Parenthood: Is Comparison the Thief of Joy?

I read a quote a few weeks back that has stuck with me, ‘Comparison is the Thief of Joy’. When I read it, it wasn’t until a little while later that I truly recognised it’s significance. Whether consciously, subconsciously, mindfully or accidentally, I am, like so many, susceptible to comparison. Measuring ourselves against the next man, to see how we are sizing up. I’d like to think I’ve gotten to a stage in my life, where I don’t care as much about what people think of me. For the most part, I don’t. That said since becoming a mother, I sometimes find myself spending too much time analysing and critiquing myself. I hear that sneaky voice of self doubt in the back of my head. How am I really doing? I am getting this right? Am I raising happy humans? I am doing enough? So the burning question…in parenthood: is comparison the thief of joy?

What makes a ‘good’ parent?

Parenthood is a funny gig. It’s not like being in the workplace –  there is no formal measure of what makes a good mother/father is there? There is no performance review scale. It’s essentially just winging it. Everyone has their own gold standards, goals and aspirations of the kind of parent they want to be. Everyone has their own view of what’s important. It’s not exactly a one size fits all position. Getting from one end of the day to the other without anyone sustaining a major injury could be considered a success for one person. Whilst an epic day trip as a family, complete with a homemade picnic, a success for another.  I’m over 3 years in the position of ‘Mama’ and I have to tell you, I’m still feeling around in the dark here when it comes to knowing if I’m nailing it or failing miserably. What I aim for as a parent, and what actually happens are often very different things. Which, I won’t lie, can often leave me feeling like I’m not doing enough.

When the Going gets Tough

Of course there are shitty days. Parent or not we all have those. But as a parent, these are the days where you shout more than you should. Where you’re so tired you feel like crying from the minute you get up. Or how about those times when you aren’t really arsed doing arts and crafts. When you shove the kids in front of the TV  (for an unspecified – but lets face it, lengthy period) so you can escape and go on your phone. When you beat yourself up for not making home-made scones as promised, because frankly, you don’t have the energy to stand. The problem is, I hate the way these days feel. When bedtime comes, I feel a wave of guilt come over me. A feeling of failure. I have to catch myself, and reflect and reassure myself – that I haven’t broken the children, and tomorrow will be better!

Changing Perspective

So there I am standing in the shower (where I do my best thinking) really pondering is comparison really the thief of joy? Or just maybe, is it just the type of comparisons I find myself making? I know I compare myself with other parents when I’m at my weakest and see others at their best. When it comes to these elusive, unachievable and unrealistic expectations of what a fantastic parent is – how do I measure up? I seem to always be focused on what I’m doing wrong or what I could be doing better. Here lies my problem.

So I’m making a conscious effort at the moment to use comparison in a more positive frame. Comparing myself to a less happy me of many moons ago and acknowledging how much I’ve achieved. Comparing myself to others who would give anything to be in my position. I don’t mean this in a narcissistic or arrogant way – I mean that no matter how hard things may seem, there is definitely someone out there having a tougher time. I mean it in terms of actually being grateful for everything I have. One thing I know is grateful people are happy people, so there’s always room for gratitude my your life! Knowing that my good enough, is just that, good enough – has been a really powerful realisation.

So now, on those days where everything has literally gone to shite, I take a moment. I stop and look at my kids. Stand back and actually have a good look. I watch them laugh, and fight, and smile, and wrestle. I take it in and I remind myself that it’s not all bad. In fact it’s not bad at all.

For more perspective on parenting, click here



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