Comparing Ourselves To Other Mothers

rp_9RHh3v1433446787-225x300.jpgWe all do it. We watch other women with their offspring and compare ourselves. But why do we compare?

Comparing has its advantages. The thing we want from it is reassurance. When we see mothers operating in the same way we do, it is reassuring and helps us confirm our actions. When we see mothers doing things in a manor we would not, then it can reassure us too. It helps us feel okay about the choices we make by comparison. But that is not the whole story.

There are times that we compare, however, and in our minds we come up wanting. In fact, the women I interviewed spoke of this a lot. So many told me of feeling like they were letting down their children in some way because they could see another mother doing something different to them. That difference they judged as better.

It can be the smallest thing to someone else but discovering that another mother always cooks her babies puree from scratch, when we don’t, can leave us questioning our choices. Or meeting a family who’s school children do extra homework when we find it enough to do the required amount, provokes fears of our children lagging behind. And the causes of the guilt are not always straight forward. A working mum may feel guilty when faced with a stay-at-home mum. But that a stay-at-home mum might be feeling guilty when faced with the working mum.

The thing is that it is human to compare. We are social animals and understanding difference tells us a lot about ourselves.

Learning about ourselves through our own judgements

Our judgements of others tell us more about ourselves than they do about the people we are judging. They reflect the internal rules that we live by. If someone routinely judges people on their looks then they have strong internal rules about how they should look. If someone judges people on their education or lack of it, then they have strong internal rules about displaying intelligence.

Our judgements tell us more about ourselves than they do the people we are judging Click To Tweet

Going through the process of being a mother teaches us so much about children but also about ourselves. For most of us the journey through motherhood teaches us to be more flexible. Babies and children challenge the internal rules that we have in so many ways. We find ourselves making shortcuts and doing things we never expected we would do. It may be that we have always prided ourselves on being tidy which we managed for a while but at some point it went out of the window, often with a second child. It may be that we would see a mother shouting at her children and we knew categorically that when we had children that we would never do that, only to find that we are that women who has nearly lost it in the supermarket.

The kinder we are to ourselves, the kinder we will be to others Click To Tweet

As we become more flexible however, we find an interesting thing, we automatically judge people less. As we are more flexible with ourselves, giving ourselves more choice and freedom, then we are more flexible in our reactions to other people. Of course, there will always be judgements and there is nothing wrong in that. It is just that the kinder we are to ourselves, the kinder we are to others. When we can give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, then so can we give the benefit of the doubt to the people in our lives. It may be that the mum in the shop losing her temper is a far from an ideal mother but it may just be a very bad day where she has been tested repeatedly by her kids and she has had to draw the line.

Do you compare yourselves to other mums? How is that? What has changed in your judgements over the time you have been a mother? I would love to know how it has been for you.

So what is next?

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46 thoughts on “Comparing Ourselves To Other Mothers

    1. Hi Erin. Thanks for visiting The Guilt Free Guide. We all judge. It is human so don’t be hard on yourself. I do it, everyone does. It is just that it is often misunderstood because our judgements are mostly about ourselves. I agree that those who are pretty content don’t always judge as much. Thanks for your insightful comment.

  1. I enjoyed reading this post and the one before about Motherhood fantasies. A very good friend of mine told me as I had children that all you can do is make the working choice that works for your family, as you will always worry if its right so you have to have an internal justification for why you’ve chosen it. Thanks for linking up to #sundaystars
    Mini Travellers recently posted…Elderflower Fields Festival ReviewMy Profile

    1. I really like your words her ‘working choice’. That is such a great phrase that encapsulates so much. It is about making those choices and understanding the reasons why because there is no right way to do it. I think i also like the phrase because to me it implies something that is changeable or ongoing rather than fixed. sometimes we need to change our minds or adjust as we go. Thanks for adding to this discussion.

  2. Anothet very interesting post.
    I used to compare myself and the choices I make against others very often. It often left me feeling down. Recently I’ve been trying not too, I feel a lot more at peace with myself. X
    Catriona recently posted…Osian at 19 Months OldMy Profile

    1. Hi Catriona, That is a great thing to hear. Not doing it (comparing) is a great way to validate yourself and your choices. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I think I’ve realised as a parent it is best to do no comparison. But you need the self confidence as a parent to not require validation from others before you can do that.

    You need to be able to pat yourself on the back and commend your successes yet recognise your failures and build upon them.

    1. Hi Kylie. I agree. I think there is a balance to be had between learning from others and comparing yourself. I think your last line is very profound and something all mothers can benefit from. Thank you for your insightful comment.

  4. I definitely compare but I’ve made a #mommitment not to judge other mums. I try really hard and sometimes have to catch myself from criticizing. It’s difficult to see the whole picture from the outside and almost everyone is doing the best they can. What works for me might not work for someone else and vice versa.

    #twinklytuesday
    Mama, My Kid Doesn’t Poop Rainbows recently posted…Photographing a BabyMy Profile

    1. It is such an easy thing to do but stepping back from a judgement to think about the other person or even better think about ourselves, does help us in the long run. thanks for commenting.

