How to Pull Out of the Mommy Wars
Have you ever stood in a grocery store checkout line scrutinizing the woman and her children in front of you? Or said something under your breath about the super fit or super flabby woman you passed in the gym? Maybe you’ve even felt a pang of envy or a rush of pride at a school assembly as your child either didn’t or did receive the student of the year award?
Yes most of us, if we are parents, and maybe especially mothers, have succumbed at least once to the comparison game. We pat ourselves on the back and gloat just a little over our high-achieving, talented and well-behaved children, our fabulously clean and well organized homes and our supermodel bodies. Or we mercilessly berate ourselves for our healthy but average kids, the dirty dishes in the sink and our weakness for chocolate chip cookies. And in the process, we pit ourselves against the very people who could be our greatest allies in the world of parenting.
Earlier this year the makers of Similac released an ad that goes straight to the heart of these Mommy Wars. It is a brilliant and brave piece of advertising that reminds us parents and kids come in all styles. And competition is silly when a child’s welfare is at stake.
Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks suggests that part of the competition problem stems from the societal concept that we are standing on a ladder—whether it’s the corporate ladder or the parenting ladder. To be a better mother you need to be on a higher rung than another woman. As a result of this attitude women are constantly in competition with anyone else who seemingly threatens their upward ascent.
Instead Hanks urges women to stop comparing their parenting styles and think of themselves as being on a field instead of a ladder. “It is counterproductive for women to compare themselves to others because it is never a positive outcome,” said Hanks during an interview with UtahValley360. “Either you evaluate yourself as being better than another woman, which breeds pride, or less than someone else, which breeds self-contempt. When you view yourself and others as being on a field instead of a ladder, the need for comparison disappears and you can learn from other women’s strengths because your value isn’t threatened.”
Hanks encourages women to stop comparing themselves on other fronts as well, including social media profiles, achievements, their bodies, diets and even what they feed or don’t feed their family.
Diane Lang, a psychotherapist and author agrees. “Comparing is a no-win situation. Every time you compare yourself to somebody else, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
So how do you keep those critical thoughts or negative comparisons in check?
First recognize we all have different kids and different approaches to parenting them. Your children may be rambunctious, adventurous and even a little unruly. Or you may have a brood of bookworms. Some parents take a more laid back approach to raising kids which can drive a Tiger Mother crazy. Some want their kids to have an old-fashioned childhood while others want them to be millionaires by the time they are ten.
It can be easy to make judgments based on what we see in the moment. But we’ve all had our bad days—or our incredibly good days. That doesn’t necessarily reflect every day. Don’t make assumptions about a person based on a few moments of observation. Their real life may be much different.
Secondly take time to appreciate what you have. You might be carrying a knock off diaper bag instead of a Gucci purse but at least you have a diaper bag that can carry all your baby’s supplies. And maybe that Gucci purse is that woman’s one big splurge. Being grateful for what we have can make us less critical of others, or envious of what they have.
Finally, give yourself a pat on the back. Parenting is a tough but rewarding job. However the rewards can sometimes feel like they are few and far between when you are dealing with the terrible twos or a testy teen. Take time to give yourself credit for the good things you are trying to do. And give other moms the same benefit of the doubt. After all, we really should be team players in this great adventure of raising children.