Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

On Being the Best Damn Mother on the Planet

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In response to this morning’s inquiry, I’m going to share more article links throughout the week instead of saving them all for Friday. I hope this will inspire deeper discussions and introduce new topics and ideas. Anyway, I liked this essay, “I am the Best Damn Mother on the Planet,” particularly this part:

The whole territory of “parenting” today feels like a fucking scam, like we’re setting ourselves up to feel constant agony and blame from day one. That, or we’re being set up from the outside. The potent myth persists that “having it all” somehow means more than “I have a job and a family with children.” I do, voila! All hath been acquired. But the myth part comes in the pretending that others who also have it — this “all” — are better at it than we are, their lives more balanced, their jobs higher-paying and more fulfilling, their bosses more understanding of the kid puking every third week, the late mornings and early duck-outs. Others have better marriages and more sex. Other women never used formula, not even fucking once; other women lost their baby weight faster. Other babies sleep through the night, and they did it on their own without any effort; or they don’t, because they sleep in bed with their mothers where they belong. Other mothers didn’t WANT to go back to work, they WANTED to stay home. Other mothers didn’t need drugs in delivery. Other mother’s babies have never seen a television. Other babies eat only organic. Other mothers don’t compare themselves to other mothers, of course. Everyone else’s “all” can look pretty superior, from the outside gaping in, and many days, a mother might just be inclined toward envy or yes, to self-judgment.

I was just thinking about this the other day when I was talking with Drew about how much easier parenting Baby Joanie has been compared to parenting Baby Jackson. Part of its being easier is that I am more experienced and less anxious, part of it relates to the different temperaments of my kids (so far, Joanie is incredibly easy-going while Jackson, at least as a baby and toddler, was so full of piss and vinegar), and part of it is that I am around fewer moms of babies to compare myself to. Remember how I started a moms’ group when Jackson was born? And I loved it for the most part and have even remained friends with some of those women. But I realize now that being around so many new moms when I was a brand new mom myself brought with it the unexpected pressure (self-induced) to conform. And when I didn’t or couldn’t conform, I questioned whether my decisions and lifestyle and behaviors were directly responsible for the challenges my baby presented (you know, like endless goddamn crying 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which didn’t stop for months and months and then only gave way to the kind of tantrums that made me wonder if we had a Serious Problem on our hands). (Short answer: no.) (Longer answer: In the last few months, the tantrums have stopped, we have what feels like a new kid, I’ve stopped punishing myself for the challenges my baby and then toddler presented, I’ve stopped questioning whether we have a Serious Problem, and I’ve mostly stopped comparing myself to other mothers whose lives, at least on the outside, look more aspirational.)

None of this is limited to motherhood or parenthood. We all, whether we have kids or not, have been guilty of the comparison game. And if you’ve never compared what you have or what you do to what someone else seems to have or do, God bless you and please share your secret. I’m definitely not “cured” of this affliction. Probably on a daily basis, I find myself comparing, but more and more lately I practice letting it go. I think about what it is that I’m dissatisfied with about myself or my life — IF I’m even dissatisfied — and whether I can change it, and, if I can’t, I try to accept that and move on. If I’m dissatisfied with something I can change, then I ask myself why I haven’t yet and what positive steps I can take to make the change happen. And like the author of the article, I’m also giving myself kudos for what I do well and right. Like, I make a great margarita and I’m a really good mom. Jackson even told me the other day that I’m one of the top three moms he knows. I’m sure what he meant is that I’m the best mom of the damn planet.

68 comments… add one
  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray March 31, 2016, 12:28 pm

    Oh this is the best of both worlds, because we get a link with better discussion in the comment section, hopefully, *and* a bit of your personal essays. And considering you just whipped this out this morning in response to our comments, I’d say they’re fast and painless for you to do! Not that the columns must be slow and painful, but you get it.

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    ktfran March 31, 2016, 12:28 pm

    This is such a great essay. Thank you! I was actually going to answer that I don’t really compare myself to others that much. And when it comes to job, children, coupledom, and house, I don’t. But then I remembered, I’m going to my cousin’s weekend bachelorette next weekend. Her friends are the girls who always look extremely put together, wear trendy clothes, perfectly coiffed hair, etc. I have found myself doing a little bit of shopping so I can keep up with them and feel like I fit in with the group. This essay made me realize I’m being ridiculous and I don’t need to spend money to fit in. I just need to have a good, friendly open attitude.

