You may do it every day. But you probably have no idea the harm it’s doing to your mind and body. I’m not talking about downing cookies over the sink or consuming an entire issue of People magazine in one sitting. I’m talking about constantly comparing yourself to other moms. There’s nothing worse, especially when you become a new mom.
You may be thinking: How else are we supposed to know what to do? We have no clue what we’re doing once we bring a bundle of joy (that resembles ET) into this world. Believe me, I get it. You are filled with so many questions. Concerns. Excitement. Fear. Love. You want to surround yourself with as much information as possible. As many knowledgeable people as possible. Pretty soon, you have as many resources as there are bridesmaids in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But the harm comes when you reach information overload and start second guessing yourself.
Constantly comparing myself to other moms brings out the Real-Housewives-of-Dallas- drama-queen side of me that thankfully not too many people get the pleasure of seeing (except, of course, my husband). I become a negative Nancy. I’m not very fun to be around. And it’s not good for my kids either. I know, because I started doing this before my first child even came into the world.
Well into the second trimester of my first pregnancy, I’d look down at my circa 1999 boot cut jeans with a rubber band tied around the 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. (Have I mentioned that I was pregnant with my first child before the launch of Target’s maternity line?) I’d see all the stylish young moms-to-be strutting around Seattle wearing designer maternity suits and stress out when I couldn’t find one that cost less than what my husband and I were paying in rent. I was excited about being pregnant, but didn’t realize the harm I was doing by second-guessing even my maternity wear so early on.
Then more 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 in the womb?
Will we be judged for using a Diaper Genie Dispenser (after we figure out how to assemble the gd thing)?
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 were doing. Although I admired women like Ricki Lake who had a natural water birth, I really wanted an Epidural. At a hospital. I wanted to nickname the procedure Eppi so I wouldn’t forget it as soon as I arrived at the hospital. It turns out, I had a challenging first birth experience that included several bouts of false labor, hemorrhaging, and a post-delivery emergency surgery. There was no way I could have known what would happen to me. I may not have lived through a natural childbirth. Who knew going with my gut eventually saved my life? And despite everything, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. That’s all that mattered.
I had no idea I would be judged, even years later, for the way he came into this world. By women who weren’t even my friends. They were women I’d met casually through writing classes, work, friends of friends or in line at a baby store. “Excuse me for not wanting to DIE in childbirth,” I’d think to myself. And because of the trauma from the surgery, I was not physically able to breast feed. Lord knows I caught flack for bottle-feeding. That’s a whole story in itself. The good news is our new little guy was healthy. All eight pounds, nine ounces of him.
As he grew, I’d listen to comments about what every other mom was doing. Eighteen years and two children later, I’ve had my fair share of second-guessing my decisions on everything from potty training to pacifiers. I have known women with 15-month-old sons who could direct their urine stream into a Cheerio target inside a mini portable potty. I tried that strategy. And dozens of others. However, my son just looked me straight in the eye while peeing in his Pull-Up and ask me to change him. While snacking on a Cheerio. At the time, I thought I was a failure for not succeeding at potty training early on. Oh, I tried. And I tried. I compared myself to other moms and was upset with myself because he wasn’t ready to be trained at 15 months. Or 18 months. Or age two. But several months later, he was fine. Totally trained. And not one accident. Halleluiah.
One piece of advice an old friend gave me that was both positive and welcoming? I promise you he will be potty trained by the time he reaches junior high. And you know what? She was right!
Throughout all the stages of mothering my two kids, I’d end up feeling like somehow, I wasn’t doing the right thing. I was trying so hard to be perfect. And perfection is unattainable! Both of my kids turned out fine. They are not perfect, but they are great kids.
My grandmother once told me being clueless is what parenthood is all about. None of us know what the heck we’re doing when we become parents, but we do the best we can.
Over the years, I’ve learned to stop listening to the noise and go with what works for me. Oh, I still learn, I never stop learning (especially from my mistakes) but thankfully, there’s a lot more giggling. I find that the more confidence I have in what works for me and my kids, and the less I compare myself to other parents, the better off we all are. I’d rather laugh and whine with other moms and celebrate our imperfections. It’s a heck of a lot more fun.
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