The comparison trap. It’s something women have been doing from a young age. It starts with coveting your friend Susie’s new backpack on the playground and then turns into teenage body issues and then just continues to permeate into every part of our lives as we become adults. So it’s no surprise that it really hits big once you become a mother. The most vulnerable and formative time for some women. You arrive home from the hospital as an emotional mess who is sleep deprived and fumbling to figure out how to juggle even the simplest of tasks (getting a bra on, figure out how to get the spit up off your only clean shirt and dressing your baby in something other than just a diaper). Then, you open Instagram and that chick you follow who also just had a baby is fresh faced and out at a coffee shop and posted a super cute picture of her sleeping angel baby in the chicest onesie and her almond milk latte. And this is where it starts.
For the purpose of this post, I’m not talking about the verbal comparison you overhear on the playground where moms brag about how early their kid starting walking or which top-tier preschool they just got into, I’m talking about the one that lurks inside your head and tells you that you don’t measure up to the other moms. It’s the more dangerous of the two.
The hard realization is that there is no magic way to just clap your hands and make it all go away. It lingers and festers and it’s a stealer of joy. And I never want to feel like someone is taking away my joy that comes with being a mother, but damn, it’s hard when we’ve all gotten pretty good at making our lives look so….. together.
My pendulum swings two ways. I wanted to focus more on this comparison topic in regards to our online lives, since I feel like that has really launched into new heights these past few years. First, it’s a battle to see the constant “togetherness” of other mothers. First week home with a newborn and they have two blog posts up in full hair and makeup, their home is immaculate and they somehow are already wearing their pre-pregnancy skinny jeans. It appears they haven’t missed a beat. Who are these magical unicorn women? Sure as hell isn’t me. (For the record, I wrote this post prior to having baby #2 last Friday!) But here’s the thing….. the other side is that I also don’t actually want to see your messy kitchen full of dishes and your toy ridden playroom with a screaming toddler sprawled across the floor. Just as I don’t want to show you mine. I go to Instagram and Pinterest and such for inspiration, to be creatively challenged and to also keep up with friends and family. So the dilemma isn’t actually with those unicorn women, it’s with how I choose to process and internalize the social media content I’m digesting.
Listen, I struggle with this just like every other mama out there. So why do we let ourselves fall into these mommy wars? Why are we so quick to judge others and then immediately judge ourselves? I'm not here to lecture - more to just open up discussion and thought on the subject.
THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM: There’s a lot of pressure for mothers and women to ‘have it all’ thanks to current trends, self help books and magazine headlines. We create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and for others. Sure, having goals and challenging ourselves are all wonderful things we should be doing - to an extent. But ultimately, we make ourselves feel insecure and our gel manicured mom claws start to come out! I had to stop and ask myself, “Who am I allowing to be my mom role models?”. If it’s not a healthy version of who I want to be as a mother, than I need to stop the comparison. Especially if I don’t know that woman in real life! If it’s just her internet life, than what on earth am I doing being so invested in the difference between our two worlds?
SOCIAL MEDIA COMFORT LEVELS: My level for depth on social media is about the depth of a kiddy pool at times. I’ve never been one to post or mention the nitty gritty of our lives on a daily basis. My natural self isn’t super emotional, prone to post an unedited photo or quick to share my struggles. Others are far more comfortable showing that side of their life. Know your comfort level for things and don’t hold it against another mother that they also edit their moments before sharing or that they like to really get raw and real with their posts. I will be the first to say that what I choose to share online is not as real as what I share with my fellow close mom friends I know in the flesh. Because they are the ones I feel comfortable with on that level. This doesn’t make me any less authentic in what I do share online.
CAPACITY: Do you ever use the number of children a mother has to form strong comparisons? Whether you have one kid or ten, you’re a freaking rockstar. Yet I find myself saying, “She has four kids and look at everything she gets done! I only have one (now two!) and can’t seem to do half of that.” We need to stop doing that. I don’t have the capacity for four kids right now in my life, but that woman does and how amazing is that? Good for her! Same goes for the stay-at-home versus working mother comparison. At this point, we all know the reasons for both, but realize that that lends itself to people having different capacity levels for things.
PERCEPTION: To continue with my pendulum swings scenario, there are these two distinct sides to the equation. We can’t compare and criticize those moms who have the capacity, talents and who find joy in doing things like hosting Pinterest worthy dinner parties and want to share them…. but don’t share the aftermath when their child had a meltdown and they missed half the meal. We do the exact same thing when we choose to only share the sweet sides of our lives. Let’s not punish others for choosing to curate, just as we do. Remember, perception is everything and in a world where what we share has become how we all market, brand and pitch ourselves….. learning how to filter through that when talking with or seeing photos posted from other moms will really help us all to just take a deep breath and come back to our own wonderfully perfect-just-as-it-is life. Don't give it so much authority to reshape how you feel about your mom-ness.
Let’s all agree to make peace with what works for our families, to support our mom friends (online and in real life) that kickass at things that we don’t and to remember that social media isn’t the real world or the guiding light to how our lives should be. Take a lesson from the brilliant Amy Poehler when she says 'Good for her! Not for me.'
Be sure to check out and follow along with the other amazing mamas who are sharing their stories as part of this series. Also be sure to check out our previous topics: Travel, Feeding, Sleep, Relationships, Self Care, , Co-Parenting and Play. Links below! #realmomseries
Alex : Avestyles