    Although, I still might buy those new sandals from Madewell that I kind of want….

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    • MaterialsGirl

      MaterialsGirl March 31, 2016, 12:42 pm

      ktfran, I TOTALLY get this. Somehow, I can never look as perfect as some other women and try as I might with hair, makeup, outfits, it’s just not that extra pizzazz some people have the gift to pull off. And it makes me feel like I’m not as good as they are. Not as real of a woman? I dunno. Almost like a little kid playing dress up with the big girls

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        RedroverRedrover March 31, 2016, 12:47 pm

        Ugh, I have a group that I occasionally go out with where I swear they all coordinate beforehand and I’m always the one left out. I dress up, they dress down. I dress down, they dress up. Now I just wear what I want and don’t worry about fitting in. It sucks, but what can you do? It feels so highschool to call one of them up and ask what they’re wearing. And I don’t know if they’re actually doing that among themselves or if they just somehow rank these events in terms of dressiness so they automatically line up. No idea.

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        ktfran March 31, 2016, 12:53 pm

        RedRover, I like your approach!

        As an aside, my friends and I sometimes still ask what others are wearing. We never grew out of that stage. So, you might not be too far off the mark.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl March 31, 2016, 12:54 pm

        I absolutely text my friend for outfits and ideas. My sister sends me photos from dressing rooms still

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        RedroverRedrover March 31, 2016, 12:59 pm

        I ask my best friend what she’s wearing when we go out, but I’m not as “in” with these girls so it seems unnatural and uncomfortable. Usually with my best friend the response is “I’m feeling lazy, let’s just go somewhere we don’t have to look great”, lol. Which is fine by me!

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        ktfran March 31, 2016, 12:52 pm

        That’s so funny because when we met up for Kmen’s play, I remember thinking how much I liked your outfit and how pretty you looked… and I know people think the same about me (I’m not saying that to be conceited… I do get compliments frequently).

        I think it’s just the junior high girl in me trying to fit in.

        But yeah, I often feel like people have that “thing” that I’m somehow missing.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl March 31, 2016, 12:53 pm

        If we could bottle up and sell that “thing” we would be rich!!

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        Jane March 31, 2016, 2:39 pm

        I completely relate to this! I’ll get all dressed up and think I’m actually looking pretty kickass when I leave the house, but then I get out and compare myself to everyone else and end up thinking, oh I should have done that instead…

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    • othy

      othy March 31, 2016, 2:01 pm

      I’m far more likely to dress up when I’m going out with a group of girls I don’t know well (i.e. a bachelorette party where I really only know the bride) than my close friends that I see regularly. Definitely my junior high self trying to fit in. But usually I try to surround myself with people I don’t feel I have to ‘keep up’ with. And it makes life so much better.

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    RedroverRedrover March 31, 2016, 12:30 pm

    I read the linked article before I read your comments Wendy, and I had actually come to the same conclusion about comparing. As a Noted Introvert (lol), I never joined any mom’s groups, online or off. I think that has made things a lot easier in terms of not having as much ammo around to compare myself too. I can see how it would be, when I get together with some mom acquaintances, and I see how they start commenting on each other’s parenting methods. There seems to be a lot of judgement, but also it seems like the judgement is coming from a place of trying to convince themselves that they’re the ones doing it right. I think that’s really what the mommy wars are all about – we’re all flailing around with no idea what we’re doing, and so as a kind of defense mechanism we start to insist that our way is best. Because then we can feel like we’re doing a good job.

