the grass isn’t greener over there

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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.”
                               –Bernard Grasset

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11 Responses to the grass isn’t greener over there

  1. Rachel says:

    a much needed read for me this morning…thanks!

  2. Amberly says:

    I might start every morning re-reading this, Betsy! It is a great reminder of something that I often find myself guilty of doing (as you know!).

  3. Juli says:

    Thanks Betsy. What a helpful and honest reminder. It is so easy to only see the things that other mums do better than you, and not the things you do well – mostly because they’re so normal to you it wouldn’t occur to you that others admire them in you. Which is why I agree we should tell each other the things we do well, as well as helping each other with the areas we struggle with. In that spirit, Betsy, you are so amazingly creative when it comes to kids crafts and activities, and parties and things like that, which is something that does not come naturally to me at all.

    I particularly liked your reminder that we’re all different and so we don’t actually all have to do exactly the same things with our children.

  4. Jenna says:

    Love you bets. Love that you wrote this. Laughed out loud and also felt so understood. Thank you for your authenticity … Especially about ignoring the existence of numbers and raging and being overwhelmed. I am in the exact same boat and have recently been saying the same thing about the grass being the greenest in my own yard. Your post has become a regular read for one of my best friends and I (both with a 5,3 and 1 yr old). We discuss it like you are a book in book club. Keep writing. Love it and it is an encouragement to your sisters a world over who are fighting the good and messy and crazy fight of motherhood! Dont ever lose the authenticity- it is what Christians need!!!
    Ps. Have loved getting to know Nora, Harriet and Hugh from your stories. Precious children and a wonderful precious mother. Hugs from North Carolina 🙂

  5. heatherjaner@gmail.com says:

    Thanks for this post. I appreciate your honesty and found it really encouraging.

  6. Juli says:

    Oh, and just to add, and at the risk of embarrassing myself: Am I supposed to change the sheets more than once a month? :$ 🙂

  7. Kristen Broughton says:

    Thanks Betsy. This is lovely. I am very type A mommy too. I’m recently having a hard time listening to my 5 year old read to me. It takes sooo long to get through a page. Wouldn’t it be better if I could just read to him for the rest of his life?

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  9. erinthicks says:

    I’m with Juli–sheets are supposed to be changed more than once a month?! 😉
    Oh gosh, I love you. This is something I’ve really been struggling with recently–comparing my outtakes to other people’s highlight reels, as I heard it once put. Thanks for the exhortation and reminder that we’ve each been given gifts, because sometimes I sure feel lacking.

  10. teamtabb says:

    I loved this post and have had some similar reflections myself lately. If there’s one thing I’ve either needed to hear or wanted to say in almost every mommy friendship I have it’s that God has made us differently and that we have much to learn from one another — why compete when we could simply have the give-and-take of using our own strengths to serve others (rather than “present well”), and of humbling ourselves to simply learn in areas where we are weaker?

    I’ve put off changing the bedclothes over all week, myself!

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