The Truth about Mommyjacking No One Will Tell You
“Look, I have Elsa soup!” the little girl I babysit exclaims excitedly as she buries her spoon into the soup her mom sent.
“Oh…well, me and my brother have really special Elsa cookies,” my daughter chimes in, not wanting to be outdone.
I decide this is a good time to interrupt.
“Sweetheart,” I say to my daughter, “When your friend tells you something she is excited about, it’s not a time for you to try to outdo her or tell her about your special treats. It’s a time to celebrate with her.
Next time how about saying, ‘That’s awesome!’, or ‘Good for you, that’s really exciting!’”
“But Mommy, what about my special things?” she counters, so worried she will be overlooked.
“Well, we can celebrate them another time. Just not when it’s a friend’s moment to shine, okay?”
I know what it is like. Trust me. I know. You are a parent now and once that little child became a part of your life, they became your whole life. For instance, before babies, I went to the women’s section of Target and perused the cute clothes on the clearance racks looking to augment my own wardrobe.
Now, my wardrobe is at least five years old and I go to the toy section or the baby section and peruse adorable onesies, tutus, and Barbie dolls instead. I used to think that a romantic weekend with my husband was spent in a Bed and Breakfast in the hills of Vermont for three days. Now, I am just happy with a drive to the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru with all three of our children quiet or asleep in the back seat of the car.
I get it. I know what it is like for your children to become the entire world to you and I know the joy and excitement that runs through your veins every time you think of them and the superior human beings that they are.
I also know what it feels like to worry constantly that you are not good enough and that you are going to fail them. I know the pull of always comparing your children’s milestones to little Billy’s progress. And I know the desire to be the amazing Mommy that little Billy’s mommy is. And if you struggle with these things and you are a chatterbox like me, you may be unwittingly guilty of “mommyjacking.”
What is mommyjacking?
Mommyjacking is when you respond to someone else’s comments about their children or life (either in person or on social media), by turning the conversation into another anecdote about your own child.
Before I start, I must say that there is a time to celebrate your child and brag about their progress. There is also a time to swap Mommy stories in the communal “we-are-in-this-together” sense. I do it all the time. But sometimes, that innocent sharing can completely take over a conversation and divert the attention away from the original speaker and bring the spotlight back to you and your kid.
I have done both – both the okay, communal sharing and the accidental mommyjacking. It is a fine line to walk, but as moms, we have to be so careful that the fact that our lives have been taken over by our children does not mean that we take over everyone’s lives with our stories.
Back to the Elsa soup. The little girl I babysit (we will call her Jane), was excited about the soup. It was not a part of a conversation that involved different types of lunch foods. It was not in response to any question asked by my daughter (we will call her Mary). Jane was just delightfully surprised to look into her bowl and see her favorite Disney character in the form of noodles, and her excitement spilled out into words.
Read also – 10 Things You Should Never Say to Your Daughter
Mary, on the other hand, who had not even thought about mentioning her own lunch – it was her favorite kind, mind you – heard Jane’s excitement and translated that to, “My soup is better than yours.” Jane never said that her lunch was superior. Mary just heard it that way.
She looked down at her cheese, crackers, and peanut butter and suddenly felt inadequate. So, she chimed in, stealing Jane’s spotlight immediately and directed the attention and the excitement to herself. Meanwhile, Jane, who wanted to just enjoy her noodles, felt deflated because Mary was not rejoicing with her.
Mary did not just abstain from participating in the celebration, she actually took it. It was not necessarily Mary’s words that did the damage, it was the timing and the intent behind the words. There is a time for Mary to celebrate her lunch and be excited over it, but not when Jane has just innocently declared her own celebration for her own lunch.
Am I making any sense here?
My friends and I often swap baby stories. We go back and forth, sharing stories of our children’s milestones, even comparing them and where they are developmental. Usually, it is friendly and jovial. Other times, I sense that green beast of jealousy rising up inside me and when I hear my friend praise her baby I hear, “My baby is better than yours and I’m more put together as a mother than you are.”
She is not actually saying that. She is not even implying that. So, when I feel that way and quickly counter her joyful exclamation with how awesome my baby is doing, I am mommyjacking the conversation. I am stealing the spotlight and the celebration away from her.
This does not mean I can’t mention my baby at all, but not at this time. Right now the spotlight needs to stay on that mom and her baby. It is not hard to do… to stay there and lavish praise on her precious tot and affirm what a great mother she is. It is not hard to swallow my own anecdotes and smile and nod and let her feel like the supermom she is.
She needs to bask in that spotlight for now. Parenthood is hard and it comes with a whole set of guilt trips about not doing it well enough or not being good enough. Let her feel like she is good enough. Quell her Mommy guilt for this moment and give her a shining memory to look back on in her darkest moments. My time will come.
There will be a conversation that centers around my baby’s first words or how they rolled over back to the belly or the weight they finally gained at their last check-up. There will be a moment for me to bask in the glow of another’s appreciation as they celebrate my motherhood and my precious child. The key is finding that balance.
The next time you feel tempted to share a story about your child with your mommy friends ask yourself these questions:
“Will this detract from her story or needs right now?”
“Am I sharing because I feel threatened?”
“Can this wait?”
If the answer is yes, then bite your tongue. Your words will not actually edify her and they might just drive a wedge into your friendship. Instead, ask yourself what you can say to help encourage your mama friend and say those things instead. Then, when it is your turn, you might just find that she does the same thing for you.