    Anyway, it IS nice not being judged all the time, although that aforementioned group of acquaintances does judge somewhat. I don’t really care though because I don’t think they’re necessarily doing the best things either. The point is we simply don’t know enough about “the best” way to raise a child. And that’s not even taking into account that they’re all so different that “the best” way for one kid isn’t necessarily “the best” for the next. I try to remember that, try not to judge, and try not to compare myself. It’s hard though, definitely.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray March 31, 2016, 12:33 pm

    I should read the article. I’m not sure if what I’m about to say has anything to do with the article except that it’s about motherhood, but can I just say how much I am really enjoying having a baby? I’m not an anxious person and having this baby hasn’t changed that; in fact, it’s maybe made me even more relaxed because there’s not a whole lot I can do except chill with the baby, so why worry about all that I can’t do? But I also have a very easy-going baby. Not sure what came first – me being easy going or him – but it all helps. After reading Wendy’s point, I wonder if it helps that I haven’t been around other parents much. During maternity leave I had Wednesday morning play dates in my building but I stopped that when I went back to work. I’m largely ignorant of what other parents are doing! And what other babies are doing. I just know my baby is the BEST! Haha. Just yesterday he started doing this thing where he smiles HUGE when I walk in the door and he raises his arms for me to pick him up. Heart, melted, and gushing all over the floor! Ok, that was my random comment that I’m sure had nothing to do with the article. But someone needs to get off topic, and I may as well be that someone, right? Right.

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      RedroverRedrover March 31, 2016, 12:40 pm

      My mom had 5 kids and she thinks it’s random whether babies are easy-going or not. My husband and I were really calm with our son, and he’s a stubborn, super-determined, super-touchy, hard-to-deal-with guy. He’s also extremely sweet and pleasant. I think a large part of their personalities are pre-determined. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the next one is easier to handle. I don’t know what I would do with two like this!

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      • freckles

        freckles March 31, 2016, 5:21 pm

        I’m actually really happy to hear this. Mr freckles and I are trying for our first, and I’m a pretty Type A, stressed out, list making, worrywart. And I worry (hah) that I will produce a fussy, stressed out baby, because somehow I will a) pass all my stress to them in the womb, and b) rub off on them outside of the womb, as they absorb everything like sponges. So, it makes me feel a little better that people think it’s random. Because maybe I will get a relaxed baby who won’t be like me! (Which is actually mostly what I’m worried about)

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        anonymousse March 31, 2016, 6:39 pm

        I feel like a lot of times, especially with my first, I’d get super stressed out if he was fussy or crying or anything out of the ordinary. I had to be more mindful and breathe through it and constantly tell myself that it was just a phase, otherwise I would’ve gone crazy. I mean sometimes, when they are finally asleep for hours (hallelujah!) you literally worry they’ve somehow suffocated or some other seriously messed up overreaction. With my second, I worry way less because I know she’s okay. I know we’ll get through it.
        And yes, in times of stress, I try to calm myself and my son will be calmer, too. Very helpful!

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        RedRoverRedRover April 1, 2016, 8:46 am

        Here’s another data point for you. Both my husband and I were our mom’s “easy” babies, out of 3 kids and 5 kids respectively. The kind of baby you could put down anywhere, do anything with, and the kind of toddler who listened and went along with whatever you said.

        My son is absolutely not like that at all. Last night when my husband brought him in from daycare, I put his dinner down on his little table. He goes “no I don’t want dinner!” and tries to whip it right off the table by sweeping his arm across. Luckily he only hit his sippy cup or we would have had pasta all over the room. Neither my husband or I would ever have done something like that as a kid. Never. So, there’s at least a good chunk of behaviour inborn. BTW he does that because he gets TOO hungry or TOO tired and then it’s just “no no no”. He’s not an absolute terror, but once he’s reached his breaking point, he’s really hard to deal with. 🙁

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy March 31, 2016, 5:03 pm

      A lot of my friends who are on their second babies are having really tough adjustments because their situation is the reverse of mine — easy baby first followed by the challenging one. They thought they knew what they were getting into only to be totally shocked at how difficult it could be. I’m very happy to have two kids — especially a boy and a girl — but I almost would advise people who have really easy first babies to stop while they’re ahead…or to at least be aware that they might not have it so easy with the second and be prepared for that.

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        anonymousse March 31, 2016, 6:32 pm

        I feel like two is way more than double the work, too.

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        RedRoverRedRover March 31, 2016, 6:35 pm

        Oh god, don’t say it!!!!

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        anonymousse March 31, 2016, 6:54 pm

        Maybe your second will be easy! That said, now at four months old, I feel like things are getting much, much easier. I am so excited for spring and summer, and the coming months as she gets more independent.

