Being a parent is an amazing journey as well as continuous hard work. It’s got its own ups and downs and sets of challenges and definitely doesn’t need added external stress. As parents we can sometimes get sucked into comparing ourselves and kids to other families. We may also feel bad when others criticize or question our parenting choices. While it’s healthy to keep an eye out for alternatives that could work for you as well as get advice, it’s also important to remember that you and your family are unique and what works for you may not necessarily work for others and vice versa. Here are a few tips to help you avoid falling into the comparison trap.
Are you wondering why your child can barely sit still for 10 minutes while that couple is able to sit so leisurely and enjoy a cup of coffee while their 18 month old just quietly plays for the next 20 minutes? Those thoughts are completely natural, just don’t let them make you feel bad or stressed about your little one. It may be difficult for us to accept, but our kids are not going to be perfect at everything. Every child has their strengths and points that need support. Your child may not be able to sit still but he may be talking more or sleeping through the night while that other child isn’t. When you have these moments of doubt try to use them in a healthy way to ask yourself if this is something you feel you need to work on with your child. If not then try to accept that children are different, they develop at their own pace and will continue to grow and be different people. That is what makes each of us unique. All you can do is offer your child the support and encouragement they need to develop.
Comparing spouses can put a lot of stress on a relationship. Whether it’s husbands or wives, everyone is different. When you see or hear things that a spouse does that you’d like to add to your life take the time to discuss the options with your partner and work out a compromise. Try to avoid sentences like “But my friend’s husband puts the baby to bed every night”, or “My friend’s wife doesn’t ask for any help and does everything on her own”. Remember that you chose your partner, not someone else, for a reason! While you find your places in your new roles as parents it’s important to keep communication open, honest and respectful.
There may be times when you question your parenting choices and practices. It’s healthy to be a bit self-critical and reevaluate and adjust as you move through the parenting journey. This helps you be flexible and adapt to your family and child’s needs as well as your own. There may be moments when you wonder how your friend with the newborn manages to look so great or how she has the energy to go out for coffee and chat every day while you just can’t wait for yours to nap so you can get some rest. Don’t be quick to judge what’s on the surface with others. Every parent reacts differently to having a baby and their lives change in different ways. Your friend with the newborn may or may not be so happy and energetic when she’s home alone with her baby. Dressing up and going out may be her nap time; the thing that gives her energy to go through her day. Getting ideas here and there from friends and other mamas and papas is great. What’s important is that you figure out and work on what helps and works for you.
Dealing with Judgment
What about when other people decide to insert their own opinions or question your parenting or life choices? While that can be a bit unnerving and upsetting, try to handle it as positively as possible. Remember that in the moment there is no need to argue your point if you don’t want to, so don’t feel the need to defend your choices or ideas. With some it’s simply best to smile, nod and continue to do what you know works for you. With others you may be able to have a general discussion of why you feel these practices work for you and your family, but it doesn’t have to mean there’s a right or wrong person in the discussion. As mentioned, different practices work for different families. Respectful discussion is healthy and situations change, as well. Either of you may look back at the conversation in a couple months and decide to take the other’s advice. Trust that you’ve done your research and are doing the best that you think is possible at that moment.