I was recently interviewed on my friend Ali Wren's new podcast, and we chat motherhood, work, authentic friendships, how I don't try to do it all anymore, and how I fight the comparison trap online. It was so fun to chat, and I realized that while I've written about the comparison trap online before, it seems like it's always worth a revisit, no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in.
I love these words I wrote four summers ago:
I have so many good things, the best things, in life. Even so, there will always be the temptation to covet something of someone else's. That car or that house or that Europe trip or a baby by that age. When this sneaks in, I remember that we almost never have the full story, and I cannot compare any aspect of my life to someone else's. In the same way that every detail of my life is not on Instagram, neither is everyone else's.
Thanks to Instagram and good lighting, our lives look pretty dreamy from the outside. This summer my husband and I were asked to model in a variety of styled photo shoots, and we have thousands of amazing photos from this summer alone. I know other people with incredible photos and how easy it is to fall into the trap that what you see in the photo represents every single moment in their life. Every moment of my life is not filled with mountain top kisses in Banff, or modeling in styled wedding photo shoots. Along with the great moments, our lives are also filled with everything from laundry and dirty dishes, to traffic and cavities, and to even bigger, serious disappointments and devastating losses. Not even close to a fraction of those are represented on my social media outlets.
From Comparison Is The Thief of Joy, blog post 2014.
I wrote those words four years ago, pre-kids, and now as a mom it rings even more true. There are a million aspects of pregnancy/motherhood/child raising that I have (embarrassingly, but admittedly) compared myself and my unique story to others'. Among them: how much weight I gained (more than most), how quickly my child met his milestones (about the same as most), when I went back to work (later than most), how many words he has (more than most), when we bought our first house (later than most), and so on.
If given the opportunity, I can compare myself to just about anything. It seems like I'm constantly assessing: do I fit in here? Do I have the right (fill in the blank) - home decor, brand of jeans, number of kids, years of spacing between said kids, work hours, work life balance, etc.? Am I accepted? Am I ok? Do I matter? Am I seen and known and loved and still liked?
And the answer is always yes, a resounding yes. And no, it does not hinge on the "things," the size of your bank account or your house, what you wear or what you do, or what your kids wear or what your kids do. Daily, our culture tries to trick us into thinking otherwise.
And so, potty training. (A logical link for this topic, yes?)
One of our friends announced recently that they potty trained their 23 month old. It is embarrassing to say that my first thought was not a heartfelt, "Congratulations, so happy for you," but a, "Woah, that's early," followed by a, "Should I be doing that?" It made me stop and think, "What does this really make me feel?"
And if I get really honest, the answer is: comparison. And if go a little deeper: insecurity and jealousy.
Motherhood can be so brutal sometimes.
Here's the truth: we all have good things and hard things in our lives. Even among people, every adult and every child has unique and wonderful strengths and gifts, and also, weakness and potential "areas of growth," shall we say. Comparing ourselves, our homes, our marriages, our kids, or any aspect of our lives to anyone else's is a long and dark rabbit hole where nothing productive results at the end (except maybe an empty bottle or two of rosé).
My best plan of attack in overcoming comparison is by replacing it with gratitude. I turn my eyes from that person's life to my own, and I list, preferably in writing, all the things I am grateful for, from the extravagant to the mundane. My list today could look like: iced coffee, an early morning run, ripe summer tomatoes, dinners on the back deck, a joyful and talkative 2 year old, a present husband who is a playful dad to our son, late night grocery runs for blackberry ice cream, my work online and off, late summer sun, the backyard play house.
These are gifts I have been given and are unique to me and my story. When I have these at the forefront of my mind, I can be so much quicker to join in the joy for my friends and their gifts in their story, because I know I have spots of joy in my life, too. We all have them. There is enough to go around - enough goodness, enough moments of connection, enough triumphs and successes. When I remember this, it frees me up to join in and celebrate with my friends in all aspects of their lives, not just the easy ones.
So, potty training is on the back burner for us now, and more importantly, my attitude towards the whole thing has shifted. We will do it when he seems ready and probably not a moment sooner. Until then, I'm finding gratitude in the big and small things in my life and doing my best to stay in my own lane.
This post is sponsored by Ubbi, the maker of our favorite diaper pail, and the potty that we will (in a long time, when we're ready) use for potty training. I liked it because it's 3-in-1 design: a potty, a seat trainer and a step stool (separate from the potty part) so you don't have to buy individually. Thank you Ubbi for your innovative baby products we use and love.