I Love Being a Mom, but I Hate the Competitive Small Talk With Other Parents

"Is he running yet?" she asked as her daughter splashed around in the pool. "Charlotte is so fast now, I can't keep up."

Charlotte is a loud, tiny girl in my son's swim class. The she, in question, is a random mom whose name I don't know. And my son? He's 1-year-old, has approximately three teeth, and he pooped in the bath yesterday then tried to eat it. So, no. My son is not running yet.

I waved at my child as he threw my husband's glasses in the deep end before admitting that, no, my kid was not running. Right on cue, as if she got stage directions out of the "Small Talk for Parents 101" handbook, the nameless mom did the usual song and dance of, "Aww, it's OK! Let me tell you how my baby is slacking to pretend to make you feel better."

But it didn't make me feel better. Instead, it reminded me why the worst part about being a parent is making competitive small talk with other parents.

I wish I could connect with other new parents in a way that doesn't feel like a cut-throat competition between our babies.

Sure, the stretch marks, leaky bladder, and lack of independence were all bummers when it came to becoming a mother. But I was somewhat aware that my body was going to change. The forced small talk with competitive parents, though? The ones who all think their kid is the cutest, smartest, and best? It's more exhausting than how my three-day induction was.

It's hard to pinpoint which small-talk conversation is the most dreadful. Is it the comparison of how much iPad or screen time we allow? The judgmental questions about what my child eats? Or the bragging about how quickly their child learned to crawl, walk, read, or run? Not sure. But all of these conversations somehow have a way of making me feel like I'm not mom-ing well enough.

I guess I just wish I could connect with other new parents in a way that doesn't feel like a cut-throat competition between our babies. It's like we're playing roles during these forced exchanges, hiding our true selves behind a façade of parental perfection.

I crave mindless interactions that don't revolve around whose child has achieved what milestone or which parent has it hardest. I miss the days of talking about what shows we're watching, what plans we have, and what dreams we're chasing. Because the thing is, we might be raising autonomous people, but we're still autonomous people ourselves.

Small talk as a parent is impossible to avoid. It's a part of the experience of pushing your child on a swing at the park or talking with another mom at a child's birthday party. But maybe we could find things to talk about that aren't comparing our children's milestones, and remind ourselves that there are topics in the world that don't revolve around diaper rash and diapers.

Because if there's one thing I've learned after having a baby, it's that while parenthood is the greatest blessing, it's OK to still be our own people too. And really, we don't need to be comparing our child's successes to each other. My son will learn to run soon enough.

Rachel Varina is a full-time freelance writer covering everything from the best vibrators (the OG Magic Wand) to the best TV shows ("The Vampire Diaries"). She has more than a decade of editorial experience with bylines at Cosmopolitan, Elite Daily, Betches, and more