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        RedRoverRedRover March 31, 2016, 9:04 pm

        I hope so. 🙂 Mine are going to be almost exactly 3 years apart, which means my son is right in the middle of tantrums and fighting for independence while I’ll have a newborn. If she’s as tough a baby as he was… I just don’t know what I’ll do.

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        keyblade March 31, 2016, 7:00 pm

        I thought my second was easier because I worried less so I could enjoy it more. Number two was a much better sleeper but threw much worse temper-tantrums because he likes asserting his independence more. One thing that is nice when they get a little older is their ability to entertain and interact with each other.

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        anonymousse March 31, 2016, 8:12 pm

        Maybe it’s rougher because mine are so close in age? Mine are exactly 17 months apart.
        I seriously can’t wait until she can sit up, crawl, walk! It’s going to be so much fun.

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        keyblade March 31, 2016, 8:37 pm

        Oh the baby years are just hard! And I think it takes awhile to recover, especially if you are breastfeeding but ANYTIME sleep is scarce. I really think it takes a full year to get your energy back. I always think new mothers (including second timers) should be cut a huge break for at least the first year.

        It’s definitely easier when they get older. Mine can drive me bonkers with the competing but really the younger one is the older one’s shadow and when they aren’t finding ways to test each other they can be so cute and sweet to each other. It’s the best. Hang in there.

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        anonymousse March 31, 2016, 8:49 pm

        I’m looking forward to having more sleep. My baby just slept 7 hours in a row last night, which was amazing. They even both sleep (mostly) through the night sometimes, which is just ….heaven.

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    SasLinna March 31, 2016, 12:37 pm

    I feel that one of the best antidotes to comparing is to find a few trusted people and talk honestly about the challenges one is facing – or maybe even take the risk to open up to less close friends and see if they will reciprocate. A few days ago, I met up with an old friend and we shared our current job struggles. I felt SO much better just knowing that other women out there are faced with similar issues. I think it was also good for her to have that exchange because somehow she had me pinned as the “successful” one and was shocked to hear it’s not all awesome, all the time.

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    • Portia

      Portia March 31, 2016, 12:45 pm

      Agreed, it can apply to lots of areas of life. During the last few years of grad school when I was getting more and more convinced I’d be looking for jobs outside of academia, I’d meet up regularly with a few people in my cohort that were like-minded to talk about our grad school struggles and navigating that path. And also just bitch about things and drink beer. Definitely helped me keep my sanity, especially when interacting with the grad students who were thinking tenure track or bust.

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        SasLinna March 31, 2016, 1:00 pm

        I’m actually starting to look for jobs outside academia right now! I think I’ll need to find some people who followed a similar path (or who are switching careers, too), right now I only know people who are either in academia or never were, so I can’t really identify with anyone.

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      • Portia

        Portia March 31, 2016, 1:36 pm

        That little group of 3-4 was the best. None of us had actually voiced our interest in leaving academia but we separately shown up at the same talk about leaving the academy. The woman who gave the talk gave us the idea for the group too, she said to find a group and go drinking regularly together (always good advice regardless of circumstance, in my opinion). I think she’s one of the authors of this book, which I really liked: http://www.amazon.com/What-Are-You-Going-That/dp/0226038823

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        SasLinna March 31, 2016, 1:59 pm

        Thanks for the book recommendation! I do know some people who left academia back in my home country but because I’m already out of grad school (post doc) and moved to a different country I don’t currently know anyone near me who’s in the same situation. Or maybe there are people who want to leave, but no one talks about it… But this has reminded me that I should get in touch with some people who I know have made the transition.

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      • Portia

        Portia March 31, 2016, 2:41 pm

        Definitely talk to them, it certainly can’t hurt! It can be tough to find those people who want to leave academia because it seems like there’s this assumption that everyone will stay and fight it out. I hope it goes well for you!

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  • mylaray

    Mylaray March 31, 2016, 12:51 pm

    This is the kind of thing that scares me about becoming a mother, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop myself from trying to be the perfect mom. I’m a natural overachiever and perfectionist and I try to be an amazing cook, baker, the perfect worker, a great wife, someone who always looks put together, and on and on, and it’s exhausting. Consciously, I know it’s silly to get worked up about this, but I think especially when having a baby, which is new and exciting, I’ll end up making baby food from scratch, and cloth diapering, and doing fun crafts with kids all the time…it’s not even that I think that’s the right way, but I have this desire to to be everything all the time. I actually do enjoy what I’ve mentioned, but it gets so exhausting, especially when I never give myself a break from it. It’s not sustainable, of course, and hopefully I’ll have more balance when I do have a baby.

