…I can do better!


It’s not until you become pregnant and have children, really, that you realise how very many ways there are of being wrong. And also how very many people there are out there see it as their mission in life to tell you so. Sometimes they’re quite upfront about it – although I’ve never actually seen anyone with the t-shirt – and they’ll tell you right to your face. More often it’s just a little comment, a pause, a raised eyebrow, a tone of voice. Nothing you could really put your finger on, much less call your tormentor on. Passive aggression is the lingua franca of competitive parenting.

I’ve yet to work out what the motivation really is behind someone blithely telling you, just when you’ve let it all hang out in the changing room at the swimming pool that they have no stretchmarks at all, or that their child is sleeping through the night when you’ve just snorted yourself awake moments before your head hits the desk at work, or that their child simply never has tantrums when you’re exiting, red-faced and sweating from a party, with a screeching, scratching, spitting demon slung over your shoulder. What is it all about? It is extreme insecurity that can only be assuaged by making everyone around them feel like shit? Or do they genuinely think they can do anything better than you?

Well, no point tormenting myself with questions that have no answers. I will say one thing, though.
When you witness a really skilled demolition operative at work, it’s quite impressive, in a nasty kind of way. Here, for your future information is a list of phrases that mean rather more than they say, along with their translations:

‘Isn’t it exhausting, running them from pillar to post?’
(But when they’re as talented as my children, it would be crime not to.)

‘It’s so hard to find trousers to fit Seamus. If they’re long enough, they’re far too big round the waist.’
(Because he’s so slim and athletic, unlike your porker.)

‘Lucky you, not having to freeze on the touchline!’
(Cos she wasn’t picked for the team – nyah!)

‘You’re so sensible not to buy a new buggy for each child’
(But I did, because I can afford to.)

‘I love the way you encourage them to express themselves.’
(Don’t they ever shut up?)

‘You are breastfeeding, aren’t you?’
(Because there’s no other explanation for those tits!)

‘You really are a devoted mother!’
(You’ve completely let yourself go!)

See what I mean? This is a competition where everyone is a loser. Personally, I reckon all you can do is rise above it. Take all such comments completely at face value, smile nicely, and move on.

(Unless you’ve got a killer put-down you’d care to share?)

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13 thoughts on “…I can do better!

  1. Very much enjoyed the show this evening. Bells ringing all over the place! So daft they couldn’t trail the book, though.

  2. “Must be nice to be able to waste $1000 on a trendy, over-priced stroller. We needed to be more sensible in our household.”

    TRUE STORY.

  3. Ah, don’t get me started on the competitive thing! Let me think about this and get back to you because it DOES MY HEAD IN.

    * Bad Father * Slightly Drunk &

  4. Don’t you think that they’re all lying though??? I had a terrible time with potty training as mine were all really late. I tried I really did but not one of them managed it before their third birthday.

    Can still remember walking into antenatal group after some months (where I felt such a fish out of water) and saying I saying breezily I suppose yours are all potty trained now and EVERY SINGLE ONE was. I just stood with my mouth open.

    Now I might be tempted to say… Did you know that the later a child is potty trained the brighter the child is?

    But I reckon now that really most people who boast that their child is dry are lying. Do you notice how they tend to run round after the little buggers with a potty … constantly!

    love Janex

  5. Er…simple enough solution, don’t hang around with wankers who make comments like that?? Plenty of nice normal mothers with unravelling nursing bras who haven’t showered and like a gin at midday to hang out with, after all 🙂

  6. Gawd, it’s like high school all over again. I just smile and stick my foot out a bit when they walk by. It’s hard to look holier-than-thou when you’re tripping over your own feet.

  7. How lucky you are to be surrounded by people who know everything! I’ve had more than my share of people like that, and they tend to leave me sputtering and speechless.

  8. “Your son isn’t talking yet???? Maybe you should have him evaluated. My little angel had a vocabulary of 30 words by 11 months.”

    I’m not kidding.

  9. When I first started picking up my son from school one other beaaatch of a mother looked me up and down in that really awful and unneccesary ‘I hate all other women’ way and said:

    “Excuse me, Harry’s nanny?! Can you get into the right queue for your year?” I decided to be awfully flattered as I knew that wasn’t what she was expecting and said sweetly:

    “Goodness, thank you – no, I’m his mother actually and you are…..Marcus’s…granny aren’t you?”

    Needless to say she has never spoken to me since. Witch.

  10. These people are just not worth the time it takes to rebuff them. Ignore them…but be as kind as you can to their poor children who have to live with them.

  11. amanda hello! glad you enjoyed the show. i agree the trail thing is such a pain – and its far from resolved! grrrrrr
    hbm i can believe it – nothing would surprise me (well … don’t regard that as a challenge, now)
    dysd when we were researching the book, one woman actually said that to us. ‘i have absolutely no regrets in anything i did with my son. i think everything i did was the right thing’. oh to be that assured (or blind!)
    wyndham i would LOVE to get you started on the competitive dad thing. where’s my tape recorder (and where were you when i was doing the book!)
    mark that innocent look isn’t fooling anyone – and whistling doesn’t help, y’know
    jane yes, actually, i do think they’re all lying – and maybe to themselves too. i just think you have to be very confident not to be dragged in …
    emma spot on, as usual. just wish you’d been at my kids’ nursery. (i’d have recognised you by the sock code)
    adrienne like your style! i can’t say i’ve never attempted it, but my technique needs work
    beck i’m constantly grateful for people’s generosity in sharing their prejudices and preconceptions with me!
    lm bet that left YOU speechless!
    rm pure, evil genius. i LOVE it!
    lqs you’ve struck at the heart of it there – poor little kids!

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