Soon after finding out I was pregnant, I was invited to join a Facebook group of moms in the LA area with about 20,000 members. It’s a board where you can post questions and other moms weigh in, hopefully giving you a survey of different view points on any topic. It’s super helpful in a lot of ways because you can get quick answers from the masses, but it also can be a jumble of opinions on all ends of the spectrum. It’s not supposed to be a place to evangelize about parenting, but you’ll still see the occasional preaching about vaccinations, co-sleeping, discipline, breastfeeding, etc. When I was pregnant, I was a little bit nervous about the “mean girls” aspect of motherhood. Would I constantly find ways that I’m inadequate by looking at fellow moms and seeing their successes? Would I worry that my kid isn’t doing things as fast as her peers? Would I feel like I’m failing if I can’t afford to send her to the most competitive preschool that’s priced comparably to an Ivy league university?
The ways that I catch myself comparing to others is less about how I parent or how Sailor “stacks up” to other kids – those topics are ones I have luckily managed to stay clear of analyzing too much. Seeing how wide the range is of ways to do things, and how every single parenting philosophy out there has an exact opposite theory that people are equally passionate about just goes to show that there is no right or wrong way. You truly just figure it out as you go, do what feels right to you, and don’t look back. Every kid and every family is different. I didn’t know if I was going to be a chill mom or a perfectionist mom. Now that I’m in it, I think I lean more towards chill (which is a departure for me) because that’s just what’s worked for us and for Sailor. She kind of got herself on her own feeding and sleeping schedule, so we didn’t really have to. I’m not scared of her being exposed to dirt and germs – I mean, we live with two furry animals who don’t wear shoes to go outside and then jump on the furniture. I don’t freak out if her eyes accidentally see the TV while we’re watching it – wouldn’t that require me to never watch TV myself? Not gonna happen (I mean have you SEEN Stranger Things?). Maybe my next kid will need more neurosis to thrive, who knows? But this is what works with Sailor.
But just because I don’t worry too much about those parenting topics doesn’t mean that I don’t compare myself to others as a mom sometimes. My comparison kryptonite? Looking at how other moms manage to maintain their own personal priorities/careers without skipping a beat. Especially new moms like me, considering that I was still fully wide eyed, physically weak, and shell shocked well over half a year in. LA is an affluent, career driven city where full time childcare is seemingly the norm. Nannies start when the babies turned 3 months and careers are back on track. Lunch dates and meetings are taken without scheduling conflicts that have to do with naps, feeding times, or babysitters. Moms are off to the office or the studio to continue on as though nothing has changed. Man, this is a comparison that I am SO GUILTY of fixating on. How come I can’t get my shit together and where is my career success this year?
It’s astounding how hard we can be on ourselves. It’s only when I get into a bigger picture state of mind that I can step back and remember how huge this first year of motherhood is. How for once, my career doesn’t necessarily need to propel forward while I navigate this new role and be present for Sailor. I met with an astrologer when I was pregnant who told me it would take me about a year to settle in to being a mom. That means other things take a backseat and not everything is “in order.” As I was still trying to wrap my head around how much my life was about to change, I thought, “that sounds fair.” But when you’re in the middle of it, it’s so hard to remember to go easy on yourself, and look at how much change you’re still going through. It’s much easier to look at the mom next to you and see how she’s managing to bounce back quicker and better than you. Or at least it appears that way. She might be fighting her own battles with motherhood.
In a way, a competitive edge can be healthy. It’s that whole “You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce” thing. But to expect the same out of yourself as someone who has a full-time staff supporting her is unrealistic. Instead, I have found that I have to look at my time differently and realize that success might look a bit different right now. It’s not always about how much work I get done, but how was I able to use my day to be a good mom too? Sometimes it means I managed to get myself dressed with hair and makeup done while Sailor occupied herself. Sometimes it means I got through a whole day with a happy baby by my side, and didn’t go nuts before 6pm. Sometimes it means I made it to a girls’ night out without it being a big deal to get out the door, or managed to squeeze a workout AND a shower in before Ian left for work. And sometimes it just means that I enjoyed my day with my babe, even if no blog post even got close to published. This is life in the first year of motherhood for me, and I have to remember that it’s OK.
As a Type A person, it can be so hard to look at these as successes when you are so used to expecting so much more from yourself. But I keep reminding myself that it won’t always be like this, and as a person who barely even wanted kids a few years ago, in a way I’ve accomplished more this year as a person (as opposed to business owner/creative) than any other year. Sailor’s first birthday is coming up in two months (how is that possible?) and I can already feel the hugeness when I reflect on this past year. It’s going to be an emotional day for sure.
While we all know it’s unhealthy, comparing yourself to others is constant battle that I think a lot of people fight with themselves. We’re human. But the best part is that we truly are all here to support each other, and help each other conquer life’s challenges. I’ve been lucky to make some incredible friends (moms and non-moms), who lift me up and help me feel strong and capable in this role. They come to the rescue when I need it, and understand the complicated feelings that can surface in motherhood. I truly believe that surrounding yourself with people who support and love you is so key. That, and remembering to pat yourself on the back for the great job you’re doing.
I can’t wait to read what the other moms have to say on this topic! Be sure to check them out. Also, we’re always looking for new topics to tackle so let me know if there’s anything you’d be interested to hear about in the comments! I love writing these posts because they feel like journal entries, and your comments/feedback are like therapy.
2nd photo by Heather Kincaid