When I moved back to Utah last summer, I was terrified of all the Utah stay-at-home-mom myths I had heard. People told me: “There’s so much competition to be the perfect mom and wife. You’ll hate it.” Or “Women out there are so phony. Be careful.”
So I was all geared up for some serious mommy rivalry over who is the best Mormon mom and who can spend more money at Hobby Lobby on home decor each month. I told myself I wouldn’t get sucked in. I would rise above it and be myself no matter what.
At first, though, I allowed myself to believe the stories. I began to feel inadequate when stacked up next to the mothers all around me whose lives seemed perfect with perfect clothes, perfect homes, perfect children. This was hardly a competition — I lost before it even started.
But then something happened: I got to know these women. I began to see that these Utah moms are just like moms everywhere — doing their best to raise their kids, find time for themselves and juggle all the hats we wear as mothers every day. In fact, they’re so busy doing their own thing that they didn’t have any time to spare comparing with me.
The rivalry was from within me. Nobody else even cared.
I realized that the myths were not true. Yes, there was a strong undercurrent of competition, but only in my own mind. These mothers were not trying to flaunt their achievements in my face. I was allowing them to bother me, rather than simply cheering on these women while trying to better myself.
As I befriended woman after woman, I realized the “Perfect Utah Mom” horror stories I had heard were also false. These women are not Molly Mormon cliches; they are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and friends. The mom who looks like she has it all together is doing her best to simply hold her family together as a single mother. The woman who is always smiling and happy is fighting for her life against cancer.
So as I settle into my life here, I’m grateful that the stories I heard couldn’t be more wrong. I’m grateful to be surrounded by so many amazing moms who are kind to my kids, have welcomed me with open arms and inspire me with their talents and compassion.
I’m sure there are some moms and women who buy into the one-upmanship style of motherhood, and who truly garner some satisfaction from looking perfect and more successful than others. And I know there are lots of women who feel like they’ll never measure up to some impossible and illusory standard.
To them, I would simply say, there can’t be a competition without your consent. Once you stop trying to “beat” other women at life, you realize there was never a race in the first place.
Do you feel competition among Utah moms or among moms in general?
Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her 8-year-old and 5-year-old daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her.