I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it.
But you may not realize how harmful it can be. I’m not talking about eating gluten at midnight or consuming free celebrity gossip while waiting in line at the grocery store. I’m talking about comparing yourself to other women.
There’s nothing worse than comparing yourself to other women, especially when you become a new mom. Comparing myself to other moms brings out a side of me that thankfully not too many people get the pleasure of seeing (except, of course, my husband and kids).
The crazy thing is it didn’t start when I became a new mom. It started when I was pregnant.
Well into the first trimester of my first pregnancy, I’d look down at my 1999 (mom) jeans with a rubber band tied around the button-fly waist and think, “Well, this isn’t going to hold out much longer.” My husband and I hardly had enough money to pay for parking in downtown Seattle, let alone buy stylish “office-appropriate” maternity clothes. (I happened to be pregnant with my first child before Target or Old Navy launched their maternity lines. Yes, I’m that old.) I’d see all the hip 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 on a monthly basis to rent our one-bedroom apartment.
I was excited about being pregnant, but didn’t realize the harm I was doing by comparing myself to other women so early on.
So I got creative. I stuck with basic black and consignment store finds and pressed on.
For another month.
The further along I got in my pregnancy, the more worries started worming their way into my head.
With random questions popping up, such as:
Why is that mom reading literature to her unborn child in the park? (As I put down a copy of US Weekly.) Will my baby come out humming Pearl Jam and asking about Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt?
Should I be teaching him a second language? (¿Dónde está el baño?) (I barely had enough energy to meet work deadlines, let alone cram in post-college Spanish sessions.)
Will my child be an under-achiever because I don’t play Baby Mozart for him in the womb? (As I turned up Cyndi Lauper in my car.)
How many more weeks can I stretch my basic black elastic waist-band skirt until it pops? (It popped about a week later.)
When it came to a delivery plan, I started to second-guess my choices based on what other mothers were doing, from Washington to Women’s Health magazine. Although I admired women like Ricki Lake who had a natural birth, I had an incredibly challenging first birth experience (including false labor, hemorrhaging, and surgery), which meant the word “Epidural” was my new best friend. I didn’t realize I’d be judged by other women for having one. And these were women who weren’t even my friends. They were women I’d met casually through birthing class, the doctor’s office or friends of friends. “Excuse me for not wanting to DIE in childbirth,” I’d think to myself. And because of the trauma, I was not physically able to breast feed. Lord knows I caught flack for bottle-feeding. I loved my new little guy, all 8 pounds, 9 ounces of him.
But I always ended up feeling like somehow, I wasn’t doing the right thing for him. My grandmother once told me being clueless is what being a new parent is all about. None of us know what the heck we’re doing when we become parents, but you have to trust yourself, open your mind, and know it’s going to be OK.
Sixteen years and two children later, I’ve had my fair share of re-thinking my decisions on everything from potty training to playdates. Honestly, I’m more concerned about curfews and college tours these days. But that’s fodder for another post.
I remember hearing moms brag about their 19-month-olds directing their urine stream perfectly into a Cheerio. (While my toddler son would turn to me and pause before peeing in a Pull-Up.) At the time, I thought I was a failure for not succeeding at potty training him at 20 months. Oh, we tried. My entire family knows I tried. But I can assure you, he did not go to preschool peeing into a Pull Up. He was fully trained a few months later and never had an accident.
Through the years, I’ve learned to stop.
To stop listening to the noise. The comparisons. The celebrity advice. And go with what works for me.
Oh, I enjoy learning from other moms. But I’d rather giggle with them. I find that the more confidence I have in what works for me and my family, and the less I compare myself to other women, the better off I am. (The better off we all are!) I’d rather laugh with other moms and celebrate our imperfections. It’s more fun (and a heck of a lot healthier) for everyone.