Can We Please Stop Trying to One-Up Each Other?

by Michelle Downing January 24, 2017

Mothers and their children in a Kitty party

One of the best things about being a parent is watching your children learn something new. It’s so exciting to see their little minds grasp a new concept and do something successfully for the first time.

One easy way to ruin that incredible moment? By telling it to the One-Upper. You know the one. The one whose child does everything a little bit sooner or a little bit better, than yours.

I’m not talking about your everyday Bragger Mom. We all know one of those. Most likely, we all are one of those in some sense. When your child does something really cool, how can you not want to share it with everyone?

Little Billy went used the potty for the first time? Shout it from the rooftops, sister!

Johnny wrote a story that’s worthy of any library? Give him a medal and take one for yourself, too!

Your Sally was deemed the smartest six year-old in the world? Okay, probably not super likely, but still, super cool!

I’m not talking about all of that. I’m talking about the moms who not only can’t celebrate your successes with you, but who always have a superior success of their own.

When you mention how Billy made it the whole day in his big boy underwear, she oh-so-casually throws in how much harder potty-training was for her since her son was so much younger when she potty-trained him.

When you mention how thrilled you are that your daughter bravely walked with her first shaky step, she quickly chimes in how her little one is running laps around her house.

Sure, it may be innocent enough. Maybe they're just excited about their own kids’ accomplishments. Maybe they're trying to bond with you over common interests. Maybe they just hate awkward pauses and it was the first thing that came to mind.

Parenting is hard. Every decision you make is affecting someone else’s life and, ultimately, their future. Every choice you make will either hurt or help them down the road. Sometimes, people share milestones in their kids’ lives because it’s exciting to feel like you’re doing something right. You can’t help but feel pride when your kids succeed because you're at least partly responsible for their success. Sometimes you want to share these special moments because it reminds you that you may just have this thing figured out.

When someone responds with how their child did it sooner, or better, it’s putting those fears right back into your head. It’s not just a little annoying to hear, but it can actually recreate that self-doubt and put even more pressure on you. Now you’re right back to wondering if you’re doing it right. If so, why isn’t your child doing it as well?

But parenting is not a competition.

Ever stop to think all these mom-shaming ideals wouldn’t stand a chance if we just stopped competing? I've been told, plenty of times, my parenting methods aren’t the preferred choice. I formula-fed my babies even though everyone told me breastfeeding was better. I had two C-sections even though someone actually had the audacity to tell me how sad it was I couldn’t experience real child birth. I let my babies cry it out in their cribs a few times because I was never going to consider co-sleeping, even though plenty of people shuddered at the thought. And yet, my kids are happy and healthy. And you know what? I’m happy too.

So, please, do what you can to help parents celebrate big moments in their kids’ lives. Be excited when they've reached a milestone. Give them praise when their kids have learned something new. You may just be helping an anxious mother feel better about her choices and find calm in her chaotic world.

Michelle Downing


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