is in the physical realm or virtual, the same old insecurities from middle school start to bubble up. Thoughts like, “Oh, gosh. She has a nicer diaper bag than me. Mine sucks. Wait, no it doesn’t. Mine is kinda grungy. That’s cool. I’m original. I am original? Hah, no. I wonder what she thinks about that eight-hundred dollar Moxie robot for kids. She’ll think I’m just as wealthy if I mention it…” I wait for the girl next door to finish asking her toddler how sharing made him feel. How does she even have time for that? Ah, here’s my window: “Hey, do you know anything about that Moxie robot for kids?” She cocks her head. “Yeah,” I say, “It, like, teaches kids positive affirmations and probably even how to deal with their emotions.” Oh, she raised her eyebrows. I think I got her attention. I’ll keep embarrassing myself… “Kind of telling of the times, though, that a robot would teach our kids social-emotional skills.” I laugh thinking she would laugh with me, but she only throws me a slight chuckle. I could tell the other moms in the room overheard all this, but for some reason no one’s chiming in. So strange. I must be putting off a bad vibe. Hmm… I don’t belong here and neither does my child who isn’t even socializing with the other children. He looks pretty perturbed, actually. Alright. We’re outta here.
Is it just me or has the competitive streak from middle school carried itself out all the way to mom-hood? Does it sometimes seem more intense now than it did before, back in the dark ages of social-emotional barbarianism of puberty? And if it is more intense, then why, I ask? Why? I think I figured it out a few years ago after leaving a toddler party in LA…
After observing myself, my behavior and other parents’ behavior at the toddler party, it dawned on me where this (masked and polite) competitive streak comes from, and while some of it may trace back to middle school or whatever, that’s not the driving force. What happens is a sort of snowball effect of our entrepreneurial psychosis. Starting a family is like starting your own company. If it was more or less your idea to start that company, you’re the CEO. You decide what kind of diaper bag you’re going to be seen carrying around (because, let’s face it, that diaper bag represents your family’s taste and maybe even your income), what kind of toys and baby appliances your friends are going to see when you invite them over (Montessori or plastic? Wooden high chair or practical, lightweight and cheap highchair?) Some admirable moms would say, “Oh, it’s just a high chair.” But I find that most parents during their unseasoned tenure of having their first child, care more deeply about how their parenting styles and purchases come across to the plumber than, say, the slightly more seasoned parent of two. And, so, all the effort we’ve put into our family or “company" (e.g. Smiths & Co.) results in a sense of pride the moment we’re faced with other families or “companies” (e.g. Hufnagle & Co., Kim & Co. and so on…)
When a group of moms are put in the same room, it might as well be a Parents & Tots Expo where each mom showcases all her favorite baby gear in front of a beautiful backdrop of all her favorite quotes and creeds from various experts on parenting, including herself. The CEO visits other booths, graciously tells them they’re doing an impeccable job and takes note.
By around year three as CEO of our flourishing company, we get a little tired of going to these conventions, so we give up and fade into the background of other seasoned moms. After those first few years of showing off and discreetly competing with other CEO’s (my favorite competition is the “Who’s the Most Empathetic and Non-Judgmental Mom?”) we realize we don’t have it all figured out. But if anyone ever wants to ask us for our advice, we’re happy to share.
Perhaps the CEO analogy only applies to go-getters. If we’re not running a company, we’re running a family. I do believe, though, that starting a family does bring out varying degrees of the inner-CEO in everyone. We’re proud of the family we started, as we should be. We literally put our blood, sweat and tears into it. We should be awarded, yet we went into this knowing it’s a thankless job. So, we’re not CEO’s of a major company. Moms and CEO’s do not go hand-in-hand. What we really are, are heroines because heroines don’t get a financial cut for being heroic.