Burden builder #2: Comparison

Over the last few days I have been writing about ways Christian moms can cultivate that biblical perspective from Psalm 127 that declares children to be a heritage, a blessing, and a reward.  How do I view my children? Sometimes I view them as a wonderful blessing. Other times I view them as difficult burdens. What contributes to that latter feeling? Yesterday, we talked about how misplaced priorities can make us tired, stressed, and less able to view the kiddos as the blessings they are. Today, I want to talke about that all-too-common joy-stealer: comparison.

Mom to Mom Comparisons

We’ve all heard about “man points”. Men earn and lose man points with their acts of masculinity or femininity. The female equivalent is an elaborate ranking system. The categories are exhaustive: beauty, health, style, mothering, wife-ing, personality, home decor, nutrition, cooking, talent, and the list goes on. When a woman enters the room with other women, this ranking system begins. It’s not so much that we are looking to see who is the best (although maybe I’m wrong), it’s more that we want to see where we are in the ranking. Am I normal? Am I doing this ok? What are the others around me doing? The ranking system in motherhood brings it to a whole new level.

If there is anything we want to do well, it’s mothering, right? We are now responsible for the lives of little ones that we love passionately. We want to get ideas from other moms, and we want to see if we are doing ok. The problem is that this can build a burden we can’t possibly carry. Maybe our friend excels in creative activities for her kids. Maybe another girl is really into feeding her children only organic food. Another is training to run the half marathon…while pushing her double jogging stroller! What makes this even more of a challenge is cyber space and social networking. I’m going to be honest with you, if facebook and blogging was around when I had littles, I’m sure I would have had a nervous breakdown. Status updates like: today I woke up at 5am, ran 5 miles, taught my 5 year old latin, made 5 freezer meals for the week, and planned a hot date with my super handsome thoughtful hubby… just not helpful. Seriously, if you are a young mom and you are vulnerable to this feeling of not measuring up as a mama, step away from the facebook. The problem with comparisons via the internet is that they are never fair. You really cannot know what else is going on in the person’s life because they only publish what they want you to know.

What makes mothering more of a burden than a blessing (I know that’s slightly different from the original topic) is when we compare ourselves with others, decide we should be able to do more, and then when we can’t we are overwhelmed, exhausted, irritable (insert your adjective here). My suggestion to you is to step back, talk to your husband, and see if there are areas where you have been influenced by comparisons with other moms instead of using your own God-given strengths and abilities to be your children’s mama. This may not be your time for teaching latin, running the marathon, or making all three meals from products you have grown in your garden. That’s okay. Far more important is that you love your children and view them as the blessing they really are.

I don’t have time today, so tomorrow (Lord willing) I will write about how comparing our children to other children (either siblings or other people’s kids) can rob us of that blessing, heritage, and reward perspective. Hopefully, I can tie it up with a gospel perspective. In the meantime: Do you compare? With real friends, cyber friends, or both? How can we rejoice with others’ strengths instead of feel immediately like we are failing? How does the gospel relate to our tendency as women to compare ourselves to one another?


6 thoughts on “Burden builder #2: Comparison

  1. I do compare to cyber-friends and real friends. I’m competitive naturally, so that’s a good and bad thing. 🙂 I mostly fall into comparing myself in the realm of photography/writing and find myself comparing myself to other moms who also do these things: “Oh, she wrote three articles in one month, AND homeschools her 5 kids!” “She got a book deal and only started her blog 1 year ago!” You get the point.

    Even when I KNOW my priorities are right where they need to be, I can fall into this trap and feel bad. But I’m learning to say “no” to people more and know what will push me over the limit. It’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that I value my quality of life. I’m not willing to stay up all night to process photos. Just not willing to do it. Right now I’m able to do those extra things during naptime, but when that time goes, I don’t know! Evenings are family/couple time for us, so I want to not burden that time. Thing crop up, you can’t always control it. But I want to be careful to not let what others are/aren’t doing dictate to me how our family should run.

  2. Danielle, I know what you mean about comparing yourself as a writer. Every time I think about getting serious with this writing thing I find that there are 1000 versions of me online, but way more talented and probably (as much as you can tell) more godly. It’s good for my pride. 🙂

  3. This is why I love this blog! You are speaking to so many mothers who are struggling under the weight of condemnation from trying to do so much and have lost so much joy in the process of raising a family. And if we aren’t doing it all (whatever “all” is…and I think you pretty much covered the list pretty accurately 🙂 we battle a low-grade guilt that we should be doing more. The danger is when we take a standard (set by society or ourselves) and make it law. I have done this many times and your blog was what finally opened my eyes to what I was doing (the bandwagon posts were so instrumental in this!) There is freedom in so many areas of life and the Lord gifts and enables each of us so differently. Our main priorities are to love Him and love our neighbors, however that looks. (By the way, Facebook is off-limits to me!)

    My husband is such a blessing to me in this…I continually ask him what he wants me to focus on. He is able to see more clearly than I can because he is not so easily swayed by the pressure surrounding mothers. He preaches grace to me and reminds me that if this particular pursuit is something I want to do and am able to do without the family suffering, then go for it. But if I don’t garden or cook from scratch and we eat frozen pizza off paper plates, he is perfectly content. He would much rather have a peaceful home and joyful wife than a stressed out, cranky one.

    Thank you for this series of posts. I look forward to what comes next and I am very blessed by the comments from the other women!

  4. I must concur w/ other ladies here that your thoughts penned here are liberating, I’m sure for many, myself included…only I’ve been the lucky one to have been hearing them for years upon years. You have walked me through so much, my dear friend, with your wisdom and input! So grateful for you and glad that others are getting to benefit a little from you as I have.

    Your description of the ‘uber-mom’ is hysterical..but, don’t ya know we all think she exists. Funny thing is, there ARE actually women who can do all of that! I’m not one of them and I think I’m ok with that now most of the time. Hopefully that’s grace at work in my life and not just pitiful resignation to mediocrity on my part…maybe a little of both if we’re brutally honest. 🙂

    Nevertheless, something that keeps ringing in my thoughts over and over again that I want to yell from the mountain tops (actually ever since LA and I came to see you and J back in Jan)…is that Christ died to SET US FREE! FREEDOM…WE CAN WALK IN FREEDOM from comparison.

    Ab’s talk tonight rang that message a bit….loved the quotes from “Nothing + Jesus= Everything”. So good.

    Probably should have emailed this comment to you. :O ha

  5. Jessie and Bri, thank you so much for your encouragement. I’m so glad to get comments so that this can feel more like a conversation and not just me pontificating. 🙂

    Bri, I was praying for Abby last night. I really wanted to be there, but it just didn’t work out with the rest of our schedule. It sounds like she did great.

  6. Hi Laurie, I found your blog thru Rachel McC — thankful that she passed it on. I appreciate you writing about comparison, particularly with facebook, but also with all of womanhood.
    Glad for your encouragement, “then step away from the facebook”, and your honest about being a mommy with littles.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s