It’s time to practise self-care and show gratitude toward yourself.
By the time I reached my 30s I thought I was well and truly beyond comparisons. I was an adult, strong and happy in my own skin. Then I became a parent. At the time, I didn’t think I was comparing myself to anyone else. I just believed everyone was doing a better job than me. Of course, this is exactly what comparing yourself to others looks like. In my eyes, everyone else seems to stick to sleep training, get their kids to eat their vegetables (and no sugar), they’re on top of discipline and screen time is strictly monitored.
Comparison has a price
Thinking this way doesn’t make me a better parent, it just makes me less sure of myself and less able to enjoy the experience of having a family.
Psychologist Karen Young from Hey Sigmund! says that comparison can steal the best parts of us. “When we compare, we run the risk of losing sight of the fact that none of us are perfect, all of us bring something unique and important to our parenting experience, and that our own ﬂaws are the only ones we have front row seats to – and we see every detail. This can easily make us feel less than enough and can drive us to parent from a position of scarcity, rather than being able to relax into it, knowing that we are enough – ﬂaws, frayed edges, splintered moods and all.” When I measure myself against others I’m looking outwards, not in. Away from my family and what matters to us.
So how do I stop making these kinds of unhelpful comparisons?
Try to practice gratitude for yourself
The first step is valuing yourself as a parent in the first place. This can feel challenging when you’ve had a difficult day, but Karen says practising gratitude can help. “Each day, take time to focus on a few things you are grateful for in your children and allow yourself to open up to the truth that you have guided and nurtured that small human towards that.” Karen suggests focusing on things that you are grateful for about yourself as a parent. It could be that you always listen, you give great hugs, or you make a mean tuna casserole. “Your children are amazing – you know that – and they would not be the humans they are without you.”
Tap into your sense of self
Becoming a parent is such a seismic shift in our sense of self, we can often lose touch with who we were before we had kids. But that person still exists and reconnecting with those parts of ourselves can make us feel stronger.
Even though it feels like there is no time, carving out a space that allows you to explore the other sides of you – as a partner, daughter, son, sibling, friend or colleague is important. Not just for us, but our children, too.
Karen says, “We want our children to know that every part of them matters and deserves to take up space, and the most powerful way to teach that is by letting them see us do the same. Whether it’s time for our other relationships, ourselves, or to do the things we love – it all feeds into the person we are and the parent we can be.”
I find that being a parent in the modern world has made me a super-strength multi-tasker. In any one moment I will be thinking about how I can support a friend going through a rough time, while remembering to buy tickets for the school raffle, while planning my son’s birthday cake, and reminding myself to write that email for work when I get to my desk.
Practical, physical things can hold emotional weight. Dropping a ball can feel like failure. Not texting a friend who has just lost their job can feel like you’re a thoughtless person. Forgetting to donate to a school fundraiser or get the birthday cake in time can feel like you’re a ‘bad’ parent. Forgetting to send an email can make you feel like you’re letting the team down at work.
There are many ways to feel like you’re doing this life thing all wrong. As a busy parent, there are still days when I feel like this, but there is a mantra that I find grounds me more than any other.
“I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.”
Yoga teacher Dini Martinez explains how the mantra fits into yoga philosophy. “One of the niyamas, or yogic principles of behaviour towards ourself and others is ‘santosha’, or contentment. The mantra ‘I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.’ is an affirmation of this principle, of not always wanting the greener grass from the other side.” For me, it’s one of the quickest ways to shut down the negative impact of comparisons.
It reminds me that the grass under my own feet is perfect the way it is.