The Comparison Game
The Comparison Game
By Erin Polk
The comparison game: we all do it. It’s impossible to avoid. I am constantly at battle with myself: feeling content with where I am in my own successes then feeling extremely unaccomplished for a 32 year old, newly stay-at-home mama to two.
When my son Elliott was only a few months old, I began venturing out into the world and meeting up with local moms for various support groups and play dates. I was extremely lucky to find an amazing group of strong and beautiful women with babies all born within a month or two of my own.
It was hard not to notice when one cried more than another, or when one began sitting up or crawling before the others.
That can feel both refreshing and nerve wracking for a brand new mom. I was either feeling relieved that my kid wasn’t the only one who cried or wondering if I should be worried about his developmental skills and overall temperament. He had extreme colic for the first four months of his life – non-stop screaming and crying unless he was nursing or sleeping (even then, he would usually find a way to be unhappy about it). I dealt with a lot of guilt, wondering if I had done something wrong during my pregnancy or those early newborn days to cause this. I’d look over and see five other babies happy to just be laying on the ground looking at a brightly colored book while I was often furiously pacing the room trying to keep mine mildly content.
Now that little crew of babies are all nearing the age of three and they’re all growing into wild, sweet, and intelligent little beings, who all have tantrums and all love their mamas.
Just 21 months after my son was born, my daughter Dylan came into this world. I often joke that it’s a miracle we even had a second after our rough introduction into parenthood. Despite her coming ten excruciatingly long days after her due date, Dylan made me realize why people enjoy the newborn days so much. I literally could not get enough of her calm and content demeanor. She’s now 11 months old and I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop, although that’s not to say she hasn’t begun to show the stubbornness that clearly runs in our little family’s genes.
I’ve found myself scrolling back through my own Instragram feed to check on dates of when Elliott met major milestones to check if Dylan was ahead or behind, and then shame immediately hits me.
I don’t ever want to compare my two children.
I’m already worried that my extremely vocal toddler has set the bar so high on what could be considered normal language development that we’ll always wonder if she’s “behind” in that area. And I’ll probably always feel guilty that I’ve loved nearly every minute of her little life, but barely survived the first year of his. My husband and I constantly check ourselves on playing this comparison game and try to remind each other often that they are two different children, and wonderful (and frustrating) in their own ways.
Then there’s the comparison game we play with ourselves. It’s entirely too easy to tap open one of our many social media accounts to get perfectly curated and quick glimpses into another person’s life, and then immediately feel a sense of jealousy or anger that things just aren’t that great in our own. It’s hard to remember that what we see in those tiny squares or 15-second-long videos aren’t the whole picture and are only partial truths. I get it - not many people actually want to scroll through scenes of destroyed living rooms, dirty dishes, and crying babies instead of perfectly organized Montessori play shelves, adorable bathing babies, and scenes of big brothers loving on their little sisters. However, I love the rising trend of honest captions that begin to speak to the mess and isolation of raising littles. I hope that this continues to be shown on social media more and more so that we can put an end to always feeling like we will never be enough.
Let’s continue to show up and do just that. Let’s feel empowered by where we are in our own lives, in our own motherhood, in our own confidence or insecurity. Let’s celebrate each other’s victories and hold space for each other when we are struggling. Let’s lead by example and break the cycle now so that our kids can continue to thrive in their own beautiful and unique ways. Let’s start to truly believe that we are doing enough.
We are enough.
What makes you instantly start to play the comparison game?
Tell us in the comments below.
Be sure to follow Erin on Instagram @erinmichellle