I knew it had gone too far when my unborn child had a nicer set of wheels than I did. But that didn't stop me.
Throughout my first pregnancy, I was every marketer's dream. I didn't know what I needed so I just got everything. The baby paraphernalia mounted and the more I got, the more I panicked. Looking back I can understand that it was a desperate form of trying to control a very uncontrollable situation.
None of us knew what we were doing, so naturally, we became very susceptible to dedicating ourselves to finding a better version, an easier solution, a more functional gadget. And because we were clueless, suddenly the most expensive was the best. Beyond the labels and the gadgets, once the babies were born it became all about the best (most perfect) parenting solutions.
The various parenting groups I had joined in order find like-minded new mums sometimes felt very competitive. I often left feeling very deflated when someone would make a comment like «oh, you are weaning already? I'm waiting til Junior is 6 months old.» or " My doctor says you should never Ferberize your child."
Then the milestones began. I wasn't too worried when my daughter didn't speak as fast as her bald-headed counterparts but perhaps it was insecurity that made others ask in hushed tones was I «doing anything about it» because their little one had been «chatting away for months.» Now it felt like you had to be perfect in order to be a good mum. Your car had to be spotless, your pram clean and God help you if you hadn't lost the baby weight. Since when did nurturing become so competitive? Am I a terrible mother because I once found a sour milk sippy cup in the bottom of my nappy bag? Ok, twice.
This smug mummy syndrome became more bearable once I gained more confidence and opted out of caring.
It resurfaced once again once my daughter started school. Now it is all about what 'activities' they will do. If you are not doing gymnastics you are nothing. The pressure to start my son doing a musical instrument is intense. And if you don't turn up to a match on a Saturday you are hashtag consciously unparenting.
Keeping Up With The Mummy-Joneses
Not planning a trip to Disney is tantamount to neglect and birthday parties are full-on catered events with trained actors as entertainers. I am guilty of getting caught up with it all but then I remind myself that my parents didn't come to every match, my life wasn't horrible because I didn't play the flute when I was four, some years I didn't (gasp) go to see Santa at all and my parents once forgot me at the supermarket. Not lost, forgot.
Nowadays, The Parental Olympics has become a movement that sees parents bending over backwards dragging their children to this and that and spending a fortune on lessons, parties, presents and events. But the problem is that in boosting your parental ego and giving them everything will leave them wanting for nothing and that can create a lazy mentality.
The problem with trying to keep up with the mummy-joneses is that you will never win. My advice — sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to those you surround yourself once you have babies.
I choose the messy-bag mums. The caught-without-wipes mums. My kindred spirits are the he-will-give-it-up-eventually mums who applaud your efforts and are genuinely impressed that you simply keep your children alive and sod the ketchup addiction.
Parenting isn't just about raising children, it is an internal struggle with growing up yourself. It is about understanding what you stand for and what you want your children to value. The responsibility is overwhelming. Ultimately, as well as creating a child, you are shaping your own version of what it means to be a mum.
And that version is unique — even if your nappy bag is more bin than bling.