As a parent, it can be all too easy to compare yourself to other parents, to how they parent, to what we think we know of their relationship with their child, even to how a child behaves – both for the good and the bad – and how it reflects on parenting ability.
How many times have we seen someone doing something and thought ‘I would never do… what are they thinking?’ How many times have we seen a parent who seems to be doing it all and felt judged because we couldn’t even manage homemade snacks for a playgroup? We have to start giving ourselves, and other parents, a break, and stop the comparisons.
There is no apples to apples parent
You cannot compare yourself to another parent, good or bad, because you are in no way identical. Even if you have the same number of children and at the same ages, your responsibilities, the personality of the children, even the routine of the household, will always vary enough that a comparison is never equal.
Perhaps a family always has homemade, organic snacks for the kids because grandma is a baker with time on her hands. Perhaps a parent who volunteers at every event and in every club their child is involved with used to have a high energy job and now stays home and has the time to direct that energy into something else.
Give others, and yourself a break
When you see a parent doing something you would never do, stop to think that perhaps there is a reason. Perhaps that little boy having a tantrum in the middle of the store and being ignored is doing so for the first time ever and perhaps mom or dad has decided they are not going to give in to teach them a lesson. Instead of a glare because the child is screaming in the store, offer a smile of understanding.
When you start to compare and feel yourself a failure because you are the one getting the stares or because you are giving in for one reason or another, give yourself the same break you give others. Realize that no one is perfect, that no one gets it right every time, and move on.
Instead of comparing, make change
There is an expression that says the grass is always greener on the other side. There is also an expression that says if you think the grass is greener on the other side, you need to pay more attention to your own lawn.
If you think someone else’s kids are better behaved than yours because they are so polite, perhaps it’s time to focus a bit more on manners at home. If you think another parent is better because they coach a team or bake cookies or always seem to have time to play with the kids, perhaps it’s time to rethink priorities and to do some of the things you see others doing that you envy. You certainly don’t have to mirror what anyone else does, but if there is something in particular you wish you had in your own life, find a way to make it happen.
Parenting is tough and no one is going to tell you otherwise. It can be a little easier though when we all stop comparing ourselves and others and just focus on doing the best we can.
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