Monday, August 31, 2009

Why comparing yourself to other mums is a pointless waste of time and prevents you from experiencing better things like sex and chocolate.

Comparing yourself to others is only human. Right?

Back me up here people.

It's instinctive. Natural. Normal.

I'll admit: I compare myself to other people - especially other mums. People fascinate me. I like seeing how they handle situations I've been in. I like observing their different techniques. And I like seeing how they manage to stay on top of things.

The problem is, this little observation inevitably turns into an internal slanging match with myself over whether I'm as good as them.

Me: Your diaper bag isn't as organized as hers, is it?
Me: No. Why does it matter?

Me: Because because! You must keep up appearances.
Me: Yes you're right. Must. Do. Better.

Me: And look how patient and calm she is with her kids. Take note.
Me: Taking note...

It happens when I'm in Starbucks people watching working on my laptop, when I'm reading someone's blog, when I'm looking at people's photos on Facebook.

The possibilities are EVERYWHERE.

This is how I see the evolution of the nasty habit of comparing:

It starts at school when you look up at your classmate with the cool outfit and the top test results and wonder if your outfit and test results are as good; then you land your first job out of college and you ask yourself whether your boss likes you as much as your smart arse colleague - the one who sends 11 p.m. emails around the entire office to prove they did indeed work late; then you become a homeowner and your neighbour's lawn is just that little bit greener than yours; and then you're a mother and... holy shit. Where do I even start?

There are many many many opportunities to compare yourself to other parents when you become one yourself.

It's SO MUCH FUN! (That was sarcastic. In case it didn't come across.)

In prenatal class, I sat with J and ten other expectant couples, comparing my bump to theirs: was my bump too big, too small, or just right? Did they know more than me about this baby thing? Was I as calm and composed as they were? (It was only later I realized everyone in the class was just pretending to be calm and really were silently crapping themselves with fear and panic.)

And then, when I had my baby, the comparing went full speed ahead, and perhaps a little out of control.

Other women took to breastfeeding naturally. I didn't.

Other women seemed to always be doing interesting activities with their kids. Often I stayed home and played the piano to Matthew or read him books.

Other people's houses were FAR cleaner than mine.

Other mums lost their baby weight fast while I struggled to get the pounds off.

And there were baby books, magazines, online mum forums, TV shows, friends and relatives. All enablers of the comparison habit in one way or other. And social media. Yes, I'm sorry. I do love social media. It's great for making connections, meeting fabulous people, etc. But it does give you that sneak peek at other people's lives that again, inevitably leads to the ol' comparison making.

An example? I'll be perusing status updates on Facebook, and I'll see that So-And-So Supermum with not two but THREE kids has already been to Gymboree, written a report for work and worked out at the gym. All before 10 a.m. And I'm still in my pyjamas, with the bedraggled bedhead thing going on, looking mournfully at the dishes in the sink.

Yes. It's safe to say I was a little preoccupied with comparing myself to other mums. Partly because I was baby clueless. Partly because I craved reassurance, acceptance, approval. Partly because I'm a nosey hag. I watched other women for clues.

Thankfully, when I had my second son, I let go of the comparisons. Not completely, but enough to feel in control.

And so? What did I learn from all the comparisons? What is the point of this rambling, unscientific post?

To tell you something important.


I learned nothing from comparing myself to other mums. The only feelings that resulted were ones of self doubt and pointless thoughts at 2 a.m. like
oh no what if Jane comes over tomorrow and sees the spot under the fridge that I haven't cleaned in three years - she'll know I'm a terrible person!

More importantly these thoughts detract from more important things like ENJOYING LIFE. Things like chocolate, laughing, sex, drinking wine, spending time with your kids, taking photographs, going to dinner with friends, relaxing, going for a walk. You get the idea.

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Kate Coveny Hood said...

I think you're very wise LM. And now you're making me feel rather insecure...

Chic Mama said...