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      RedroverRedrover March 31, 2016, 12:57 pm

      I know someone like this, and while she loves it, it’s burnt her out more than once. To the point where she’s had to leave jobs. I think it’s a really good sign that you’re aware of it, and really you just have to continue watching yourself and making sure you’re not taking on more than you can handle. Maybe you are already, if you’re exhausted. It might be worth taking inventory of everything you do, and prioritizing it, so that you can drop the bottom couple of items anytime you’re feeling really overwhelmed. I burnt out at work at one point and I’ve never bounced back even after taking a leave of absence. Definitely be aware and avoid getting yourself into that spot.

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      • mylaray

        Mylaray March 31, 2016, 1:14 pm

        Yeah, that’s definitely a good idea to narrow down and prioritize. I left my last job because I was working 60-80 hour weeks and took a pay cut and fewer responsibilities at a new job and I’m doing better on that front. I hope I don’t turn into the mom that others dislike because they might think I think I’m better than them or something. Thankfully, I know my husband is willing to share childcare responsibilities (he even wants to stay at home) and I have some time to manage how unrealistic it is to go “all out”.

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    Kate March 31, 2016, 1:04 pm

    I gotta say, I don’t really do this. Maybe because I’m not a mom? Maybe also because I never had any expectations or goals for myself when I was young. I feel like I’m doing as well as can be expected.

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      RedroverRedrover March 31, 2016, 1:07 pm

      The mom thing really makes it worse. I think it’s because now you’re dealing with someone else and trying to help them become a good person. With yourself there’s more wiggle room, you know? At least for me. And with yourself it feels like there’s more control too. Your choices are for YOU. When your choices affect your kid, it makes it that much harder.

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    • Portia

      Portia March 31, 2016, 1:47 pm

      I also don’t, but I remember a time when I was younger and did worry about some of the looking good stuff (with clothes and makeup and stuff), but it never came easy. Then I just gave up because I didn’t see a point to it and haven’t gone back. I only wear makeup and contacts and “dress up” a little a few times a year. But also, not a mom here.

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  • Portia

    Portia March 31, 2016, 1:07 pm

    I would not survive around mothers who all seemed to have their shit together. Just, nope.
    .
    My SIL is fantastic and just such an interesting person and I have seen her fall for the pressure of being a mom that’s got it all together. And it sucks because she’s like one of the coolest people I know even without that stuff and does not need to worry about all that. I think she’s mellowed about that as they’ve had more babies and less time to worry.

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    K March 31, 2016, 1:17 pm

    The baby in the article photo looks very much like my mom and I when we were babies. Weird!

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    anonymousse March 31, 2016, 1:39 pm

    I probably did more comparing as a brand new parent. Now, I just let it go. I’m doing an awesome job, and there’s not much that fazes me. Some days are harder than others, but most are good. My kids are happy, my husband and I are happy and that’s where I derive my self worth and satisfaction from. All the other stuff is just noise.

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      anonymousse March 31, 2016, 1:56 pm

      I know I have it pretty good, so I try not to compare myself to others so much anymore.

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  • FireStar

    Firestar March 31, 2016, 2:01 pm

    Funnily enough, because my daughter was premature and in the NICU she has mandatory follow up as the hospital tracks her development (I think until she is 5) and some of the places they have sent us have milestone targets that they insist on – like fifty words by 18 months etc. that flew in the face of my belief that different kids do different things at different times. It really makes you start thinking there is something wrong if your 18 month old isn’t having conversations with you yet. I really did have to take a moment and intellectually and emotionally reject some of what “professionals” were saying to me. Even studies they quoted had been updated with different results that they weren’t aware of. It’s aggravating because I’m stubborn and own-way-ish in my own right so by nature research things on my own and question everything told to me regardless of the source. Which is how I found out about the updated studies. But I could see how telling some of these things they told me to a new mom who was younger or more vulnerable could really do some damage. My daughter could count to 10 before she was two but for love our money wouldn’t call me mama regularly but the milestone is most kids say mama in their first couple of words so they ask about that specifically. Ultimately they “diagnosed” her as being “own agenda”….which means she will do what she wants when she wants to do it (like her mama actually)… but that actually is a thing.

