You probably do it too, but may not be aware of how harmful it can be. I’m not talking about eating ice cream at midnight or flipping through US Weekly while waiting in line at Whole Foods. I’m talking about comparing yourself to other women. There’s nothing worse, especially when you become a mom. Comparing myself to other moms brings out the Reality-TV-style-drama-queen side of me that thankfully not too many people get the pleasure of seeing (except, of course, my husband). I become a sleep-deprived, whiny woman who isn’t fun to be around. And it’s not good for your kids either.
Well into the premiere trimester of my first pregnancy, I’d look down at my circa 1999 boot cut jeans with a rubber band tied around the button-fly waist and think, “Oh, boy, this isn’t going to hold out much longer.” We hardly had enough money to pay for downtown parking, let alone buy top-quality “office-appropriate” maternity clothes. (I was inconveniently pregnant with my first child before Target’s maternity line came about.) I’d see all the stylish young moms-to-be strutting around Seattle wearing expensive designer maternity suits and stress out when I couldn’t find one that cost less than what my husband and I were paying on a monthly basis to rent our adorable one-bedroom apartment. I was excited about being pregnant, but didn’t realize the harm I was doing by second-guessing my decisions so early on.
These types of questions would start swimming through my pregnant head:
Will other moms look down on me because the stroller we received as a shower gift resembles a grocery cart (and nothing close to what Demi Moore used for her daughters)?
Will my child be an under-achiever because I didn’t start playing Baby Mozart for him while in the womb?
How many more weeks can I stretch my basic black elastic waist-band skirt until it pops?
When it came to a delivery plan, I once again started to second-guess my choices based on what other mothers around me (and in popular baby magazines) were doing. Although I admired women like Ricki Lake who had a natural birth, I had an incredibly challenging first birth experience (including false labor, hemorrhaging, and surgery), which meant the word “Epidural” was my new best friend. I didn’t realize I’d be judged by other women for having one. And these were women who weren’t even my friends! They were women I’d met casually through birthing class, at Baby Gap or even in line at the Motherhood Maternity outlet shop. “Excuse me for not wanting to DIE in childbirth,” I’d think to myself. And because of the trauma, I was not physically able to breast feed. Lord knows I caught flack for bottle-feeding. I loved my new little guy, all 8 pounds, 9 ounces of him. But I always ended up feeling like somehow, I wasn’t doing the right thing for him. My grandmother once told me being clueless is what parenthood is all about. Translation: None of us know what the heck we’re doing when we become parents, but it’s all going to turn out OK.
Twelve years and two children later, I’ve had my fair share of re-thinking my decisions on everything from potty training to pacifiers. I’ve heard moms brag about their 19-month-olds directing their urine stream perfectly into a Cheerio target inside those cute little portable potties. (While my toddler son would turn to me and wince while peeing in his Pull-Up and ask us to change him.) At the time, I thought I was a failure for not succeeding at potty training him early. Oh, we tried. My entire family knows I tried. I couldn’t accept the fact that he wasn’t ready to be trained at two, and that by three, he’d be totally trained. Through the years, I’ve learned to stop listening to the noise and go with what works for me. Oh, I enjoy learning from other moms and giggling with them. But I find that the more confidence I have in what works for me and my kids, and the less I compare myself to other women, the better off I am. (The better off we all are!) I’d rather laugh and vent with other moms and celebrate our imperfections. It’s a heck of a lot more fun!
Photo courtesy of http://kayleeandkeirasmommy.blogspot.com/
Jackie is a local writer and pr professional who blogs about her take on motherhood at www.ventingsessions.com and writes about it in her book, How to Spread Sanity on a Cracker.