Stop the Emotional Drain: Comparison to Another Mom’s Life

Maybe dads are better. But as a mom I compare myself to others too often: my appearance when picking kids from school, how I fixed—or didn’t fix my daughter’s hair, the cleanliness of my house, what I’m cooking, or maybe my level of joy when cleaning or correcting kids and how I imagine other mom’s handle the situation . . .  The comparing doesn’t end well . . “Why can’t I be more like so-and-so” and “You’re such a failure Kelly!” I spiral down such a slippery slope of self-loathing and really stressed out. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to every other person.

Overlooking the blessings because I’m comparing

Not enjoying my kids jumping on the trampoline. Or soaking in the house we have and celebrating the ways I *have* made it ours. Or our health and the fact that our 2008 Toyota Highlander still runs and looks pretty stellar—when I give it a good car wash! On the rare occasion my comparison game leaves me thinking I’m in a better space than “Exhibit Mom ‘A’” it’s still not a win: my “better situation” can easily grow seeds of pride. OOouch!

I share this struggle because it helps me heal, but additionally, I hope my honesty gives you the courage to be open with a few safe people about your struggles with comparing yourself whether it’s your personality, life circumstances, your family vacation plans, your marriage . . .

Stop comparing yourself other people, instead connect with others. Your brain can't connect and compare simultaneously.

We’re not meant to live isolated lives, pulling ourselves up by our own wills or spiritual muscle.

Quietly trying to overcome our demons by searching the internet alone for another self-help article is not the answer (A little ironic I know, since this is a blog post encouraging you NOT to find all your solutions here). 😘

One of Jesus’ buddy’s put it this way: “Confess your sins one to another so that you will be healed. Not so that we’ll be saved!

James 5:16 (Emphasis mine)

Only Jesus can save us from our sins. But sharing our biggest hurdles and temptations with the right people? Invaluable. Unearthing and killing a comparison seedling requires carrying it into the light of true friendship hands, dirt and all. It means expressing your struggle to others out load. Such confession can keep the comparison game from germinating into a full-grown weed.

Let me say it again. Be real with someone. Share your struggle to compare.

A great starting for further meditation to stop compare yourself to others

Grab your bravery, coffee, tea or beer with a face-to-face friend and get weeding! In a remote working, curbside-pick-up world you and I need the touch-of-a hand, give-me-a-hug-or- chocolate-and-a-tissue kind of friend more than we realize. Still have cold feet? Imagine not struggling at all with comparison. Or way less. Honest conversations with safe people do this.

Feel lost or jaded to find people you can trust? Start with Get out of your Head by by Jennie Allen. Jennie shares her friendship struggles and interpersonal weaknesses, but also teaches about the power of rewiring our brains with positive thoughts, and the irreplaceable value of honest friendship has given to her life.

As you contemplate your next move here’s a couple thoughts to encourage you to stop comparing yourself to others and/or be honest about your own vices:

1. Keep your eye on your own “ball” not the progress of others.

Story Time: After an extended illness, I had to make-up an assignment for art class: three blind-line contour drawings. For the non-art majors out there, these were sketches done with two sets of paper stacked on-top of one another. One sheet to draw on, the other to cover your hand as you drew–forcing the artist to slow down and prevent over analysis of each pencil stroke along the way.

Initially, the thought of three more blind contours frustrated me; I completed a week’s worth of such drawings at school before getting sick and they hadn’t been impressive. Other students seemed to get into the flow and as their drawings were unveiled—I was almost always last to finish—my renditions lacked the connection and likeness to our models that my classmates drawings achieved.

At home, I surprised myself with the work I created. Without other students’ work to distract me, I truly focused on my drawing. I was proud of the drawings I tucked in my art portfolio Sunday evening. On Monday, my teacher agreed: they were by far, the best figure sketches I had completed all semester.

–> Application to mommy world: Where do you need to stop looking at what every other parent is doing and simply do what you makes you smile with your kids? Constantly looking over your shoulder “at the Jones” while parenting is exhausting. Admit you can’t be the savior to all your kids needs or questions. God never expected us to be perfect, well-rounded (?!?) parents who can tutor Calculus, be their personal fitness trainer, make organic home-made meals 3x day/7days a week, while also tirelessly volunteering for every event and fund-raiser. You will be your better mom self when you don’t grade your parenting minute by minute. I’ve done this. It’s no fun.

. . . And don’t overlook your use of social media

FB and all social platforms are highlight reels. How often do people post about dinners they burned, fights they just had with their spouse, their kids’ hang-ups? You get the idea. Do you feel better about your life, your kids, your marriage after flipping through posts? If it’s more often a bad vibe, take a break. There’s even apps to help you monitor your time and cut you off. Is that what you need? Or maybe you get really crazy and you don’t–gasp–keep your phone by your nightstand at night so you’re not tempted to dive into at night when a neighbors dog wakes you up. I keep my phone in my room for the longest time just cause I needed a clock. Guess what?! They still sell digital clocks on Amazon. Whaaaaaaaaaat? I know. Who knew? 😘

2. When we compare, we despair

Consider this memory from my ole’ camp counseling days:

During summer orientation one evening, female counselors cozied up in a cabin overlooking the cathedral like Redwood Forest. The sky was that wonderful golden color right before the sunset and in the warm quiet of a chatter-lull one brunette curly-haired girl cleared her throat. Julie confessed her angst with camp beginning in a few days. “Allison,” Julie beckoned, “you are so outgoing and quick-witted. I know your high school girls will love you!”