Oh we do continue this throughout our lives don't we...., with everything thats gone on in my life I've become more laid back. One of the worse things that could happen, happened so who cares if my house isn't as tidy as it was etc, etc, I've got enough to worry about without worrying about silly things.

Theta Mom said...

I think it's normal to have some of these long as they are left at that...just thoughts. When they start to consume you, well then that's not healthy.

But hey, sometimes it's like, "I have my sh-- together much more than she does! I must be doing all right!!!" LOL

rheanne said...

You were staying home playing piano and reading to your children...maybe I should have been doing that. Maybe my kids won't be as artistic and intellectual as yours (that was a joke, in case that didn't come through).
Loved what you have said. The comparing is so destructive. Thanks for the post.

Mwa said...

Hear, hear!

Loukia said...

I hate doing this, but I always do it, too! I'm rarely ever the one that comes out on top, either. It is always the other mom who has the more organized diaper bag, like you said, or the other mom who is more calm with her children, and more thin, and cooks better and healthier foods then me, and has better behaved children... sheesh... now I'm getting deprssed! ;)

Lisa said...

We ALL compare. It's horrible, but hard to stop. I find I do it the most lately when I'm reading other people's blogs. They are smarter, wittier, wiser, BETTTER. So I stop reading blogs for awhile, but then miss it and go back for more and vow not to compare, but simply enjoy. It's a work in progress...

Sparkless said...

There's always someone out there better, smarter, prettier etc. Celebrate yourself more and you'll have no need to feel you are less than other people. Comparing yourself to others is normal. Differences don't have to mean you aren't as good, just different than someone else and wonderful all in your own special way!

liliana said...

You are not alone.

Lady Mama said...

Kate - Thanks. I'm not wise yet unfortunately. Still learning.

Chic Mama - it's funny (and kind of awful) that sometimes the bad things that happen make us stronger and more laid back.

Theta Mom - just thoughts... hmmm... taking note.

Rheanne - hehe

Mwa - :-)

Loukia - gawd I didn't mean to make you depressed. I was supposed to be persuading you not to be. Argh.

Lisa - sometimes it's good to take a break.

Sparkless - good advice.

Lil - :-)

James (SeattleDad) said...

"Things like chocolate, laughing, sex, drinking wine, spending time with your kids, taking photographs, going to dinner with friends, relaxing, going for a walk"

Wow, sounds like you have a lot of fun compared to me...

Ok, this would be the point not to do it, right?

Mammatalk said...

Fabulous post. And, nosey hag? Hysterical!!

Momma Sunshine said...

I spent 5 years doing exactly what you said NOT to do. (almost 6 if you count pregnancy in there, too). It's an exhausting way to live, and I'm with you - life is just better off if you don't.

for me, it was a matter of being able to measure my own success - how could I know that I was doing okay, unless I had someone to compare myself to?

Sad, I know. I'm happy to report that I'm doing better in this's hard, but I'm working on it....

Great post! :)

Chandra said...

I think it's in every woman to compare and scrutinize. "Does she have a cuter baby, does she have better boobs, does she have a nicer house, is she thinner them me".

I dont' think guys do this at all and that make me wonder, are they really that secure? Wish I was but I know I'm not alone. That's why I love reading blogs because no matter how crappy I might be feeling today I can read about all you lovely ladies and it just makes me realize that we are mostly all alike with the same insecurities.

LZ @ My Messy Paradise said...

Oh, we would be such good friends in real life!
I couldn't agree more...I am guilty of comparing,and sometimes it is truly to better myself - how can I be more organized? She has 2 kids, too and still manages to cook - so can I! etc. But there are those moms that I know wake up every day hoping to look the part. I would so much rather be the lazy mom in pjs at noon than the mom who feels the need to put on a show to impress other moms. We should all just relax...

Kelly said...

It's funny because I was reading through your blog and thinking I should blog as often as you and come up with funny and inspiring posts.

I'm with you about still being in pajamas at 10. The kids and I hardly ever go out