Perfect parents do not exist. They are a myth that we compare ourselves to when coming to terms with our own shortcomings. Whether we think about it often or not, we continually compare ourselves to our friends’ parenting styles, in an effort to identify and define our own selves in relation to them. It is a normal thing for our brains to do, identify similarities and differences in order to organize people and things into meaningful groups. Us and them. Same or Different. Totally normal, but important to note that although this is a normal phenomenon, it is not always healthy.
Sometimes we compare ourselves in a negative light. Perhaps you yelled at your kid today then thought about how your friend Sara never seems to have to yell at her little angel. (Of course she does.) Perhaps you missed the team pictures or got the dates wrong and missed a game. Deb would never be so careless, what a terrible mom you are!? Perhaps Lisa’s kid’s birthday party was Pinterest-worthy amazing and you failed to throw your second child a birthday party at all for the second year in a row (#sosorryben).
Other times we compare ourselves in a more positive spin. Could you believe how that mom was scolding her son in the grocery store?! Jeez, he was just a little guy. So glad I am not that psycho lady. Whoa, those parents are strict. Totally not my style, I am happy to be more approachable and open with my kids. Check out the helicopter parents at the park. Nope, free range parenting is the place to be, people!
Like many of you, I have compared myself to others in many parenting situations. Sometimes I come out on top, sometimes I feel like I suck at life. Always, my kids have turned out just fine no matter what the heck myself or anyone else thinks. Being judged and feeling lousy has humbled me. Being on top and feeling in control has given me confidence in my abilities. It has only been recently that I have discovered that I finally, really, truly don’t give a damn about comparing myself to others any longer.
While I realize it is natural and a part of how our brains work, I have come to let the feelings that I am either not good enough or superior to others wash over me and then float away like the tides. I simply acknowledge my own judgement, whether inappropriate or warranted, and let it go. I no longer have time to fixate on whether I am doing better than or worse than anyone else. Who cares?! We all have the same cold fries in our minivans and too many plastic toys stuffed in closets. We all are doing the best we can with what we’ve got. We are all good enough and worthy simply because we exist. Period.
If ever you and I hang out, there will simply be no judgement here. I remember the days of epic meltdowns with full shopping carts of melting groceries. It was last week, a Tuesday with my three year old, I believe. Next time I see some overprotective parents at the park I will think, good for them, that is one loved kiddo. Next time I head to an amazingly decked out home or birthday party, I will enjoy the scenery and ambiance, happy for the respite from my own toddler-breaks-everything-in-site-and-we-can’t-have-nice-things little townhome. Next time I see different, I will remember that at our collective core we are really more alike than our differences could hope to separate. Our best quality, parents, is that we are so inherently unique. Your kids don’t want the perfect parent, they just want you. Stop comparing yourselves and start living life.
Aim to be a more comparison and judgement-free parent, and watch how your outlook transforms into greater satisfaction and enjoyment with your friends and family members.