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    • veritek33

      veritek33 March 31, 2016, 2:18 pm

      Your kid sounds awesome.

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      • FireStar

        Firestar March 31, 2016, 2:59 pm

        Thanks – she kind of is! 🙂

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    • Portia

      Portia March 31, 2016, 2:37 pm

      Man, the speaking milestones are ridiculous. I don’t think any of my child language acquisition professors would stick to an “x number of words by y age” rule of thumb because it varies so much. My SIL ended up sending her daughter to speech camp at one point and I didn’t want to seem like I was judging her parenting, but I told her I thought odds were pretty good she was just fine, maybe make sure the nanny is taking enough around her during the day.

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      • Portia

        Portia March 31, 2016, 2:59 pm

        Another thing: the amount of speech that a child is producing is not necessarily indicative of what they’re capable of or have inside their brain. That’s like one of the tenants of linguistics, that the internal grammar is not equal to production. Also, I can’t believe they were stuck on mama! Ugh, that makes me mad. A single word is not a stage of language, come on!

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        anonymousse March 31, 2016, 4:48 pm

        This is so true. My son could clearly understand so much of what we said to him, and used gestures to communicate mostly, but nowadays he pops out multiple new words a day. It’s so awesome. He very rarely says mama, maybe because he’s around me so much?

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  • veritek33

    veritek33 March 31, 2016, 2:17 pm

    I don’t really have mom comparison problems because I’m not a mom, but does anyone else compare houses or cars or things like that?

    Example: my first house was a teeny tiny 700 ft square little GI house that I bought when I was 24. And I’m friends with a lot of people that make A LOT more money than me and have waaaaaay nicer houses. They just happened to choose careers that make more money than me. Like my starter home compared to my best friend’s starter home is zero comparison. My first house would have fit into her living room.

    So I worked hard and saved and bought my modest dream home last fall. And guess what? My best friend and her husband just bought a new house that puts my dream house to shame. Like, straight out of architectural digest drool worthy. And I felt myself getting really jealous looking at it. And then I thought to myself, “Veritek you just bought your dream house and you LOVE it. Who the fuck cares what your friend’s house looks like?”

    And my payment is way smaller. So I just remind myself of that 🙂

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      RedRoverRedRover March 31, 2016, 2:29 pm

      I try not to. It does happen sometimes, but I find overall I’m happier if I don’t. I’m also lucky in that most of the people I hang around with are in a similar pay bracket to my husband and I, so the differences between us are more obviously due to life choices. Like we have one couple who go on 3-4 trips every year. Would I love 3-4 vacations every year? Of course! But our house is probably double the size of theirs, and since we’re homebodies, it made a lot more sense for us to put our money there. Whereas for them, they could never give up their travelling for a bigger house.

      In the end I think you just have to try to look at yourself, and whether you’re happy, and try to ignore what others have that might be better than yours.

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      Rangerchic March 31, 2016, 2:35 pm

      @veritek33, we have done that too with friends but finally gave that up. We are finally where we want to be and are happy for our friends who get a new car, or new house, or go on an awesome vacation. We did have one set of friends, though, who always tried to one-up us, it felt like. Like if one of us were sick, they were sicker, our oldest daughter was very lucky and got to go to Germany for a school trip then they were like, well my son is going to…where ever he went. Like it was a contest! It’s not a contest!

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      • veritek33

        veritek33 March 31, 2016, 4:21 pm

        The one uppers are the ones I just can’t deal with….

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        anonymousse March 31, 2016, 6:56 pm

        Their existence must suck. There’s always someone better looking, thinner, richer, whatever.

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      jlyfsh March 31, 2016, 2:39 pm

      It’s so easy to compare things like that. I think it’s like you said though you have to stand back and realize what you have and why it makes you happier. But, there are times it still sneaks in there. Especially I’ve found when I’m having a bad day or I’m ticked off by something. It’s easy to look at someone else and say well look at their fancy car everything must be perfect for them! When it’s obviously not perfect for anyone.