    1. Hi Baby Isabella. It is natural but glad to know your Mummy knows that everyone is different, then she can give herself a break. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Hi Em, I am glad you found it useful. It is such an easy trap to fall into but when we know we are doing it we can challenge that. You are so right we do never see the whole picture of someone else’s life. It is likely that mothers looking at you or hearing you talk will have felt a failure because you are doing something they aspire to. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Oh boy do I do this! And sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. My hardest part is judging the way I look compared to other mothers who seem to have it all together. I hate that one. And I hate how it can feel like a competition sometimes. I’m working on it though. Thanks for the wonderful post 😀 #twinklytuesday

    1. Hi Heather. It is so easy to do isn’t it? Once you can see you are doing it then it is easier to cope with. Likewise when it feels like a competition we can notice and choose to not make raising our kids about other people than our family.

      I know what you mean about how other mothers see you. I remember times when I went out to mother and baby groups, desperate to feel normal, so I put on nice clothes and a bit of make up and chatted away as if I wasn’t tearing my hair out at home. They probably had no clue unless they asked (where I was always honest) that I was struggling. Thank you very much for commenting and your kind words.

  6. There’s just no point comparing — particularly when you’re a mother of twins!! Perhaps if I had had one child at a time, maybe I would, but having two babies in one go makes you just get on with things. I don’t have time to compare myself! 🙂 Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday x

    Caro | http://www.thetwinklediaries.co.uk
    Caro | The Twinkles Mama recently posted…Twinkly Tuesday {02.06.15} | Featuring How To Be A New DadMy Profile

    1. Hi Caro, That sounds like a great approach. In a way it sounds like having twins makes it easier to know that you are not in a comparable situation. None of us are really and it is worth reminding ourselves of that. thanks for your comment.

  7. Oh wow – I do this a lot and I am always comparing the decisions that I make with those mums around me. Before I had Monkey I was very confident in my own decisions, and funnily enough while on mat leave but as soon as I went back to work – doubt and fear crept in and they’ve stayed!! I am just a competent about making the right choices now as I was then – more so in some ways but it just never feels like it at the time. I feel like I am always the one being judged. Something I need to work through!!

    Love your comment about the toddler group – clothes and makeup etc – sometimes it felt like war paint! LOL. The pressure to present this ‘i have it together image’. When actually no one does – well not all the time at least and thats okay – once you learn to accept it… think I still have some learning to do.

    A great thought provoking post as ever 🙂 #TwinklyTuesdays xx

    1. Hi Clare. Reading your words I felt that intense need we have to get things right for our children. It can make us doubt ourselves so much particularly when there isn’t a clear cut answer to most of it. For me personally my confidence grew with time and experience (although it does get shaken at times as they always present us with new issues). It sounds like you are on the right track and know that you can learn from other mums but shouldn’t compare. you are so right, no one has it together all the time. And that is oaky and normal. Thanks for adding to this discussion.

    1. That is great Sarah. It is great to hear how motherhood has brought you such growth and inner confidence. Often the very role of motherhood changes our perspective on ourselves. Thank you for adding your perspective to this conversation.

  8. Great post, I usually find that I’m quite good at not comparing. Comparison can be a killer, a thief of our joy. However, I am terrible, when I can see someone judging/comparing themselves to me, I almost become obsessed with doing it back. I will sit and chat (only to my husband) about my choices, and affirming them over and over in my head and with him. I must drive him crazy but it doesn’t happen often. The biggest one for me was a friend I had (I don’t see them now) who didn’t believe in disciplining her children (at all) her beautiful little boy would just be getting more and more naughty, and she would tell me it must be my husbands great natured genes that made us have such well-behaved children. It would infuriate me, it couldn’t possibly be that we discipline them (I’m not on about smacking, I mean we don’t give dessert after a meal, or buy them the toy they wanted because they had done something naughty). To be honest, writing this comment I can see it still bugs me haha, probably best that I don’t see them any more. *winks* #sharewithme
    Alexandra @dontcallmestepmummy recently posted…7 Steps to Simplify Your LifeMy Profile

    1. It can be hard at times in relationships with other mothers particularly when we clash over such important issues as our children. It sounds like you are just not on the same wave length as this person. It is best to make sure we spend time with people who we feel will support us and understand us. Thanks for adding to this discussion.

  9. I always compare myself to others. But I think I’m going through a bit of a phase where nothing I do will be good enough to me. So I compare to try and improve, if that makes sense, but it can have a real negative effect when I can’t do things or I don’t get the same results. #sharewithme
    The L’s Mum recently posted…Baby L you are now twoMy Profile

    1. I really hear what you are saying here. Comparing as a means of learning is a useful thing to do. Asking ideas and watching others can give us great tips. However when we let it diminish how we feel about ourselves than it is not so good, after all we cant be everything. From what you have written I am wondering if it is worth asking yourself what the underlying feeling/fear is that you have generally about being a mother? It may help you get to a deeper understanding of why you feel not quite good enough at the moment. I hope that helps. contact me if you want to – and I can e-mail you. Thanks for commenting.

