There are two things that will kill a relationship with another mom, a momlationship if you will, faster than you can say, “Your baby is so cute.” Comparison and judgment. The two go hand-in-hand and really could be lumped into one monstrous uber-issue. We could call it Comparijudge or Judgparison.
I’m about to be extremely honest with you and give you a taste of what’s actually going on inside my head when I’m talking to another mom. It isn’t pretty. You aren’t going to like it. But I’m betting that you have your own version of this going on inside your own head, so here goes.
- I wonder what she’d do if she saw my kitchen and the dirty dishes still stacked up from two nights ago? I’m so disgusting.
- Oh, she homeschools. Wow I’m awful. I can’t wait for the bus to come pick up my kids every morning and I’m already freaking out about summer break.
- She’s in gym clothes and she looks super sporty and I’m winded when I run up the stairs too fast.
- Did she just hear me accidentally blast “That sucks!” loudly in front of all the first graders? Is she judging me for my evil bad language? I keep forgetting the rules and I’m not safe for children.
- Her kids aren’t allowed to play video games. I wish my kids weren’t allowed to play video games. That definitely sounds healthier than what I have going down at my house.
- I let my kids eat donuts all weekend and she’s talking about the garden she’s growing in pots on her back deck. I suck. Oh shoot, I said that word again.
- She’s really fun. I kinda hate her for being so fun. Why does she have to be fun all the time? What, do we live at Disney World or something? Just back the heck up off the fun. She’s making my kids notice how lame I am.
Maybe you can relate. We’re always comparing ourselves to other moms and beating ourselves down for the choices we make or the choices made for us.
And I won’t even share some of the things that go through my head when I’m judging other moms. You may never forgive me. But you have your own version of it, I’m sure.
I don’t even notice I’m doing it and then, bam, I realize I’ve gone up in my brain and I’m having a field day with other people’s lives. It’s gross. And don’t pretend that you don’t do it, too.
We judge ourselves and other moms and we compare and contrast, and it’s exhausting. How do we jump off this crazy train?
I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few things I’m working on:
1. Start by noticing. When you’re talking with another mom, pay attention to when you get up in your head and start cataloguing and critiquing her. Change your internal narrative from critiquing to trying to understand where she’s coming from. If I’m really having a heyday with another mom in my head, I throw out a Hail Mary to God and pray, “Lord help me to see this woman the way you see her.”
2. Wow that’s so awesome. When she’s telling you about why she does something the way she does it, respond with “Wow that’s so awesome.” (If you’re like me, you may need to practice saying this without sarcasm.) Wow that’s so awesome, tell me more about________. Not that you have to agree with everything someone says, but you can learn to be a good listener and learner of others.
3. Appreciate your own way. Recognize that another mom’s way of doing things does not mean you have to do it that way. The more I learn to love myself and appreciate my own way, the more I can love other moms and get excited about what they’ve got going down in their own very awesome homes. I’m learning to love being different.
4. You are the best mom for your unique children. No one can parent your kids better than you. Sure, of course we can listen and learn from each other, but ultimately, you make the call, you determine the course.
5. Let people see some of your mess. You don’t have to bare it all, but if all of us would relax a bit and stop trying to look like the highlight reel of someone’s Instagram feed, we’d discover we’re all doing the best we can. Almost every time I’ve let someone peek at my mess, shared a struggle, and opened up, I’ve had other moms sigh and share their own junk. This can be a literal or figurative mess. One time, the mom of my son’s friend saw my messy house and said, “Oh good, I can be friends with you. Your house looks like mine.”
6. You are enough. You’re doing the best you can. You are enough. You’re doing the best you can. Repeat as needed, and extend liberally to others. These statements will neutralize all the Judgparison another mom or your own brain can throw at you.
For more about developing momlationships, check out my book, Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends, at WomenAreScary.com.
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