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    • mylaray

      mylaray March 31, 2016, 2:39 pm

      Yeah, it’s so easy to compare, but lots of people would be jealous you bought your first house on your own at 24! We moved into a new neighborhood last year, where most of the homes are 3-4x the cost of ours, and the only reason we could afford to buy there was because the house was in such disrepair, we tore it down and built new for much less than the cost of neighboring homes. Our home is still tiny in comparison. I’m sure some of my friends are jealous we built a new house, but it’s so easy to look at other people’s bigger/better/whatever in a “the grass is greener” attitude.

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      • veritek33

        veritek33 March 31, 2016, 4:23 pm

        Sometimes I forget the grass is greener aspect, like I’m single with no kids so I can drop everything and travel, or decorate my house however I want. My BFF is married with a 1 year old and another on the way. They can barely go to a movie and I get to go to Cancun at the end of the month because I just don’t have the same responsibilities. We both have things the other one wants, but both are blessed to have the lives we have, ya know?

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      K March 31, 2016, 3:30 pm

      Yup, I definitely do this. My 10 year college reunion is this year, and there are some friends of mine who have houses and travel the world and all that and we’re the same age and went to the same college. I rent an apartment and I’m nearly certain I make the least amount of money of anyone who graduated in my major in my year (there were only 18 of us so it’s easy to keep track). Theoretically with my degree and experience I should be making twice what I do make. And sometimes I wonder why I am where I am, job-wise, despite trying to get a new job for years. And I would absolutely love a house. But, my boyfriend and I do quite a bit of semi-local traveling (within a 4-5 hour drive) and this is the 3rd year in a row we have a trip planned out to the western U.S. (visiting different places each time), so I know I am still very lucky in that regard.

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    Rangerchic March 31, 2016, 2:27 pm

    My kids are 16 and 20 and while I didn’t feel some of these pressures, the pressure I did feel mostly was about my 16 yo and her weight. She’s always been heavy but ate a really good diet, got plenty of exercise. I’ve her thyroid tested and other tests done. Finally, we saw one doctor who had her do a DNA spit test (she was also having other issues). It showed that she has a really slow metabolism. This will always be an up-hill battle for her.
    All that being said, I sometimes get glared at (more when she was younger) and she has definitely felt the pressures, especially being a girl and in HS (of course it starts in elementary). I also grew up with a judgemental father and grandmother (and probably some other members of the family) and for a long time I cared about what they thought. Finally, a few years ago, I finally decided to let it go and I think my daughter picked up on that too because she has been much happier and so have I. We cook together and eat healthy together and exercise together. She knows more about nutrition then probably anyone else her age. As long she is healthy, I don’t care what her weight is. I’m proud of her and more importantly, she is also proud to be who she is.

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    keyblade March 31, 2016, 6:31 pm

    Thank you for the great article and thoughts, Wendy.

    When I read about how easy it is to compare I thought of a quote from Clayton Christensen on parenting:

    “As such, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that anyone can offer you. The hot water that softens a carrot will harden an egg.”

    It is so easy to compare yourself to others, natural even. In fact, we are pretty much trained to do that. The entire scientific method is based on systematic comparison. In my high school and college courses, students were being taught and encouraged to critically evaluate information before accepting it. I think comparison can become a coping mechanism where people try to change their perspective of a negative because everything is relative. “I once was sad I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet”. In job settings, raises are often based on how your numbers and ratings compare to other people.

    But then one gets to motherhood. And “the water that softens a carrot, hardens an egg”. There is no standard model. On anything!! There is no consensus even among the self-appointed experts. There is no control, except maybe glimpses of mothers who at a glance appear to have an abundance of self-reported success in a few made-up criteria that we all think might define motherhood success: ( being in shape, being well-dressed, always being patient, always being understanding, always having an immediate, intuitive grasp of all things concerning our child, having a good job with a top-notch day-care, staying home and attachment parenting, potty-training the right way, eating the right way, nurturing the right way, having the right extra-curricular activities, never being late, never being messy, anticipating the next mile-stone, having the kids who are the most well-behaved/gifted/sensitive/insert an adjective here, never having the kid who is struggling/temper-tantrum-ing /slow/insert adjective here). Do you live in the nice enough house, the cool enough city, the good enough school district? The ways to be critical (for one so inclined) are endless.

