Moms come in all shapes, sizes, and stripes—but some of them seem to make the whole parenting thing look so darn easy. Not to mention the over-achieving mothers who somehow seem to do the impossible. You know these moms, or maybe you’re even one of them (if so, we applaud you!): they work full-time; raise a brood of A+ students who are also all-star athletes; get gourmet meals on the table every night; and host killer parties that look as though Martha Stewart had a hand in planning.
Especially in this age of Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and more, it’s easy to get wrapped up in how other moms seem to be doing it all and excelling in all facets of motherhood. Can you even recall the last time you went 24 hours without consciously or subconsciously compare yourself to others—whether friends, acquaintances, or strangers—on social media, at the playground, at your kids’ school, or elsewhere? (Confession: we can’t!) A recent Parenting/AOL poll revealed that an astounding 92% of the nearly 1,000 moms who completed their survey admitted they're sometimes envious of other moms.
So, today we’d like to tackle the topic of “mom envy;” nearly all of us are guilty of this at one time or another, so it’s worth taking a step back and reflecting on what’s really going on here. Are these constant comparisons healthy? Can any good result from them? Here are some thoughts and lessons that we’ve been working through as we explore this topic.
1. The myth of the “Supermom”
Yes, there truly are Supermoms among us; it’s a fact we must accept. Their hair will always look runway-ready; they’ve perfected the concept of “leaning in;” and the breathtaking creations they bake for birthdays will forever put ours to shame. BUT (and this is a big) it doesn’t mean they are better mothers.
In fact, where you excel, these Supermoms may fall short (and even envy you—how about that!). They may not have your heart, your compassion, your ability to connect and impact the family, or your success in endeavors beyond your children. So try not to take every encounter with “perfect” moms at face value.
2. Working-mom guilt
Women who work outside the home, whether part- or full-time, are especially vulnerable to mom envy. If you fall into this category, you may often feel jealous of moms who can be at home all day—cooking, creating craft projects, and ready to tend to any situation that may need their attention. It’s easy to idealize the idea of staying at home and not having to balance the demands of office politics, deadlines, travel, etc.
But there is probably a very good reason that you work—be it financial, to provide personal fulfillment, or otherwise. Whatever the case, you are doing well by your family even when you are away from them; the power of being stable, motivated, and happy can’t be underestimated.
3. Social-media envy
Facebook is a great way to keep up with friends and stay in the loop with other local parents. However, its usefulness quickly diminishes when we become obsessed with the picture-perfect photos, trips, and accolades that other moms may post. It’s sometimes hard to do, but it’s always worth remembering that Facebook presents a highly edited version of a mom’s or family’s life. For every one “smiling happy family” photo that gets uploaded, there are likely 20 or more that didn’t make the cut because they showed chaos, frowns, spills, or something else that’s not post-worthy. We all know this, but we need to remind ourselves of it from time to time.
Here’s the bottom-line: each of our families is different and unique in its makeup, needs, wants, and realities. So too does every mom have distinct talents, demands, and abilities. And we can never really know another’s circumstance or what life is like inside a family that’s not our own; all we see are the small snapshots—like the mom who looks beautiful and volunteers for every committee at the PTA meeting, the mom who is crocheting blankets while her child plays calmly at the park, and images moms choose to post online.
So…what can you gain from the feelings of mom envy that are likely to creep into your life from time to time, no matter how much you try to squelch them? First, know that it’s a very natural and normal thing to compare ourselves to others; it’s been happening since the beginning of humanity. Then, try to use these moments of mom envy for good and inspiration.
For instance, if you admire the festive decorations another mom used at her child’s birthday party, maybe it will spur you on to get creative for your kid’s upcoming shindig. Or maybe you are feeling envious of the great educational trip another mom took her kids on; if you think you and your kids would enjoy something similar, explore some options!
Most importantly, acknowledge to yourself that you are reacting in these ways not because parenting is a competition or that it will make you a better mother to emulate another; respond only from a place of love for your children and in a way that you feel makes sense for them as well as you. Recognize when you are feeling envious, why you are feeling envious, and see if you can’t turn the feeling into admiration as you further explore your own awesome-mom talents.
We’re never all going to look fresh as a daisy everyday; it’s just never going to happen, but that is a-okay. We’re all trying our hardest, and even when we feel bummed out or like we’re not doing enough, there are probably moms out there who are jealous of our situation. So, try to accept where you are on this great journey of parenthood and let’s stop trying so hard to outdo each other.