FIGHTING COMPARISION WITH GRATITUDE

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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.

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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.

MODERN FARMHOUSE PLAYSET DIY

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A playset has been on my wish list for a while now, but even the ones at Costco run about $1,000, so when our friends were giving away their well loved set for free, we jumped on the opportunity. Getting it was probably the hardest part. Daniel spent a couple days dissembling it into a few main pieces with our friends, and then rented a huge u-haul truck to transport it still mostly in tact.

When we reassembled it it looked like this:

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The bones were in great shape but the stain was peeling in lots of places. We pressure washed it and transformed it with paint in one afternoon.

This paint sprayer is one of my favorite tools for big DIY projects. We used it previously to spray all the doors in our house, and if we ever do walls again, I'd use this instead of rolling. It makes big project go so incredibly fast. They are pricey, but you might be able to rent one or borrow one.

It has a bit of a learning curve - there is a lot of paint loading, getting the air out, priming the pump, and troubleshooting throughout. But it really is a game changer for a project like this one.

We used two gallons of Behr Exterior Satin paint in Simply White by Benjamin Moore and a quart of the black. I can't remember the name of the black but I think it's something standard by Behr.

We debated priming but decided to just go for it without it. This is a playhouse, not Pinterest. It doesn't need to be perfect and we really wanted this project to go as fast as possible since we were racing against the weather and naptime. We just sprayed white paint all over the interior and exterior, on the already assembled play set (we did remove the swings, door, and rock climbing holds - on the back, not pictured).  It didn't matter than some paint got on the grass because it will grow and get mowed, and the slide we kept yellow and I didn't care about the over spray there. We only did one coat of white and it took almost exactly two gallons for interior and exterior. Once that was dry Daniel hand painted the roof in black and I did the windows with a small brush.

This playset is literally the playset of my dreams and I can't believe we got it for free. The total cost for us was about $72 - just the cost of paint. While not very much money, the difference it makes it absolutely incredible. Hopefully this inspires someone to scour Craigslist and OfferUp to find a great deal and then refinish it inexpensively. The hours of outside play and entertainment this has already provided has been well worth it. And the summer is only just beginning.

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Trey likes to come up to this window and pretend play. He'll ask me, "Mama order a coffee? Mama order a taco?" Yes please to both.

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So happy with this! We're calling it Trey's second birthday gift - just a few weeks early. This will be a gift that literally keeps on giving.

ON GETTING AWAY

A few days ago I polled Instagram on what's the thing that's helped you the most in motherhood, and the responses were great. Not one single product was mentioned, but all the non-tangibles and little (big) things. Among them: grandparents, perspective, grace, coffee, alcohol, a good babysitter, friends, self-care, and time away. It took me a long time to realize that last one but after our trip last weekend I am a big believer.

Daniel planned this trip and it was his idea. Last year we attempted a 2 night getaway and Trey was too young, it was too soon, and I wasn't ready. I was kind of expecting the same thing on this trip, but agreed to go anyways. I know it's good for me to get away and I wanted to, it's just also really hard for me to leave Trey.

This trip was night and day from last time. The resort was incredible. A boutique, luxury resort in Scottsdale, Arizona and I think it might be my favorite place we've ever stayed. (Not sponsored at all, just sharing.) The design is mid-century modern and the concept is little bungalows all over a sunny, warm, resort nestled near Old Town Scottsdale with mountain views. We absolutely loved it.

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I think the biggest realization for me on the trip was: baby/toddler/kid life is demanding. These years take A LOT of resources - time, energy, money, etc. But they are not forever. In the midst of the day to day craziness that is raising small children you think they will, but this pace of life will someday feel slower. When we retire yes, but also when we're empty nesters, and even when we're at the elementary age, we won't be parenting as intensely as we are during this time of life. It's chaotic and messy and crazy most days, but now that I've taken a step back to notice this, I can more fully fill myself up first. I think I gained the perspective that self-care is a THING. A real thing and a needed thing, and exponentially more so during these all-hands-on-deck years.

It was shocking to me the amount of noise and speed that is raising kids. I don't think it was so much the place (even though it was amazing) but just the time away to chat. To go whatever we wanted, to really pause and relax, to have time. That is the biggest scarcity element I think of my days right now and the kicker for me was that I realized: someday I will have more time.

I am trying to parent out of this new long-term mindset. I am trying to find pockets of rest and relaxation during my days, and right now, I have to be strategic about it. I have to find it/make it/get creative with it/put boundaries around it. I typically run at about 110% percent, like most moms, since we have a lot of roles and responsibilities that we keep spinning each day. But I'm slowly learning to also put myself on that list of importance things. What would fill me up today, what would I like to do? It can be hard as moms because we take care of so many needs that what we'd like often gets pushed so far back that we don't even know what it is that we need or want. Also, I think our culture values productivity and busyness, and when that's ingrained in you it's hard to get off that train. But I'm doing it. I'm getting off the train of de-valuing self-care. I placing myself on my priority list.

I think sometimes as a mom I've thought about things in pretty black and white terms. Can I both (fill in the blank) and be a good mom? Can I take a parents-only trip and love my child? Can I work and still love my child? Can I enjoy time away for a pedicure and still love my child? I think subconsciously I've thought I had to be this mom martyr, dying to myself all the time in the name of loving my child well. And I know now that while I fiercely love my child, I'm actually a better mom when I'm filled up first. It's the oxygen mask strategy. Our needs matter. What we do for ourselves matters. Not just matters, but is vital.

Part of it for me is that I get so much joy out of being with Trey. This is a great thing. But it does make it hard for me to leave him, for trips or even just a night out. I know these years go fast and I don't want to miss it. But I think there is also something to be said for doing them well and being able to do both - I can love my child well, and enjoy time away. Filling me up fills my family up. We take care of so many needs as moms. Let's make sure to also take care of ours.