    I suppose I’m a carrot. The hot-water situations of my life have made me softer and perhaps more sympathetic. I’m also lucky enough to be in charge of temperature of my water. And while a bit of heat has made me more yielding and less likely to break when bent, too much and I’m mush. It isn’t good for me.

    But I know there are eggs out there. I suppose when they get boiled too long they turn into Trumps. Sometimes, I hear the messages made for eggs: “Dream big”, “shoot for the moon”, “light a fire under your ass”. Being an open minded-person who is also prone to anxiety I will forget that nothing is one size fits-all and I will question whether I’m doing it all wrong. “Because I care!”, insists my anxiety. Maybe because my parents were eggs and I have a gut-reaction to reject my carrot-ness. If I wanted more to worry about I suppose I could start food metaphors about my own kids. Or because society hasn’t seemed to make up its mind if it is okay to be soft or preferable to have a shell. Honestly, I sometimes I think the reason we have a generation of anxious kids (at least reportedly high in college) is because we have encouraged them to be soft and empathetic to others. It is impossible not to compare yourself to someone else when you identify with what they are feeling and then try to go back to your own feelings. Comparison is a side-effect. I might be completely out to lunch with the big sweeping statements. And there I go again. This is why sometimes I have to jump-start myself with mindfulness exercises. Anyways, good job being the best damn mom on the planet, Wendy. P.S. I think you should let us edit comments we make in the columns.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy March 31, 2016, 7:42 pm

      You can edit. I think you can’t edit on replies, but you can edit if your comment is a stand-alone one.

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        keyblade March 31, 2016, 8:20 pm

        Weird. I don’t see an edit link.

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        anonymousse March 31, 2016, 8:43 pm

        Me neither.

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    mertlej March 31, 2016, 7:38 pm

    This is appropriately timed, because I’ve been feeling really sad lately. It’s like I’m stretched so thin that nothing gets all of the attention that it needs, and I feel like I’m letting every aspect of my life down. My role as a mom, as a wife, as a best friend, as a contributing member of the workforce… Everything has taken a bit of a hit, so I’m left feeling like I’m failing at everything.

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      keyblade March 31, 2016, 8:28 pm

      I’m sorry you’re feeling sad, mertlej. I’ll bet you’re just fine. You wouldn’t feel thinly stretched if you were trying hard in a lot of ways. Maybe its okay to let that be enough for now. I know my post above was weird but there really is no point in boiling yourself alive. But its easier said than done to snap out of a hyperventilate state of stress. I’ll bet all those people who you think you’re letting down, understand and love you for being human.

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        keyblade March 31, 2016, 8:39 pm

        I’m so sorry. I meant to write you would NOT feel thinly streched if you were NOT trying hard in a lot of ways. I’m sorry. I have strep, that’s my excuse. I’m going to bed now.

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      RedRoverRedRover April 1, 2016, 8:39 am

      Same here mertlej. I think that’s common. All we can do is push through, hope you feel better soon.

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    macaroni April 1, 2016, 5:54 am

    Long time reader, first time commenter here. Thank you, Wendy, for all you do for this site and community. I sometimes feel like I have grown and matured as a person and parent with you and DW. My oldest daughter was born a few months after Jackson and by reading your essays on (your struggles with) being a mother, I was at least somewhat prepared of what was coming at me. I also had some miscarriages after my first in the same period you wrote about your miscarriage. My youngest daughter is only a few weeks younger than Joanie and again, your essays have helped me on the way. It is like you are always a few months ahead of me and everything you write hits home.

    I love reading letters and your advice and even though most situations fortunately don´t apply to me, I still learn from them and think about how I should deal with what comes my way. But I really also enjoy very much your personal essays and the article links you and the other readers share on for example motherhood and combining a job with parenthood, and all the comments and discussions from the other readers. They are sometimes real eye-openers. It makes me feel like I am not alone out there with my struggles. I don´t really have the time to search the internet myself, so Friday is one of my favourite DW days, because I know there will be a bunch of interesting articles selected for me.

    So I guess what I am trying to say is that I appreciate that the site has been evolving with me, from a place where you answer letters, to a place where people can learn from each other´s experiences. I also realise that not all readers are in the same life phase, so you need to find a way to keep things interesting for everyone. With the suggestions I have seen, I think you will do a great job at that!

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