Being the mom I wanted to be before the comparison began
I entered motherhood with a zeal to succeed at raising well-rounded humans and not lose myself in the process.
I didn’t realize that my perception of and comparison to other moms would impact both my ability to be the mom I wanted to be and be a detriment to my mental health in the process.
What did I care about?
being loved well
having security and stability
being fed, dressed and nurtured well
getting to be children
knowing they are unconditionally accepted
I wanted nothing more than to know I had broken the cycle of generational trauma and the cycle of generational poverty. Having had a tumultuous upbringing, I knew that I wanted a different life for my children and I’d have done anything to make that happen.
I wanted to provide a safe and loving home and a childhood from which they that they wouldn’t have to recover.
I wanted to be a good mom.
As it happened, I was a good mom, but I lost sight of what was important as time went on because I jumped on the comparison train. I looked to all the moms in my life and the internet and saw the best of what they did and tried to emulate all of it simultaneously: it was a recipe for disaster.
I started comparing myself to other moms and it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough.
Going Beyond Comparing Myself to Other Moms: My Journey to Connection over Comparison
I started off my motherhood journey in a way that made me feel like I was doing pretty well.
Breastfeeding my first-born worked out for me. I wore my baby and loved it. I did all the crafts and made home-cooked meals. I was intentional about socialising my kids and exposing them to a variety of people and activities. I kept my house clean. I was patient. I was kind. And for a little while… I was thriving.
Soon enough though, after hitting the ground running and forgetting about myself in the process: my stamina began to dwindle, I had a second child that was much, much more difficult than the first, the sleep deprivation set in, my mental health took a beating in the form of postpartum depression and I started looking at how everyone else was seemingly better at all this than I was.
Newsflash: they weren’t.
And here is how I figured it out.
I connected with them.
Connecting with them did 2 things:
- It made me realize other moms weren’t doing it all well;they were doing some of it well.
- It made me realize I wasn’t considering the “why” behind other moms doing well
Coming to both of these realizations has made me reconsider my hyper-critical view of myself and my mothering, learn to accept the kind of mom I amand has given me loads of grace for other moms who do things differently to me.
If those sound like things you could do with a little more of, read on.
Moms Can’t Do it All Well, And That’s Normal
Connecting with other moms and learning how they managed to pull it “all” off made me realize that they weren’t pulling it all off, they were pulling something off.
They did some things well, some things mediocre, some things good enough, and other things just not at all.
And I learned that that’s not only okay, but it’s essential for our long-term parenting goals.
The problem was that I was taking all the things other moms were doing well and trying to do all of them at full capacity. I wanted to be the healthy mom, the sports mom, the craft mom, the super clean mom, the playing mom, the fun mom, the organized mom and the mom who looked awesome doing it all at the same time.
And I beat myself up for the things that I couldn’t do.
Once I connected with other moms I saw that some things came more naturally for them, and others they had to work at or they just didn’t prioritize.
And funnily enough, I didn’t think they were less than for not doing it all. No no no, that unrealistic perfectionist standard I only kept for myself.
Though connection I saw this:
- The Pinterest craft mom didn’t care much about how clean her house was
- The everyday home-cooked, organic meals mom hated doing crafts
- The mom who always played with her kids didn’t care much how they dressed
- The mom who always had perfectly dressed and groomed kids didn’t leave the house much
- The mom who always took her kids to fun places didn’t cook much
And amazingly, their kids were growing up unique, loved, and well-adjusted.
The reality is that we’ve all got varying degrees of each of these capacities.
The reality is that we can’t do everything well because we simply do not have enough time in a day.
The reality is that through connecting with other moms, we begin to see how damaging it is to compare ourselves and how beautiful it is that we’re different.
Moms Who Are Good at Stuff are Good at it For a Reason
Some moms are just better at some things than me and some moms genuinely do seem to be able to handle more than I can. For a time, that was hard to see.
It made me feel like I was not cut out for motherhood.
I didn’t just compare the things I did well, I hyper-focused on what I didn’t. It was second nature.
I looked at what they fed their kids, how patient they appeared, if their kids watched a lot of screens, how clean their houses stayed, what sorts of activities they did, how much they played with their kids, and all the surface things like if they got those themed photo shoots for every minor holiday (like I attempted for the first year or so).
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I couldn’t stop comparing myself until I connected with them.
Through getting to know other moms, building relationships and looking deeper in their lives I started to notice things.
- The mom who managed to upkeep her appearance had access to money and childcare that I didn’t
- The sporty extra-curricular activity mom has a husband who was equally involved and whose work didn’t consume his life
- The super clean mom actually did so because she struggled with anxiety
- The extra patient mom lived around the corner from her own parents who were highly-involved and gave her lots of breaks
- The mom who was always involved in the school programs and brought snacks to all the events didn’t work a full time job
And more, so so much more.
Now, of course we are all varying degrees of each of these, not everyone is a “_______” type of mom, but some definitely have more of a focus on certain aspects than others. That’s okay.
It was easy to look at what everyone else was capable of pulling off without considering a multitude of factors that are real and tangible and legitimate reasons why some moms could seemingly do more things or do certain things better.
Once I considered how the following things affected another mom’s ability to do different things, I began to give myself a whole lot more grace.
- Their resources and household income
- Their support system
- Their values
- Their goals
- Their other responsibilities
- Their career
- Their own struggles
- Their access to information
- Their health/ mental health
- Their number of children
- The ages of their children
All of these things are huge. They impact all of us and our desire and ability to both do things, and to do them well.
I began to sit back and analyze what my biggest goals were, what my budget allowed, what my support system made space for, how my values would play a role and how my mental health put a roadblock in my best made plans.
I saw through this analysis that I was good at being a mom, but not great at everything. More importantly it made me realize that’s okay.
It made me realize that it is normal for each mom to have a different capacity and resources that make up that capacity.
It made me realize I was enough.
A Way Forward For Moms Wanting to Connect Instead of Compare
Through connection, I looked at my motherhood differently.
Connecting with other moms
- helped me see that our life circumstances are extremely important in how we view ourselves and others, and that we never see someone else’s full picture
- helped me to extend empathy and give grace to both myself and other moms.
- helped me to prioritise my time and energy for what was important to me.
- helped me come to a radical acceptance of what kind of mom I was.
- has shown me the beauty in our uniqueness.
- taught me that I am enough.
I didn’t need to be the mom who could do it all. I needed to be a mom who was confident in who she was and didn’t try to be what she was not.
I needed to stop comparing and start connecting.
I eventually learned that it is okay to say no. It’s okay not to not be what other moms are. It’s okay to let things slide. It’s okay to be good enough.
In fact, rather than aiming for perfection in all things, I now aim for good enough.
You know what? Good enough is the new perfect.
And when we connect with other moms, when we look deeper than the surface, when we see them for the imperfect humans they are, we begin to accept our own imperfections: and that is a beautiful place to get to in our journey.
We waste less energy when we put our energy into doing what we do well, rather than stewing about what we don’t do or stewing about what everyone else is doing.
When we connect we also build community, and that is something every mom could use a little more of these days.
As for me, when I stopped comparing and started connecting, I learned a whole lot more about the kind of mom I wanted to be, and I began to love being her.
You can learn to love the mom you are too, I bet she’s actually really really great.
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PS. If you’re interested in what “type” of mom I am now, this will give you an idea.