Confession 5: I Sometimes Compare Myself to Other Parents
Comparison is the thief of Joy. I don't know who said that, but wow were they on to something. I feel like that more I do this motherhood thing, the less I compare, and the more I see the value of different approaches to motherhood. Don't misunderstand, I totally still compare myself to other parents for BEYOND stupid reasons. I am simply owning that I do this, and that I am working on it. Just like Colleen Duggan in Chapter 5 of Good Enough is Good Enough: Confessions of an Imperfect Catholic Mom. The crazy thing is that the moms I usually compare myself to are VERY different from me to begin with. I have a great friend who LOVES working out and running, it is her way of relieving stress. When we first started hanging out I thought, "Wow, she has had way more kids than me and is so thin and healthy!! I need to start running to also look that good in a bathing suit." Then I remembered, I don't enjoy running. That is not a stress reliever for me. I will probably explore this a little more after this little baby in my womb is born, because 3 pregnancies in 3 years has done a number on my body, but not because I need to be like this friend. She is amazing. I want to learn from her and glean wisdom from her, but I don't need to worry about how I look in a bathing suit compared to her, because that isn't fair to me, or to her!
I have another friend who has no tv in her home. They do very limited- like 2-3 hours a week- of screen time per week. When she first told me that they had no tv, it made me reconsider how often I put a show on for my 2 boys just so I can shower, or make dinner, or have a moment of quiet peace. Was I rotting their brains, for totally selfish reasons?!?! Should I chuck our tv in the garbage?! AM I A BAD MOTHER?! Then I remembered that every family is different. I love watching tv, I have fun shows I like to watch, and I have fond memories about watching cartoons as a kid, all snuggled up on the couch. Does that mean that we need to have the tv on all day? No. But that does mean that what works for us, is not going to work for others. And that is ok. Her family also has a large shaded backyard where the kids can play. Our backyard is a work in progress with zero shade. For about 6 months out of the year Phoenix requires shade, or sunburns and heat stroke set in quickly. I can’t just send them outside. Also, I am currently 7 months pregnant, and don’t have the energy to take them out to parks or museums right now. We are in a season of survival. TV helps with that survival. I am learning to be ok with that, and recognize that that does not make me a bad mother.
God reminded me, through Colleen's book, that we are all different. AND THAT IS OK! That does not mean that I don't need to work on cultivating a more creative home, or taking care of my body, but what it DOES mean is that God is doing a work in me that has NOTHING to do with the work he is doing on my friends. All I can do is maybe learn from their parenting techniques and try to apply what actually can work for us. And that might mean learning that their parenting techniques don't work for our family dynamic at all.
When I first became a mother, (not that long ago) I compared myself ENDLESSLEY to other moms. I do not think this was intentional on my part, it was just something I did without even realizing it. When I asked for advice from more seasoned mothers, I found that some of their advice made me totally rethink everything about what I thought my approach to motherhood would be. Sometimes it was good, a good reminder that I need to CHILL OUT and give myself and my growing family grace. However, sometimes it make me feel inferior, like I was failing miserably at being a mom. That was never any of my mom friend’s intentions, that was ALL ME. I needed to remember that comparing myself to others is as effective as trying fit the whole ocean in a small bucket. Totally useless. Just because I parent differently does not mean I parent worse. Its just DIFFERENT, because I am different, and my kids are different, and our circumstances are different.
I love when Collen talks about her conversation with her brother and she starts to give him totally unsolicited advice and he says, "Are you in my sandbox? Because you have plenty of sand in yours." YES. I have plenty of sand, plastic dinosaurs, diapers, laundry, dishes, and chaos in my own sandbox, so I don't need to concern myself with what is going on in another person's sandbox.
Sometimes we can get intimidated or feel judged when another person parents totally different than us. I think we can feel self conscious or resentful because of our own issues, that have nothing to do with others. I don't need to justify myself to anyone. As long as my husband and I are on the same page about what we have prayerfully discerned works best for our kids, than that’s all that matters.
How do you handle children’s extracurricular activities? Is your family life balanced or not?
Our children are still very young, so we don't have this issue quite yet, however we definitely are very protective of our family time and limit commitments and extracurricular activities.
Do you have a tendency to moralize certain parenting practices? Why or why not? What parenting practices do your friends make into moral issues? Why is the practice a moral issue or why is it not?
I don’t think I have really experienced this to a great extent. I know that discipline can be a huge topic, to spank or not, but I trust my friends very much, and see the fruits of their efforts, so even if we disagree about something like discipline, there is still respect. I think the morality of that example is always something to evaluate, and prayerfully discern.
Do you compare yourself against the activities and efforts of other parents? Are these comparisons generally helpful or unhelpful?
I definitely have moments when I compare myself to parents who seem to have a fun and creative activity for their children on a regular basis. Or parents who take their children on extravagant vacations, but I just remind myself that I am not in a season to be taking my kids to weekly story time, or daily play dates. They are still small and playing dinosaurs in our living room is enough to keep them entertained for hours right now.
Have you ever had to abandon a “perfect” parenting practice is favor of a “lesser” one? Why? What did you learn?
Yes! I realized with my first child that I hate nursing. It is exhausting, I am not good at it, and it steals a lot of my joy of a new baby if I do it for too long. So, we formula feed and nurse from the very beginning. I had to let go of all those ideas that I am not a good mother because I don’t like to nurse, and embrace that a fed baby is a happy baby, and that my joy and mental peace are just as important as a fed and happy baby.
Knowing that you can’t force your kids to be or remain Catholic, how can you show them why the faith is so important?
Just living out our faith daily, praying with them, and for them, and trying to live a virtuous life. Sometimes my husband and I fail spectacularly at this, and other days we find our children in the prayer corner of our home peacefully looking at our collection of prayer cards of the Saints. We just try hard, and that is all any of us can do.
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