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New-Mom Envy

Object of envy #4: The know-it-all mom

Like those children who are born to be intellectual or athletic whiz kids, some women appear born to be, well, perfect mothers, who've got the immediate answer to every cranky spell, sleepless night, food jag, or earache. They not only know what they "should" do  -- breastfeed for a full year, put their baby down when he's drowsy instead of sleeping  -- they actually manage to do it. Feeling envious?

"I am," admits Kim Aman of Bremerton, Washington. "My friend is still able to breastfeed her son. I had a hard time with it and wish it had worked out better! I stopped breastfeeding at five months and sometimes regret that I didn't keep trying."

Mary Peters realized how green her valley was when she complained to her friend that she couldn't get her baby to stop whining. "She sat with him on the floor and in about two minutes he was laughing. 'Why didn't I think to sit on the floor?' I asked myself. Then I realized that I had  -- I just didn't want to. And I envied her for having that desire."

Even fathers can incite übermom envy, as Marx explains: "To bolster my experience, I devoured every how-to parenting book in print. But when my first child was born, I was a basket case. Positively certifiable. To my great distress, my husband was like Mary Poppins. He seemed to know just what to do in all situations, making me feel even more inadequate. It was a vicious cycle. The better he did, the less confident I felt."

Unfortunately, notes Steiner, moms are rarely told that it's okay to have your own mothering style. "It's always negative messages" that come through, she says. "You never see how important it is to be an imperfect mother, to find your own way." And until women accept that everyone "mothers in a unique fashion," says Steiner, envy will remain a constant companion.