WHAT THE PARENTING BOOKS DON'T TELL YOU: The Comparison Rabbit Hole

I used to waste a lot of time comparing myself to others. Now I think about all the things I could have been doing instead -- namely, being super awesome instead of worrying about not being awesome enough.

Oct 8, 2013 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

Yesterday morning I was not feeling my best.

I was so bloated that my skirt didn’t fit and it kept riding up, and also I had accidentally put on that one pair of underwear that just ends up in my crack no matter what. (Note to myself: throw away those panties so you never put them on again.)

My choice of shoes was not well planned, and I just felt physically off. To top things off, I almost forgot to pack a lunch for my child -- and packing his lunch is like the one thing I have to do for him in the morning, besides making sure he isn’t late for school.

After I dropped Oliver off, I was walking away from the school, when there in front of me was the president of the PTA -- a woman who spends 90% of her time devoted to kids, both at home and at school. She is the kind of person who, when she is not kicking ass in the PTA and organizing fundraisers, probably crafts and bakes (for fun!), and finds time to have cocktails with her girlfriends once a week. This woman always looks really put together, even at 8:00 am. So here I am following behind shiny hair, and a perfect red lip. And a manicure. And a perfectly accessorized outfit that fit well, including a skirt length that worked flawlessly with her shoe choice. (And between you and me, I am pretty sure she is getting some expensive microdermabrasion because her skin looks uh-mazing.)

 

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I will not compare myself to other moms. I will not compare myself to other moms.

It’s been a long time since I’ve compared myself to someone else in such a blatant way, so this was an unpleasant surprise. I used to waste a lot of time comparing myself to others -- my friends were always prettier or more talented or better writers or had better clothes. If I could only do X as well as so-and-so I would be so much happier.

Now I think about all the things I could have been doing instead -- namely, being super awesome instead of worrying about not being awesome enough -- and I could cry. What a waste. Life is so much better when you just live it.

For a lot of the mothers I know, it is way too easy to go down the comparison rabbit hole. There are plenty of opportunities, between what we read on blogs and what we see on the playground. There is always going to be some mom out there who spends hours crafting themed foods for the third grade class party. There are moms whose children seem to miraculously repel dirt. 

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My friend made these cute reindeer cake pops for our kids' class party last year. (They were pretty tasty, too.)

Ironically, it was motherhood that set me right and made me see the error of my comparative ways. With all that unconditional love I felt for another human being, I found a focus that was not so me-centric. When my son adores me and tells me I’m the best mom in the world, it is hard to continue to pick apart my own flaws, let alone stop to compare them to what I perceive to be the flawlessness of others. 

And flawed I am. For one thing, I’m not nearly as patient as I would like to be. I sometimes spend too much time working. I don’t play with my kid as often as I think I should. I sometimes say or do the wrong thing. And there is so much I feel like I should be doing that I don’t do.

But you know what I’m really good at? Making sure my son does all of his homework. Building LEGOs. Going on walks and talking about nature. Remembering to buy those mini chocolate chip waffles that he loves, just because I know he loves them, even if they are not really nutritionally sound. Teaching him how to clean the toilet and fold his clothes. Answering his questions honestly. Giving him a hug when he’s feeling sad.

These are my strengths, and I’m pretty proud of them. I can let the other moms have the dirt-repellent children and all the craft projects Pinterest can supply. Those are their strengths. I have my own thing, even if I am feeling like a bloated mess who desperately wants to go home to change out of her ill-fitting skirt.

The other day Oliver gave me a really sweet hug and a kiss on the cheek for no reason. The kid is onto something here. He’s totally right, I am the best mom ever -- to him. Just like the PTA president is the best mom to her kids, and my friend who makes the themed foods is the best mom to her kid. 

Are you a parent? Tell me about something you are really good at doing, even if that one thing is not forgetting to pack your kid’s lunch.