She was sitting in front of me at the mandatory annual parent meeting.
Her teeth were obviously whitened by a dentist, not a hair out of place, makeup gorgeously applied, andlooking like she’d just left a workout to keep all of her muscles toned to perfection.
Her children were amazing as well—all of them popular, beautiful, smart, and full of confidence.
In the meantime, I’d shown up five minutes late (per usual), barely showered, with clothes that were at least clean. I stared at the back of her head thinking about all of the amazing parenting skills she must have to make her teens so well-rounded.
Finally, we had all of our information for the year and I was ready to go. Before I could slink out, though, this perfect mom whips her head around and chimes, “You’re Mrs. Fix right?”
Gulping I answered warily, “Yes.”
Her tone hushed and I was certain she was about to tell me some gossip she’d heard about my children. “I just want to know how you do it. You don’t know me well, but I know your kids through after school activities and they’re all so great. I want to know how you’re raising such great teens. Mine are a mess.”
Reader, I busted out laughing. Seriously, I couldn’t help it. It bubbled up out of me and like a crazed lunatic until tears rolled down my cheeks. Meanwhile, this poor, flawless mom was helplessly silent.
“No, I really want to know.” she offered.
Oh. “I thought you were the one who had it all together,” I admitted. “Have you seen me? I’m always late, harried, terse, and feel like I’m ruining my kids most days.”
She was honestly shocked. So naturally, we sat down to talk.
The reality is that we had both seen each other from afar and compared ourselves (and our children) secretly to one another. In truth, neither of us were even close to perfect, and neither were our children. Yet behind closed doors we each believed the other must be doing something “right,” because we were so overwhelmed.
So HOW do we stop the parent-comparison game? How do we stop ourselves from deciding that other parents are doing amazing while they’re probably deciding the same thing about us?
Things to Remember Before We Compare Ourselves To Other Parents
There’s ALWAYS Something We Can’t See
We might know this to be true in “theory,” but too often we don’t put this idea into practice. Usually, when it comes to other families we judge the book by its cover. Either we deem the family a “train wreck” that seems to be unraveling, or we decide because they look good they must be awesome.
Neither are true.
For proof, look at your own parenting, children, and family. How much goes on behind closed doors that no one ever witnesses? There are always things we’re not seeing when we’re looking at other parents.
No One is “Good” At This
I was talking to a close friend just yesterday about a struggle she’s having as her daughter enters “the deep teen years.” Her girl isn’t doing anything “wrong;” she’s just beginning to turn the corner toward reallygrowing up. This is a stage when our kids start to naturally pull away from us, but it looks different for different kids in a variety of ways. Figuring out how to navigate these years doesn’t come with an instruction manual with a step-by-step guide including pictures. Not even remotely close. The truth: every parent is grappling with different things about these years, and we’re all struggling. Some of us just hide it better.
Every Single Scenario Is Different
There are so many factors that go into raising kids. There are personalities, life experiences, choices they make, outside influences, learning challenges, insecurities, challenges, parenting styles, decisions parents make, and an infinite combination of struggles that make a child who they are. Even in the mix of my own children, they’re all so vastly different that I can’t parent them exactly the same.
We MUST remember that there are reasons why other parents make the decisions they do. What works for them will probably not work for us. Probably what works for them won’t even work with one of their other kids. Every kid, every scenario, is different.
— Written by Leneita Fix for Lifetree.com, which offers articles, videos, and podcasts on parenting, marriage, and daily faith.