Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s hard enough to mother in a generation where there are more how-to books than any one person could read. And each has a different strategy, a different technique, a different this-is-the-way-you-must-mother-or-you-have-epically-failed.
Yet this ignores several important elements.
1) Each child is completely different. I have certainly seen this played out in my kiddos. No matter how much I like to think they’re the same, the reality is that they are unique individuals. God planted different skills, talents, personalities, and so much more inside each one. So a one-size fits all approach won’t work with each and every child.
2) Each mother, each father is different. We don’t all fit the molds that people say we should. For example, my kids know if they want sympathy they need to go to their dad. He is much more empathetic, and I tend to be the one encouraging them to rub some dirt on it. Get up. Keep moving. You’ll be fine. But I’m the one who does the homeschooling. Eric is very supportive, but on a day-to-day basis, he’s too busy making a living to help. So I’m the one doing the moment-by-moment educating. We’ve learned to play to our strengths. Dad’s the fun parent, the one who is more likely to extend grace, where I’m the justice parent and the one more likely to give strong boundaries. Together it’s a good balance, but it’s a balance you won’t find in a book.
3) Comparing leads to the belief we’re failing. I can always find another mom who is doing a better job. She’s more patient, more engaged, more present with her kids. In the next breath I can find a mom who’s doing a different job — maybe less stellar than I am. Yet wisdom says to ask God what kind of Mom I need to be for the kids He entrusted to me. To be willing to let go of the expectations of others and focus on who I am and who my kids are.
4) Comparison isolates me from my fellow moms. If I’m feeling the need to compare, then I’m going to hold people at arm’s length. From that distance I look like Wonder Woman. Get too close and you see the fact that I hate to cook. That the corners of my house can create an encouraging habitat for a farm of dust bunnies. That I lose my temper when I feel stressed and overwhelmed. That I long for me time and girl time when others think I should be completely fulfilled with my kids alone.
5) Raising children is a mirror God uses to reveal areas in my life where I need to continue to grow. My greatest weaknesses are often revealed as I parent. My lack of patience. My lack of trust. My lack of organization. The ways I can get distracted and time zips by. God has often used these moments to show me areas He wants to develop in me. This comes from His revelation to my heart. Books can be a tool to raise a standard, but the best standard is reliance on Him. The best comparison is His standard, and after all He knows me best.
Do you find yourself falling into the comparison trap? If not, how do you avoid it? What advice would you have for moms trapped in that cycle?