I started writing this piece a few months ago but it’s been much longer in the making as it’s a conversation theme that I hear crop up again and again.
As any of my blog readers and Facebook likers will know I have a lot to say about the tricky traps of comparison whether that’s on social media or in the offline i.e. real world. There are all sorts of obstacles created by comparing ourselves to others and one of the things I’m passionate about is helping people jump over or through these.
One area of comparison that gets a lot of attention relates to parenting and the giving and receiving of ‘feedback’ between mums and dads. That includes new, experienced, step and birth parents of different ages and from different backgrounds. It’s widespread and often widely upsetting.
To give a bit of context, I put a call out for the parents in my network to share their experiences of comparison and judgment they’ve had from others. Now, I knew anecdotally from what I’ve picked up that it could be a bit of a jungle out there. From the extra first hand experiences I was sent following my call out – having received into the high double figures responses – it very much concreted how the toxic touch of comparison is something that many parents experience and there are some shared themes that need to be met head on.
A couple of caveats:
- I’m deliberately not going into the details of individual scenarios, as my intention is to provide some strategies that can be accessible and transferable. Although these are tailored to parents they’re not limited to them.
- I shared this with several friends with children and was challenged as to what experience I had doling out advice to parents to which I answered “I’m not doling it out to parents. I’m offering it out to people.”
So here we go with the pointers that have worked for my clients when it comes to overcoming comparison:
Paddle your own canoe
Have you heard that little rhyme: “Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe”? It’s a goody, right?
Parenting has become more prescriptive than it has ever been. There are competing manuals to tell you what to feed, how to train your baby to sleep, even which level of your staircase to use as a naughty step.
If you find one that works for you, then go with it. If someone wants to criticise your choice you can head it off with “It works for us”. And that my love is the end of the conversation – you don’t owe anyone a justification or explanation. The energy you expend on going further could be preserved for you and your child.
Give yourself more credit, that you’re doing what’s right for your family, with love.
Choose your tribe
I have observed the same divides at the school gates that you might expect if you were back at school yourself. There are indeed some similarities and key to these are the fact it is chance and potentially financial situations that throw you in amongst the cohort you end up in.
The mums or dads you meet via your children aren't the people you would necessarily choose to make friends with normally. They may not have the same backgrounds, same work ethic or even the same values in life as you – this is a little red flag that they won’t necessarily be part of your tribe that lift you up!
For example, if you want or need to go back to work after you have children and you get stick from those that make different choices then filter them out of your tribe. Life is too short to give any airtime to those that don’t support you and your decisions or at least have the grace to keep quiet about their opinions. YOU have got this locked down.
Borrow experience from your past, not trouble from the future
Parenting isn’t easy – understatement of the year, I know. But you’re doing it!. It may not feel like a linear or conventional process or set of behaviours but you are doing it, baby.
Keep putting one step in front of the other, as you have been doing and take heart that you are working it. There will be hiccups, worries and plans may topple over in the future… but that hasn’t happened yet. Don’t borrow drama from the future when you need all the good vibes and energy you can muster to get through today. Again, if you focus on a mishap that hasn’t occurred, you rob yourself of the victory of chalking off another day done and dusted and ultimately, more experience in your pocket.
Remember, you don’t get a vote in anyone else’s life
This truth rung out in my ears when I was a guest on Oprah’s Life Class. I got that memo loud and clear and it’s one of the best pearls of wisdom I ever received. If we concentrate on supporting and verbally cheerleading each other rather than a dig here and there, then we all win.
Chances are if you’ve been on the receiving end of unwelcome feedback you may have also given some out. From now on, don’t. You don’t know the journey someone else had to take to get where you both stand today.
Think about what that other parent will take away from your conversation and double check your intent because if words are potentially harmful or you’re saying them to make yourself feel better, you’re on rocky ground. Ultimate;y, you don’t get a vote so put your verbal ballot paper away and your focus back on you.
If you’re reading this with an iPad on one hip and a young’un on the other – I applaud you. Whatever your gender or background. You’re werking it and I’m right behind you. Let’s make sure we get behind each other too.
Love Lucy xx
(Big thanks to buzzfeed for the gifs:&nbsp;http://www.buzzfeed.com/samstryker/things-college-students-say-and-what-they-really-mean)