One of my closest friends is due with her second daughter in less than a month. She’s excited, but she’s also nervous. After the birth of her firstborn, she suffered from an incredible bout of post-partum depression. She later admitted there was a moment when she just wanted to run away. She felt like the “worst mother in the world” for not feeling the way she was supposed to feel about her new baby. Those feelings eventually passed, and she loves her little one with an incredible love, but there was a time when she compared herself to all the moms around her and only saw her lack.
So many moms can relate. Maybe it’s not post-partum depression, but maybe it’s an unruly, willful child who just won’t listen and embarrasses you every time you take her anywhere. Maybe it’s your job that keeps you away from your kids more than you’d like, and you feel insecure or out of place with your other mom friends who stay at home. Maybe your baby still isn’t sleeping through the night and all the other babies in your MOPS group are great sleepers.
Whatever it is, Lisa-Jo Baker gets it. In her latest post, When You’re Tired of the “How-To” Books about Parenting, she offers comfort for all the moms who feel judged or find themselves judging other moms around them. She writes:
You with the kid who slammed his door yelling, “Shut up! Just shut up!” through the cracks? Me too.
You with the unmade beds and left over art paste dried onto the kitchen table? Me too.
You with the heart ache and heart break of distance and family and misunderstandings tied up in your DNA and your kids? Me too.
You with the nagging guilt for that job that keeps you long hours away from your kids? Me too.
You with the itching against what Jesus has called you into and trying to make sense of where He’s calling you next? Me too.
Motherhood isn’t a competition it’s a calling.
In our earnest attempt to do good for our children, we read all the “right books” and sometimes we think our way is the best way. But that mindset only leads to an inflated ego or a crushed one, depending on how your kids are acting any given day. The pendulum swings back and forth, from envy to diminishing the value of others around you. Comparison always hurts, no matter what form it takes.
Nicki Koziarz shares her struggle with comparison in her article, Mom Guilt. “Our society measures everything we do by stats,” she writes. “Doctors have charts to tell us by what age our kids should being doing what. And teachers gauge students by test scores. Unfortunately moms tend to be no different, except we measure ourselves up next to each other.
One mom’s success as a mom won’t look like another.
So maybe we just need a greater acceptance of who we are. And through that realization we will see, we are actually doing better than we think we are.”
In her post about her “hard-to-handle” boys, Brooke McGlothlin shares the mom-guilt she felt about her sons’ rough and tumble personalities, and how judged she felt by the mothers around her. “A quiet boy isn't better than my loud ones. My loud ones aren't better than your quiet ones. Not in the eyes of God. So why do we want them to change? Isn't it really more for our sake than theirs? It hurts me when they don't get invited to birthday parties, or when I see the judgmental stares. Mom, dad, I see when you move your boys away from mine, and it stings. Because I've learned that "these" boys of mine? It's just who they are. And it takes all different kinds of men to change the world.”
So, what can we do when these feelings of guilt or judgment creep into our hearts? How can we avoid crippling comparisons? It starts by affirming our worth (and our children’s worth) in God. When we’re freed from our need to compare ourselves to the moms around us, we can go up to that mom we used to judge or envy and instead offer words of affirmation and kindness. Lisa-Jo Baker is right, motherhood isn’t a competition, it’s a calling. So let’s stop comparing and start affirming that calling in the lives of the moms around us.
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.