I want to start off this post with a disclaimer – I openly admit that I’m a perfectionist. I know I have ridiculously high expectations and sometimes I can be unrealistic in my requests. Okay there, I said it. Now let’s move on.
One of my latest struggles in this NEVER-ENDING uphill battle of motherhood has been the comparison game. For me, this is comparing my son to other babies of similar ages – mostly those in our mothers group. Our bubs are at the age where most are rolling, and some are even on the brink of crawling. We coo and ahhh over them when we catch up for our weekly coffee. We watch the active bubs wriggle and squirm around the play mays finding each other to play with.
Except my son. No, not my son. My son just lays there. Taking it all in (I hope!). He lies there rather contently I’ll admit, but with no sign of movement. There will even be times where he teases us with a half roll, before rolling back and giving me a big, cheesy grin. While all the mums tell me to “enjoy this period of non-movement while I can”, inside I’m burning with an emotion that could almost be synonymous with jealousy. Why doesn’t my son move? Why doesn’t he roll? Is he – seemingly – “last in the class?”
Part of me thinks it is some form of ‘karma’. You see, I remember sitting in the hospital after having my son and feeling pretty chuffed. Our pediatrician had earlier commented on how strong our son’s neck muscles and reflexes were, and our visitors always mentioned how alert he was. As any new mum would feel at some point in those early days, I was pretty proud.
I didn’t think anything of it as I happily lapped up each passing compliment.
“He supports his neck really well”.
“He’s such a happy baby”.
“He sleeps pretty well”.
I enjoyed hearing how amazing my son was – so much so that I didn’t recognise the arrogance slowly building inside me. I quietly thought about how my son was better than all others (how horrible is that?!) and reveled in his abilities proudly.
Disaster Strikes (or does it?)
Then something AWFUL happened. A mother from mother’s group posted that her son had rolled over. Something inside my twinged (is that jealousy again?). Then another mother from mother’s group posted that HER daughter rolled over as well. I felt my heart drop with these messages. How come my son hasn’t rolled over yet? Isn’t he the cleverest? Everyone has said how amazing he is – so why hasn’t he rolled yet? (Keeping in mind that he is well within the milestone timeframe!).
This was my first taste of the reality that I should have recognised from day one – maybe my son is NOT the cleverest child in the world. I should just be proud of him for what he can achieve as APPROPRIATE for him. Maybe I should be thanking God for our son and that we should just enjoy him without comparing him to others.
But it’s not that simple, is it? We all hope that our children will achieve great things. I want to believe all those compliments I received and believe my son is high-achieving (like his perfectionist mum right here!). I started to feel really down about my son not rolling over, like he was now somehow at the bottom of the class instead of the top.
Why do we compare?
Why do us mums insist on comparing our bubs to others? Is it purely out of selfish pride? Or is there something more? I know some of my motives may have seemed selfish but I think there is more to it. I was chatting to a mum friend recently who also found herself comparing her bub to others, and large part of it has to do with wanting what’s best for our babies, and to make sure THEY’RE NORMAL.
Do you remember in the early days of having your first newborn, you googled everything to make sure it was normal? (Are they meant to eat this long/little/frequently? Are they sleeping enough/not enough? Is their poo supposed to look like that? Is that rash/mark/temperature normal?). We are now solely responsible for this mini human, and you want to make sure you’re doing it right. So it’s normal to worry about whether they are meeting their “milestones” right? I’m not completely a crazy person on that one!?
How to get over the comparison game
It might sound like I’ve basically said us mums are screwed when it comes to comparing our babies to others. We’re just going to do it anyway because we worry about that kind of stuff. So is that it? Is there absolutely nothing we can do to get over this crazy comparison-game we all seem to play? Yes and no. I think I’ll always compare my son to some degree – I’m a perfectionist (remember my disclaimer earlier?). I’ll always want my son to do the best TO HIS ABILITIES (so I’ll make sure he’s not lazy, if I can help it!). But there ARE some things we can do as mothers to make sure we minimise how much or how often we compare our bubs. These are the strategies I’ve used to try and help me in this crazy, messed up game.
Celebrate the achievements of other babies
This one can be tough, especially when I’ve been watching all these other babies rolling and commando crawling their way around the joint, and my son lies there like a sack of potatoes. But by celebrating other babies’ achievements and getting excited when other mums get excited, it helps me to be a supportive mum-friend and to see the bigger picture – that it’s not ALL about my son (even though it feels like sometimes it is!).
Celebrate your baby’s achievements
It can be easy to get hung up on the things your baby can’t do and forget what they CAN do. Focus on these by writing them down in a journal, scrapbook, digital file – however you like! This will make you excited about all the things your little one can do (for me, it is the fact that he is soooo verbal!) and release some of the need to compare.
Recognise each child is different
A whole lot easier said than done, but nevertheless true. Remembering that your child will always be an individual, for the rest of their life, means that they will always do things differently to others. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll stop comparing them to others.
If you are genuinely worried about your child, seek medical help. Visit the health care nurses, the doctor, the pediatrician – whoever is available, appropriate for the concern and will most likely alleviate your concerns.
Have you ever been caught up in the comparison game? How did you cope or get over comparing your child to others?