Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
In my experience as a mom, it can also be the thief of:
- sleep in the middle of the night,
- patience with my children and husband, and
- healthy friendships.
So, for something that causes so much unhappiness in my own life (and yours too, I suspect), why do we keep falling into the comparison pit?
Here are four ways we unintentionally keep falling into the comparison pit, and how to get out – and stay out!
You’re looking for help in all the wrong places.
When my son was around a year old, he wasn’t walking yet. We’d go to playgroups, and I’d compare my son to those other kids his age who were walking, and felt like I was doing something wrong that he hadn’t achieved this milestone.
The fact of the matter was, my son needed extra help learning to walk, and we eventually ended up in physical therapy. But my concern wasn’t helped by constantly comparing notes with other moms – I eased my concerns by speaking with our family doctor, who then referred us to a physical therapist.
So, the next time you are looking to the left and right of your child’s playmates, wondering if your child stacks up, take a step back. Ask yourself, “Is this a simple difference in children, or is it revealing a genuine concern I have?”
Then, if you need to, take those concerns to someone who can truly provide insight and help.
Your friend group has a bad habit.
This is especially for first-time moms who are looking to form friend groups around having their first baby. So you form playgroups where you can all relate to the sleepless nights, breastfeeding issues, and challenges of being first-time moms.
But when you get together, it’s all too easy for the conversation to turn to comparison.
- When did your baby get his first tooth?”
- “What age did your baby crawl?”
- “When did your baby start sleeping through the night?”
You’re constantly assessing how your child stacks up. Moms of older kids can get stuck in this cycle, too – although the conversation is less about tummy time and reflux and more about TV time and reading skills.
The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of these comparison points won’t matter in six months, much less six years. Instead, I have two techniques for turning the tide of these conversations:
- Answer with moderation. “I can’t remember exactly when she started reading. I know all my kids have been different, and that’s okay.”
- Change the subject away from the kids. “Angie, I saw on IG Stories that you’re in the middle of a great book right now. Have you finished it?”
Hopefully, you’ll create a new dynamic among your friends by navigating the conversation in ways that build genuine friendships.
Your habits are betraying you.
When I’m feeling lonely, or bored, or just wanting a break, my brain desperately wants me to check out Instagram. “It will make you feel good,” it lies.
But opening Instagram when I’m at an emotional or physical lull in my day is just as unhealthy for me as going to the grocery store when I’m starving. My brain and emotions end up like a shopping cart overloaded with unhealthy responses.
I see pictures of other friends bonding with their kids, tackling their to-do list, or experiencing heights of joy that I’m sure I’ve never climbed and I feel inadequate and jealous.
Here are two techniques to stop the social media despair:
- Be mindful when you engage with social media. If you are having a down moment, read a book, listen to music, go for a walk, bake something. Do what genuinely makes you feel good. Using social media is for when your emotional tank is full. Then, you can scroll while celebrating the successes of others instead of secretly envying them.
- Take a break altogether. I’ve had seasons of motherhood where I needed to step away from social media entirely so I could rediscover what I enjoyed about my own family. Instead of wondering whether our Friday night plans measured up, I simply enjoyed what we did as a family without fear of being good enough.
That one mom.
Years ago, I had a mom friend I’ll call Camilla. We got along well and had a good time together. Camilla was outgoing and confident. But after each time we were together, I felt deflated and I couldn’t figure out why.
I’d walk away with my head spinning with all the wonderful things Camilla and her kids were doing. I felt like my family would never measure up.
It took me some time, but I realized that Camilla wasn’t just a naturally positive person. She was looking for affirmation in our conversations, subtly presenting her family in only an unnaturally positive light, without mentioning the challenges we all face from time to time.
While these things certainly made me admire her for a time, after a while I realized it wasn’t the full picture of her life. And underneath that confident bravado were probably some deep insecurities.
It wasn’t a good foundation for a healthy friendship. After realizing this, I spent a couple of conversations with her trying to dig deeper and mutually share struggles. She wasn’t ready to do that, and I ended up investing more of my time and effort into other friendships.
While I don’t suggest stepping back from friendships lightly, I do think it’s good to realize when someone in your life is constantly causing you to fall into the comparison trap. Look for friendships that both challenge you and encourage you.
Or, maybe you’ve realized that you haven’t been authentic in the friendships you’d like to cultivate. It may be time to take off the mask of perfection and just be real.
Which trap are you most likely to fall into? What changes can you make to stop comparing and start enjoying motherhood more?
Make sure you never miss out on a parenting or community-related blog post: sign up to receive Cedar Rapids Moms posts in your inbox. While you’re at it, join our VIP List to ensure you’re one of the first to know about upcoming Cedar Rapids Moms’ events and promotions!!