One of my best friends often reminds me that “comparison is the thief of joy.” Meaning that our tendency to evaluate our own circumstances in light of the situation of others results in discontent. When we look around, our focus is on what others accomplish or possess (or appear to) that we lack and so we covet. Though we know that the grass will always appear greener in someone else’s garden we are taken in by this optical illusion again and again.
We moms have found a whole new realm for comparison. Now we can compare not only our own appearance, lifestyle, achievements, and hobbies but that of our children as well. In addition, we can compare how we are doing as mommies. We can compare our children’s oral hygiene, the cuteness of their bedrooms, their table manners, and their birthday parties. We can compare how elaborate their craft activities are, how well-chosen their storybooks are, how healthy their snacks are, how rare their tantrums are. The list is endless. Sometimes chat for mommies is not so much a meeting of the minds (“Anyone have any tips for teaching them not to bite their toenails?”) as a meeting of the Secret Inner Sense of Inadequacy Club.
When we begin to do this, we put pressure on ourselves (and our children) to measure up to one another. We struggle to keep the faces we present to others as polished as we can, while frantically running around behind the scenes with baby wipes. Everything we know about individuality–that we are different women with different philosophies, different strengths, different backgrounds, different challenges, and different situations–flies out the window. We forget that we all have different gifts and that we each occupy a particular place in God’s kingdom. That we are all seeking to do the best we can and that we will all do it in a different way. That God has given us to one another–not that we may compete but that we may cooperate. Type A Mommy (and I should know) needs her more relaxed friend to encourage her to soften up and just enjoy the children more. To laugh when they get dirty and let there be a little peanut butter on the doorknob. Type B Mommy needs a little help getting the children into a routine.
Must we be defensive about this? Is there any reason why we can’t show our weaknesses–and strengths–to one another?
May I take this opportunity to confess that I haven’t washed anyone’s bedding in weeks? That I have often bought the illusion of peace with lollipops? That I have essentially ignored the existence of numbers as I have begun preschooling my daughter? That I regularly dip the baby’s pacifier in liquid Infacol to trick him into taking it? That I complain and go into rages and get overwhelmed? That, worst of all, I have made cutting remarks to my four-year-old and I often lose my temper with the children? That I have a massive need for God’s grace daily?
“To love is to stop comparing.”