When we arrived at the park to visit a new homeschool co-op, the other families had just pulled in as well. I was thankful to see the only other mom I knew there in the parking lot. Seeing her meant my kids and I would not be walking into a new group alone.
The other kids walked together in pairs or groups of three and four, helping their mothers carry bags or waving wooden toys in rhythm with their strides – it was clear that they all had this co-op thing down.
On a picnic table under the grove of trees where we would gather, a mother was organizing her supplies for the day’s craft. Another mother was spreading a large tarp, and a few others were either chatting together or reviewing notes before it was their turn to teach a short lesson. The wooden toys were now being employed in battle by a handful of brave young knights. I spotted a few agile climbers up in the trees. Yet more kids dotted the field here and there, enjoying the free time before we began.
Before long, everyone was sitting upon their blankets, shoes off and at ease. What I did not expect was just how delightful and enjoyable it all would be.
THIS. This is the freedom, beauty and wonder that I want to characterize my kids’ childhood. The folk songs with the sweet little movements. The rhythmic poetry read by an articulate mother, followed by less articulate but ever so much more endearing children reciting short poems. The silly games. The art. The classical music. The hymns. The community.
It seemed like all of this was the pinnacle of what I was aiming for.
It also seemed like everyone else was doing a much better job than me.
In the midst of our participation that morning, I was having an internal dialogue with the part of me that is still tempted to compare myself to others.
I should be doing SO. MUCH. MORE.
When can I schedule more nature journaling? Oh, we should totally be memorizing poetry! Why don’t we listen to more classical music? I can’t believe my kids can’t do a proper jumping jack!
Have you ever felt like this?
Maybe it’s not a homeschool co-op, but a playdate or dinner at a friend’s house or someone else’s (better behaved kids … more stylish wardrobe … home cooked meals) that prompts a similar internal dialogue.
Today more than ever, we are exposed to the gamut of women with strengths of every sort. Certainly in your handful of friends or social media circle, you know of women who are excellent cooks, or who are always dressed impeccably, or who are so patient with their kids you wonder if there’s a magic pill they’re taking that you’re missing out on.
The point is, the opportunities to compare ourselves to other will never end.
On this day, though, I won the battle. By reminding myself (over and over) that I can choose to either be inspired or defeated.
We can look at other women’s successes and let them expose all the areas we feel lacking in. We can allow our minds to run wild thinking of all the ways we are “failing” our kids. We can start immediately to figure out what to do in order to be JUST AS GOOD as everyone else.
Or … We can take control of our thoughts and remind ourselves of a few true things.
Her success is not your failure.
Remember these three things the next time the comparison snake rears its head:
This motherhood gig is a marathon, not a sprint.
Remembering the marathon mentality is helpful. It takes time to find your groove and implement systems that work. It’s not single days or months that will make or break your kids. It is years of simply loving and investing in them that will make the biggest impact. Day after day, year after year, of sacrificially serving your children and taking advantage of all the small conversations and moments will create a legacy that will last.
If you’re struggling right now, it’s okay. The race is not over.
In order to be this woman’s friend, I need to honestly delight in her successes.
A true friend cannot always be comparing herself. Judgment, jealousy and pity follow comparison. If I look at a woman and only see my weaknesses, then what I am not looking at is this woman. Her person. Her worth. I am missing the forest for the trees.
Practice self-forgetfulness and be a good friend.
This is an opportunity for good. If I can see it.
When I let myself become defeated, it shuts the door on learning from women whose strengths I admire. Choose to see other women’s strengths for what they are – opportunities for inspiration. Be thankful that we all have areas in which we excel.
Friends, community is a precious gift! Don’t let comparison cause you to miss out.
Lisa is an imperfect, slightly awkward, mother of five (three at home, one in heaven, and one on the way), cooking, crafting and generally loving life. You can find her sharing recipes, projects, ideas and encouragements from her everyday life at thispilgrimlife.com. You can also find her on Facebook.