One day, long before we were parents, I made Michael lasagna. I know it’s kind of difficult to mess up mozzarella-y, beefy, noodle-y goodness, but it’s me we’re talking about here, so of course it was completely average. I couldn’t (and still can’t, actually) get the layers all nice and neat and when scooped out of the baking dish with a spatula it tends to fall apart all over the plate. If I were on Chopped I would say it was “Lasagna! Deconstructed!” but I’m not on Chopped and I’m never going to be on Chopped unless they lower their standards like, a lot.
Anyways, a couple of nights later we went to a friend’s house. His mom offered us leftover lasagna. Michael was already shoveling large bites into his mouth before I sat down next to him with my nice and tidy lasagna slice (layers stayed perfectly gelled together!) and took a taste. I turned to him, “Why is this so much better than mine?” With zero hesitation and right as he was shoveling another bite into his mouth Michael said, “Apples and oranges, baby. Apples and oranges.”
Sometimes I fall into the unavailing habit of comparison. I start feeling fifty shades of inadequate because mom friend #1’s house is always so tidy, or mom friend #2 is always making sensory bins and cute crafts with her toddler, and mom friend #3 makes the most nutritious meals while I’m over here tossing my three-year-old a fruit roll up and an almost-gone bag of chocolate chips before breakfast just to keep the peace.
I know it isn’t fair to compare my weaknesses to other people’s strengths, but in my defense, I didn’t know their weaknesses and I was blanking on any of my strengths right then so what else was I going to compare, you know? Typically, I feel like I do a pretty good job not letting the comparison monster thief my joy, but the other night I was literally wallowing (and trust me, I tried to find a word that makes me sound less like a whale and more like a sophisticated mom, but nothing else paints the picture so accurately) in my bed and whining about how I felt like a crappy mom to Michael. (Who, by the way, should get an award for the amount of times he has to listen to me berate myself because he always disagrees with me at all the right times.) I told him how inadequate I felt in my parenting—from losing my patience too quickly to not planning enough educational activities. “Mom-Friend #2 does the cutest crafts and lesson plans with their kids.” I said. Again, he didn’t miss a beat, “You’re nothing like Mom-Friend #2! Apples and oranges, baby. Apples and oranges.”
It was so Michael of him that I snapped right out of pity-party mode.
It’s so useless for us moms to compare ourselves to each other because A.) We all have such different kids and B.) We are all in such different situations.
For example, let’s go back to my fruit roll ups and chocolate chips before breakfast scenario. What I didn’t mention before is that I teach online in the mornings in a makeshift office Michael built me in the garage. Ellie is usually awake before Michael goes to work and most of the time, she sits on the sofa and eats toast and watches a show while I finish my last half-hour of teaching for the day. The other day, however, she opened up the garage door and cried loudly outside the door because her movie stopped playing. Between classes I hastily started the movie but she was still obviously shook up after living through such a tragedy, so to get her to stop following me around while wailing loudly (because you can hear eh-ver-e-thing through my mic when I’m getting my teach on and screaming toddler background noise is frowned upon) I threw her some sweet treats to turn that frown upside down. And boy, it worked like a charm. See there? It’s not like I’m just willy-nilly feeding my kids garbage before 8 am. On paper, sure, it doesn’t look great, but a little context paints the picture of a desperate mom just struggling to do her job.
And we all struggle from time to time. Maybe for you it’s financially, or in your marriage, or your child has special needs. Maybe you’re an introvert and your kids are so extroverted you don’t even know how to deal. Maybe your kids get along great or maybe they fight so much that you lock yourself in your bedroom closet and cry. Maybe you’re chronically ill or working two jobs or going through a divorce.
My point is---we all have these unique little circumstances that shape how we parent each individual child that we are privileged to raise. So, when you feel tempted to compare yourself to your fellow mamas, just remember to not.
…Because apples and oranges, baby.