Allison’s face filled with surprise and she replied “How funny! I had just been thinking all day how much I wish I was like you: your sweet spirit and creativity. I was starting to feel like I shouldn’t be here.” Both wonderfully vibrant college girls had unwittingly envied on another. We all sat stunned, sobered and encouraged. None of us felt truly adequate for the adventure before us, but there was comfort in knowing we each had strengths others admired. And it didn’t hurt that we each shared a sense of being a bit over our heads in the roles we were about to tackle.

Isn’t that how parenting is every day?! We feel a little over our heads?

What strength in parenting do YOU possess?

Don’t minimize that gift! Believe it or not there are other moms who YEARN for the skill you naturally possess. Embrace it. And don’t be afraid to ask for help where you need it. Sometimes just just a listening ear can make all the difference.

You are NOT alone when you feel overwhelmed. You might FEEL alone, but remember you have the God of the Universe walking with you. He holds all your tears in a bottle and He cares more about your kids than you do. And this probably dates me, but you can “phone a friend”– I know, I know Who wants to be a Millionaire? right🥳?–and ask for prayer. Or maybe you ask them to tell you a joke so you lighten up. Or maybe you do both 😉

3. Your mind can only do one or the other: connect with others or compare to others.

In The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freemen, I was gently reminded when entering a room we have a choice: we can either spend our energy sizing ourselves up against everyone else or we can decide to step out and connect with someone. Our brains can’t actually performs both functions simultaneously. Recognize your picking “poison” if you jump into comparing.

4. Celebrate your wins!

At the end of the day, rather than reciting all the moments you “messed-up” as a mom, recount the victories or the sweet moments that day. I recently rediscovered an old gift dear friends gave me when our first son was born: Mom’s One Line a Day Five-Year Memory Book. It provides a couple lines each day to share a memory or two. Sometimes I just write what we did, but if I can help it, I record quotes from our kids I don’t want to forget.

Happy🥰 Reflection vs. Comparison 🤬😟

I don’t always get to writing in this memory book, but it’s been a great way to wind down in the evening rather than perusing social media videos to fall asleep to or over-analyzing crazy household moments that imploded.

5. NEWSFLASH: your mothering adventure won’t be the same as your mom’s.

If you had a highly dysfunctional family with substance and/or physical abuse or multiple re-marriages you’re probably thinking “Well of course Kelly! That’s obvious. I DON’T want that!!” But if you grew up in a loving home, it might be harder to let yourself do what works for YOU and YOUR man and fam. There’s more than one way to create a safe, loving, Jesus-loving family. That means everything from work situations to school choices, churches and financial goals.

Sometimes we can feel so boxed in or judged because of other people’s words—especially if they slap a Bible verse on with it. Confusing.

Questions & Tips to consider for your own “Stop Comparing” Mothering Road Map:

  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to you?
  • Are you giving yourself time to be still for more than 2 minutes and just listen?
  • If you’ve got toddlers, it can be extremely hard to carve out time for God. I know. Early mornings, potty training, sibling fights . . . Give yourself grace, but figure out a plan. For me, I try really hard to monitor my kids screen time to two hours or less or even none😁😯🤣. However, I’ve realized I need relax at times and let kids watch a show because time with my Savior is balm to my heart. I need time to journal at least a couple lines or pray or read a Bible chapter aloud or just be quiet.
  • Remember Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Do you feel peace or anxiety about your family’s choices? If not, what needs to change? When I am trying to get a feel for this it means sitting down, quieting my heart, thanking God for at least 10 specific blessings and taking a little time to renew my mind in his Word BEFORE I ask this question.

Recently a new version of Proverbs 19:2 has really gripped me:
“To act without knowing how you function is not good; if you rush ahead, you will miss your goal.”

CBJ Version

How you function best vs. your mom’s best approach –> stop comparing yourself to others

Story time: Our two boys, 2 and 4 attend half-day preschool two-to-three days a week even though I’m a SAHM. I wrestled with guilt about this initially, but I also felt completely elated at the thought of a couple hours to myself, to clean or blog or run errands by myself. By myself. Did I mention I’d be by myself? Let me explain a little deeper:

I’ve had a different lifestyle pattern created than perhaps a mother who started having kids in her early twenties. I spent my entire 20’s single: in charge of my own schedule, my house, my leisure reading time. Hiking for half a day during summer break as a teacher? Check! So as much as I love my 3 littles, it’s also been a major adjustment feeling like I hardly ever get time to journal or go do intense crossfit workouts like I used to. Did my brothers and I ever attend pre-school that early? Nope. But you know what? I’m a better mom given the space I have now. I’m fresh and I treasure the time with them better.   

After a longer than wished hiatus of regular exercise, Seth and I are both stepping into making physical activity a higher priority in our family. It will mean a little less family time but we know we’ll be better for our kids if we can spend 60 minutes at the gym 3-5 days a week.

Unrested? Stop comparing your life and rest in the Prince of Peace!

I know I just finished say this, but I feel it’s worth repeating. Remember our Savior is the Prince of PEACE!! If you don’t feel at peace about a certain goal, ask yourself what your true motivation is for stepping into that action. I know it is easier said than done but our VALUE does not come from what other think or say about us. Our Heavenly Papa offers adoption papers to the entire world into his family, no resume required! His Son has already paid for all the legal fees through his death. If we accept his offer of adoption, we are ROYALTY.

So remember these key take-aways, social media is a highlight reel not REAL life. Focus on your own story but don’t live your mom journey on an island devoid of honest friendship. Utilize helpful tips to succeed as a family for inspiration but don’t define your “success” by someone else’s check list. There is more than one exact way to parent well.

In the end, no matter what you do, take time to hear God’s voice and stop comparing yourself others! Your best parental “artwork” happens when you keep your eyes on your own family.

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