  10. As always, such an insightful post – I find that I am a lot more flexible with myself and far less judgemental with other mums these days. I find that I very rarely compare myself with other mums because a) I am pretty at ease with the mother I have turned out to be, imperfections and all and b) I know now that everyone has their own way, challenges and story. Keep the pearls of wisdom coming! #sharewithme

    1. Talya, your support really makes a difference to me. I am so glad that you are comfortable with the mother you are. I think there is great personal growth in learning not to need to live up to others or to need to judge others.

    1. Hi Jeremy. This is such a great point. It is genuinely hard to feel judged. I had not thought about it from the mum/dad perspective. I think those mums looking at your daughter might also have judged me with my son who I happily send out in clothes he wants to wear that in no way go together. likewise when my boys were learning to dress themselves if it wasn’t going to be uncomfortable I let them go out with clothes on back to front because I knew it would dishearten them if I re did them. Definitely a few raised eyebrows there. Thanks for commenting. You have really added a new perspective here.

    1. Hi Erin. I am glad to hear that you are getting much more comfortable with yourself as a mother. It is a learning process, one I went through too. Being kind to yourself and acknowledging your own strengths is just as important as knowing where you would like to improve. Thanks for your comment.

  11. We try really hard not to compare our selves to other mums (we are a two-mummy family) because it can really cause us to doubt ourselves. we are a split-culture family (British/ Thai) adn I realised after our twins came along that never were cultural gulfs wider than in views on child-raising. We do sometimes feel judged becuase of some of our parenting choices but I think overall we are at peace with it. Thanks for this thoughtful piece!

    1. I can see that the two cultures would cause more challenges. It can be hard enough in the same culture. It sounds like you work as a team though and have reached a place where others judgements don’t hurt you, which is great. Thanks for commenting.

  12. I always love this kind of blog post because I wade and say “but I’m a styay at home dad.” There are no SAHDs in my life to compare myself to. DO I compare myself to other mums? To a point, but even if I say so myself I’m quite a confident parent. DO I get judged by other mums? Sure I do, but I imagine I get judged differently on the basis of my gender which I always htink is wrong. #MMWBH
    John Adams recently posted…Lost; one wedding ringMy Profile

    1. Hi John. I has another Dad make the point that he felt other Mums judged him on being a man with a ‘oh look, he tried’ attitude, which would infuriate me. My husband is just as good as me at parenting. We have our different strengths but so do all people.
      It is great to hear that you don’t compare yourself too much and feel confident. I think being able to learn from others is good but a degree of confidence in our abilities helps too. Thanks for commenting.

  13. I struggled a lot when I’d just had BP, I had no friends and found it hard to find my feet as a first time mum. When he started school that feeling only got worse because I saw all these fantastic mothers who brought their children to school. You’re right, judging others is more about ourselves. I wasn’t happy with the type of person I was and once I changed that I was able to be much nicer to others. I now have a few friends who I’ve chatted to in the playground for years. BP is 10 years old now, he goes up to High School in September. I do my best not to judge others these days, and I’m much happier for it. 🙂
    Morgan Prince recently posted…My Top 5 TV DadsMy Profile

    1. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences, Morgan. It sounds as if you have grown into the role of motherhood and learnt about yourself along the way. It is not always an easy transition to make. It is so easy to compare our feelings to how someone else appears which so often is not really that valid. Having friends to share with makes a big difference. I am glad to hear you are happier for not judging. It shows that you have an inner flexibility for yourself as well as others.

  14. This is a great post again!
    I honestly cant remember if I did judge mothers before I was one. I have probably (more than likely) judged some mothers since I have become a mother myself, but only if I think they are shouting or saying the wrong things etc. If I think they could of done it a better way. But yet again, I shouldn’t judge! and I shouldn’t compare no parenting!

    Thanks so much for linking up with #justanotherlinky Hope too see you again Sunday!
    Beth recently posted…Monthly Round Up | MayMy Profile

    1. Thanks for hosting and your comment Beth. I think we have all judged and it is not bad in itself, it just says so much about ourselves rather than those we are judging. I had some mums I interviewed for my book say that they felt they knew so much more about parenting before they actually became one:-)

  15. Great post hun. I try never to compare but it’s almost impossible with a personality like mine and so when I do I try to put myself in perspective of it all and know I am doing my best as a parent and wife and person all around. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme
    jenny recently posted…Advice to my childrenMy Profile

    1. Hi Jenny. That sounds like the best anyone can do. comparing is only human after all and we learn through comparison. giving yourself that perspective is the best thing to do. Thanks for commenting and hosting.

    1. Hi debs, Indeed it is human. We all do it. It is just about doing it in a way that doesn’t diminish how we feel about ourselves. It is great to learn from others but not to beat ourselves up. Thanks for commenting and hosting.

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