This mistake is dangerous. It will make your children miserable. It will frustrate your husband. And, if you don’t fight it: It. Will. Kill. You.
What is it?
And, if you are like me, it’s a struggle.
It started when I was pregnant. I compared my weight gain to that of every other with-child woman I knew, saw on TV, read about in a magazine or heard someone else talk about. Sure, I understood that it was healthy to gain, but deep down I wanted to know were I stood in my own imaginary competition where the skinniest pregnant woman wins. I compared others’ custom nursery themes to my “nursery in a bag” set from the Target clearance rack. I compared what strollers they bought, what birthing classes they took, and the cuteness of their maternity wardrobe.
The baby arrived. Soon, keeping up in the game became increasingly complicated. I became a sponge, absorbing every nugget of hearsay data on how other babies were progressing. Her daughter is already smiling. Her son is rolling over. Joey is sleeping through the night at six weeks and Susie is the world’s first crawling newborn! (Seriously!?)
I was consumed with where my little guy fit into the mix. He hadn’t smiled. He hadn’t rolled over. Sleeping, yeah, that wasn’t happening. Uh oh, was he going to be slow? Was there a problem? Was I doing something wrong? Or worse, was I just a BAD MOM (already!)?
Ahhh… but the mommy competition had only just begun. Seemingly innocent milestone questions like, “Where is she on the growth charts?” or “When did he start walking?” turn to, “How many words do they have?” or worse, “Who’s toddler is dressed the cutest?”
The preschool years arrive. Now, there’s really important stuff to compare…like how long it took to get little Susie to pee pee in the toilet. It’s competitive potty-training, alphabet singing, and letter scribbling that really define whether or not you are a good mother, right? We (secretly) compare vocabulary, hair, height, weight, manners, how they sleep, where they sleep, what they eat, and when they eat. We juxtapose their birthday parties, sports involvement, amount of screen time, and, **ahem** even the quality of their preschool’s curriculum, to that of our own.
Anything your three-year-old can do, mine can do better? Really?
Fortunately, once your child enters school, you don’t have to grapple with arbitrary measurements anymore. No, thankfully schools offer report cards and standardized testing so you can just look at the chart to find your mini-me’s dot on the bell curve. If you want, you can also have help assessing your child’s athletic prowess or musical talent. Just sign them up for lots of extra curricular activities. Be sure they get on **good** teams and are part of the **best** programs. Still not enough for you? You can always try child beauty pageants.
If all the kiddo comparison isn’t enough to drive you bonkers, you can play the other mommy comparison game. She runs marathons with her jog stroller (you clocked 26.2 in the minivan this week). She cooks fresh organic meals (you just popped in a frozen lasagna). Her door has a Pinterest-worthy homemade wreath, yours just has cobwebs (not the Halloween decorative kind either). I could go on…
Stop the insanity!
Can we get real and recognize that most of the comparison stress isn’t really about our children at all? It’s about us. We act like our children are little measuring sticks of our mommying success. And, that’s not necessarily true. We swell with pride when junior does something awesome (as if the credit is ours) and we shrink with shame when he does something, well, not so awesome (we are to blame). And, in most cases, neither the feat nor the fault is truly our doing.
So, let’s take the pressure off! We don’t have to be perfect moms. (Ironically, no one actually likes a perfect woman anyway!) We need to allow our children the freedom to not be perfect either. Because, yes, we do have a lot of influence on how our children turn out, but we don’t have a lot of control over their uniqueness and abilities. We can’t nurture, support, and shape them into something that they weren’t created to be. God put them here for a purpose. We need to stop comparing and accept that sometimes our children will look different, be different, and act different than those around them. And, as a mom, sometimes you’ll do things a little different too. And, that’s alright.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t let the comparison mistake steal your family’s happiness.