How to celebrate your uniqueness and stop comparing yourself to other moms
Hey Moms! Happy Mother’s Day! This post is for all of you that second guess yourselves, worry that you haven’t done a good enough job, beat yourselves up for decisions you’ve made, and compare yourselves to other moms. Well, that sounds a bit negative, kind of like a downer! NO – wait. See the title of this post? ↑ We’re going to celebrate our uniqueness and get past all that icky stuff. I promise!
Struggling with perfectionism for much of my life, I am all too familiar with the self doubt that hangs around in the minds of so many mothers. Why is it that we, as mothers, don’t ever fully believe that we are doing the right thing or making the right choices and are frequently comparing ourselves to others?
It starts immediately too, with pregnancy. But, think about it. How do you know you’re not doing the “right thing?” Why is it that you must be doing it wrong while others are always getting it right?
Why is it that you must be doing it wrong while others are always getting it right?
It’s not like there is a course or degree to certify that you are qualified to be a mom. I don’t know about you, but when I was young, there was no “how to be a perfect parent for life” class. Sure there were sessions at the hospital where you may have learned about feeding and changing diapers and what to expect from a newborn, but what about the next day/year/rest of their lives?
How did we learn? From our own mothers, relatives, and friends, and there were lots of magazine articles about motherhood and parenting and television programs portraying family life. Most of those portrayals showed healthy, vibrant, active, happy, and engaged moms. Or, at least those were the ones that stood out.
When you’re questioning if you’re doing it right and comparing yourself to other moms, you look around at others – and at pictures of mothers – and think your life “should” look like that. And oftentimes we assume all the other mothers around us are perfect too. (Well, all except for the ones who ended up on Dr. Phil or Jerry Springer!) For those of us in midlife, we compared our lives/our parenting with those that we saw in magazines and on tv.
And now, with the internet, there is even much more to compare ourselves with/against. Although, I do have to say that there is positive movement towards more inclusive and realistic portrayals of girls, women, and mothers, but I think those may be overlooked, while the so-called “perfect” versions are given more attention.
My mother and me on vacation together for my 50th birthday!
Even today, as a mom of young “adults,” I compare my parenting to others, and I believe it still happens frequently for a lot of us older moms. I do have a lot more confidence in my decisions and have learned to be mostly ok with the choices I made, and I’ve also set up some healthy boundaries. But I still need reminded that there is no reason to compare myself to others.
So, I’ve come up with the four things for us to remember to help us stop comparing ourselves to other moms.
1. Every person – every mom – is different
I know you know this. But really, think about it. There is no way there can be one perfect way to be a mom.
There’s the fact that we were all raised differently. This includes the area in which we grew up and the culture in which we were taught. We have so many different experiences that nothing we do could ever be the same as another person.
We try to emulate who we think appears to be happy, based on our own perceptions or ideas of what happy is or what we believe is the “right way.” While someone else believes that another way is right.
If I grew up as a vegetarian, I believe that is the right way to nourish my body and my child’s body. A mom who grew up on a farm raising and butchering animals believes the total opposite. So, basically the whole question of what is right is a crapshoot!
We do the best we can with what we know, what we learn, the people around us/in our lives, and where we live. And, so there really is never any comparing one mom with another. It’s like the whole apples and oranges thing really, when you think about it.
2. Every child is different
Again, you know this, right? I just want to emphasize some things you may not always take into consideration. Remember nature vs. nurture? Our children are different because of their genes and DNA and also because of the world around them (area of the world in which they live, schools they attend, family income, family dynamics, etc. etc. etc.) and how they interact with that world. Even twins don’t have the same personalities, the same interests, or the same demeanor. So, this just confirms the fact that we cannot compare ourselves with other mothers. We aren’t raising their particular children and they aren’t raising our special, unique, and fabulous-one-day-horrible-the-next children!
3. We don’t know what life is really like for others
The truth is everyone has their own struggles. We assume that the mom who lives in that huge mansion, drives that big fancy SUV, and has a lot of money is in a better position than the one who lives in a small apartment, has no vehicle, and has difficulties paying the bills.
Why? The person in that small apartment may be the happiest and most content person while the person in the gigantic home may be in bed crying and living with emotional anguish. If you don’t know them, you can’t know whether or not they are at peace, fulfilled, happy, and content. And even if they are, it can change in an instant.
And consider, even those moms with whom you are acquainted are likely putting on a show of some sort to make it seem like all is ok. We often joke about our day-to-day struggles (think about the memes that Grown and Flown posts online) with children, but often don’t get into conversations about the really hard stuff.
We don’t reveal that we’re clinically depressed or that our child threatened to move to another state with her dad or that our teenager punched a hole in the wall. We don’t want others to know about those things and we really don’t want anyone to think that we can’t handle it. (See my post on vulnerability, where we talk about how being open about these things can help.)
We can’t compare ourselves as moms because we have no idea what we are comparing ourselves to – how do we know if that mom has a “perfect family?” Most likely, she doesn’t.
How do we know if that mom has a ‘perfect family?’ Most likely, she doesn’t.
4. You do the best you can
So, think about it – you do the best you can. Looking back, of course, we all wish we had made different choices or decisions along the way. But we can’t dwell on that – mainly because the truth is that we do what we can at the time and in that particular situation.
You don’t know what would have been different if you had made other choices or decisions. How could you know what would life be like if you had done things more like the neighbor, your sister, or the person you saw at soccer practice who always seemed to “have it all together?” You did what worked for you at that time. Being kind to yourself makes a huge difference.
So there is no reason to think “if only i would have ______.” It doesn’t matter. What matters is the present and making choices that are serving you now and those that you feel good about. Not what someone else did or is doing, but what YOU feel is right for you and your own situation.
As I’ve written about before in this post on happiness, it is important to acknowledge your achievements and your accomplishments. Think about all that you’ve been through and overcome, and all that you’ve done for others. Take a few minutes each day to recognize the good and make note of your accomplishments, even if it was that one quick hug you gave your child. Sometimes a hug or something small can make all the difference.
Celebrate your uniqueness
This year for Mother’s Day, I am here to tell you that you have done and are doing the best that you can. You might not be doing it like your own mother did; you might not be making the same choices as the person raising the star athlete or the class president; you may not have the same relationship with your children as the ones you envy in the movies; and it might not be like you thought it would be.
But, that’s ok. There is no perfect or exact right way of mothering/parenting. No child is the same, no person is the same. All circumstances are different. And the fact that it’s YOUR motherhood, YOUR child, YOUR life makes it pretty freakin’ special if you ask me!!
What are your thoughts? Do you still find yourself comparing your parenting to others? Being a mom is huge and you just want to do the right things for your children – and guess what? You are!!!
LET’S CELEBRATE MOTHER’S DAY BY RECOGNIZING THE UNIQUENESS OF ALL OF US!