When I was younger, someone very important to me said something I don’t think I will ever forget. They said to me; “The man who always looks to his neighbours plate, will always be hungry.” Honestly, no truer words have been spoken and I think it’s so important for all of us to keep these words at the forefront of your mind.
Those words, as wise as they are, weren’t words I really paid much attention to until the other day.
As a new mom, I am looking to a lot of parenting forums, apps, and articles for information. My life is changing, I am a mother suddenly responsible of keeping this adorable little girl alive, and although 11 weeks have past and I am getting the hang of things, I still don’t know what is best for my daughter and how to get her on the right track developmentally. So for a lot of the answers I need, I look to others for guidance.
This is really a double edged sword. Someone will tell you that at 2 months, your baby should be loving tummy time. They should be reaching for things and copying little noises you make. That will make you as a new parent sit back and think, Is my baby doing all that? If the answer is no, it is going to make you wonder about your child’s development. Are you not doing enough? Should you have done more earlier? Why is that baby already supporting itself on it’s front arms at 3 months? Will my daughter be doing that in just 2 more weeks?
As I sat there on the floor beside the mat my daughter was lying on and watched her angrily yelp and squeal (she absolutely hates tummy time), I wondered why she seemed to hate it when all the other parents told me that every baby loves tummy time. What’s going on with my Sunshine that she acts as though its some kind of torture?
I found myself comparing my situation, my parenting, and my daughter to other parents and babies. Let me tell you, this is a slippery slope.
What started off as a routine exercise for my daughter that usually ended up in her giving me the stink face for several minutes afterwards, turned into me wondering whether or not she was where she was supposed to be.
If I was baking a cake of unhappiness, I had already put in the most important ingredient: comparison.
Any time in your life when you compare yourself to anyone else, you are asking for trouble. Yet, it something so many of us struggle with. I am a confident person in certain ways. I won’t change who I am as a person for anyone, I don’t care about people’s opinions about me, and I will always stand beside someone who I care about. That being said, I am not always the most confident when it comes to my looks and I feel like those waves of low self-esteem seem to hit me when I compare myself to someone else.
Today, it’s impossible not to. Everywhere you turn there are images of beautiful, fit women who everyone tells you are perfection. It’s hard not to look at them and ask yourself what is different about you, what elements of yourself are keeping you from being seen like people see them?
As a new parent, you are so vulnerable. Being a new parent, in my opinion, is isolating and in a way lonely. Even when you have an amazing support team, it’s hard not to be lonely. Sometimes it feel like you are losing the person you were and you experience that loss all on your own, no one else can share in that with you. As strong as you are for your new baby, you are vulnerable to the world and I feel like this is when you will most compare yourself with other people.
You compare your delivery, you compare your bodies with other women who have just become mommies. You compare you weight loss, your stretch marks, your sleep, your feeding routines. It’s like there are just columns and columns of other women and every day you see if you can add a check next to something they too are doing. It’s tiring, it’s difficult, and at the end of the day, it’s just throwing more and more ingredients into that cake of your unhappiness.
So, what can we do?
It’s not easy to just undo years of subconsciously comparing ourselves and our accomplishments to the people around us. It’s like our lives are a competition or a game, and everyone is working to get the high score. We can’t just turn it off, can we?
No. We are creatures of habit and once those habits have etched themselves into our character, they are hard as hell to get rid of. Trust me, I’ve tried.
I do think that being aware of it is so important though. These past few days I have been aware of it more than ever. That first night I compared my daughter to other children her age, I was miserable. I reduced my daughter to this nameless faceless thing that was nothing more than her age and accomplishments. I have to admit I went to bed feeling extremely shitty.
My daughter is the greatest gift I have ever received in my whole life. She is wonderful, silly, stinky at times, and I wouldn’t change her for anything or anyone else. So why the hell does it matter to me what other babies her age are doing?
You know what? It doesn’t! It honestly and truly doesn’t now that I realize that I was comparing her to other babies, I could care less if she is copying noises I make, or whether or not she loves the dreaded tummy time all other mothers swear their babies loved.
We do not have cookie-cutter babies. They are not all the same. Some are late-bloomers. Some are creative things that want to imagine what they are doing instead of practicing to do it. Others are athletic, others are terrors, others are calm and content. There are no two babies that are exactly alike. Every baby is different, so why even bother comparing them?
My life right now is complex. I am happy as a new mother, but that doesn’t mean I am not struggling. Most days the only people I physically talk to are my 11 week old daughter, my 8 year old dog, and my husband for about 2 or 3 hours before bed. This often leaves me feeling like I am on this new Mommy Island that not a lot of people can get to, and that I can’t leave.
It’s lonely and time does this weird thing of passing both slowly and all too quickly. I never get to really sleep, and most days I am just a cow for my daughter to constantly feed off of.
Mentally, every day is a rollercoaster ride that I can’t get off of and I have a feeling I won’t get the chance to get off any time soon.
But, we all have to celebrate small victories.
I have stopped comparing my daughter to other babies and that has eliminate a lot of the stress and worry that had weaved itself into my every day life. She will love things and hate things at her own pace. She is her own little person that is growing and learning every single day, and I am so excited to see what and who she will grow into.
The oven is off, the mixing bowl is in the sink, and I have thrown the main ingredient to my unhappiness in the trash. No more comparisons for me.
I can breathe a little better knowing that…
Everyone else out there that has been subconsciously baking a cake of their unhappiness that they will undoubtedly end up eating through thick tears while they struggle to breathe through heavy sobs in the dark, I hope you’ll join me in throwing it all away. We are all struggling through different things, there is no point in comparing lives, bodies, or anything else.
Just live your best life, the best you can.
Happiness will come.