Mom Comparison is the Thief of Joy
Written by Elisabeth Duncan
Do you make resolutions for the New Year? Did you make any for 2021? It’s no surprise to anyone that 2020 was hard. It made history for so many reasons. Everyone was most likely in desperate need for a new start.
Typically I’m not really one to make New Year’s resolutions. I guess I have been of the mindset if I want to change something I don’t need to wait until the new year to do it. But this year I’m changing it up. My resolution for 2021 is to stop the mom comparing and guilt.
We all do it. We see another mom’s post on Instagram and it starts. The thoughts to compare start creeping in like a child in the middle of the night. You realized it’s happening after it’s already started. It’s now a snowball effect, a downward spiral of what she has, says or does that you don’t. Maybe her children aren’t picky eaters, maybe they all live in a monochromatic wardrobe, maybe she gets me time, she has a bigger support system than you, her pictures are better, their trips more fun, she shed the baby weight faster or did she even gain a pound while pregnant, she has more friends and she always knows the right thing to say. Dare I mention her hair always looks good, makeup on point and totally put together.
Whatever it may be it’s there. But, why? If the saying is ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we let any number of those things steal our joy because that is exactly what it’s doing. You were fine until you became the new contestant on Who’s Kid Was Potty Trained First or Who Can Make Parenting Look The Best or an all time favorite the One Upper Game.
I’ll be completely honest with our kids life is more like Jeopardy with our oldest who always asks 304746292 questions just in the morning alone, the Newly Wed game with our middle because you never know which version of the threenager you will get that day and all 3 combined it’s like a day in the Amazing Race or sometimes Jumanji. I don’t need to be a contestant on the comparing game either, my hands are full.
Why should I compare journeys with someone else when backgrounds and circumstances are radically different. Have you ever envied someone else only to realize that thing you envied came with hard circumstances? The grass always seems greener on the other side but we have no idea the effort that goes into watering it.
When I compare often times mom guilt is tagging right long to join in on the party. Sometimes they can be separated but often times they can go hand in hand. I’ve felt mom guilt in so many areas that I shouldn’t and that probably if you said it to another person that would think it’s silly. I think it stems from deep down we want our children to succeed. We don’t want them to be better than other kids but we want them to be successful in their own right. We want what’s best for them and sometimes (or a lot) we lose sight of the fact that we can’t control everything and we can’t put that pressure on ourselves. For me I’ve found comparing leads to pressure which leads to stress which leads to anxiousness which leads to frustration which usually then gets taken out on people we love.
In 2020 we made the hard decision not to send our oldest to kindergarten because of COVID. We knew with work and 3 little kids we wouldn’t be able to keep up with the hybrid or all online schedule our school system was doing. I was so sad and so was our son. He is a very (read extremely) active, high energy child that we knew needed all day interaction and challenge. His brain never shuts off, even to sleep it seems, and he needs stimulation. We were all looking forward to this new step for him and for him to really shine in the daily challenge and burning off some energy. But, we really felt it best if he stayed home.
Some sort of homeschooling looked to be the best option. Guys, I had so many lofty ideas. Setting up classroom type things around the house, doing daily lessons and accomplishing so much. Guess what.. it didn’t happen. Yes we have workbooks, a huge binder I spent lots of time on and all the classroom supplies we needed. The first couple weeks went alright. He’d sit down and work diligently (most of the time) on his school work but after a while the newness wore off for him. It became a struggle to get him to focus. I was disappointed how things were turning out and I felt responsible. I saw friends post about their children’s success either in school or at home and felt we were behind. I was happy for my friends and cheering their kids on like I would my own don’t get me wrong but I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I was holding my own kids back. I felt I could have done XYZ better, could have made more time, could have tried new things to help us focus, done more research, maybe a different curriculum but then I realized I had 3 kids 5 and under, I was still healing from having a baby and also living in a pandemic. I looked at reality and thought we aren’t just surviving but we are thriving too. Maybe not in the ways I’d planned but we were still succeeding. I adjusted my expectations. I told myself we’d focus on letters and recognition and anything more would be an added bonus. Then one day our 3 year old asked our 5 year old with help on a word search in her coloring book. He graciously went over, looked at the page and confidently said, “You need to find these letters F-O-R-E-S-T.” Right then and I there I knew it, I knew we were succeeding.
So no my kids might not dress monochromatically, our daughter can’t live without hot pink and unicorns. We might not have gourmet lunches, their lunch lady is exhausted from being the janitor and the referee some days. My Instagram may never be famous or even have a huge following because my boxes are filled with bright color, uncoordinated outfits and/or messy backgrounds but filled with lots of love, funny stories and joy. My hair isn’t always perfect, yes even as a stylist it isn’t. And that is all okay. Some days are filled with tears, meltdowns and tantrums and other days are filled with celebrating new lego creations, dancing, keeping up with the baby’s newest trick and recording the 3 year old’s newest song she made up.
One of my favorite memes says, “don’t be so hard on yourself.. the mom in ET had an alien living in her house for days and didn’t notice” and even though it’s made up it’s funny and puts a little humor into reality. You’re doing great! Read that again and again until it sinks in. This year I want to be realistic with myself. I want the comparisons and guilt to be gone. I want to be present and authentically us and I invite you to do the same.
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