I used to take my kids to a library group on Tuesday mornings. I had three kids, three years old and under. This was the only outing I went on all week long. By the time I got them all ready, drove there, got them all inside safely, and then kept track of them in a public place for an hour, I was worn out for the rest of the week.
However, I looked forward to this day like Christmas. It felt good to get dressed up a bit and get out of the house. We’d always head to McDonald’s after for some lunch. Even though they were strapped in and we’d eat in the car, it still felt exciting to see other faces.
One day I got the courage to ask another mom if she wanted to come eat with us. I had extra energy and felt that if I parked close enough, I could get all three of them in there and order if another mom was with me.
She looked at me and said, “My kids don’t know what a happy meal or McDonald’s is. We eat at home, all organic.”
I felt ashamed that I let my kids eat fast food
I immediately felt ashamed, embarrassed, and like a lazy mom. Here I was giving them french fries and chocolate milk once a week, and her kids (who were older) had never even eaten at a fast food place.
I still continued to go (because hello…that stuff is good) but I always thought about that conversation and I never asked anyone else to come with us for fear they’d judge me and think I was a horrible parent. I probably would have ducked down in the car if anyone I knew drove by while I was shoving my chicken wrap and large soda down my throat.
I could tell you other stories like that. I didn’t send my kids to preschool even though all my friends decided to send theirs. My kids weren’t quiet, they were loud and liked to talk about poop and farting. They didn’t excel in school or sports. They didn’t sit still for very long. I didn’t work because I wanted to stay home with my kids.
All these choices and truths were mine and I felt confident while making them. But I realized as my kids got older that I was comparing myself to other moms and the choices they made–the exact thing I was teaching my children not to do with their friends and peers.
I didn’t think I measured up to the other moms
There were times I’d keep things to myself because I didn’t think I measured up. I’d talk my stay-at-home status down to my friends who worked because I felt less than. I’d feel like I had to have my home just right when people came over and serve certain food lest I be judged.
But, something happened when my kids turned into teenagers in rapid succession: I threw all the comparing crap out the window because damn, trying to keep up with it all was way too difficult.
I don’t care if other mothers don’t take their kids out for fast food. I do. A lot. I don’t care what their rooms look like when someone stops by or what kind of food we have in our pantry. My kids don’t want to play sports. That’s great with me.
Not comparing myself to others made me happier
Instead of comparing my parenting and my children to others, I discovered I was so much happier if I just did my thing and gave others permission to think about me what they would. It certainly takes a lot less energy and let’s be real, you only have so much control over your teenager’s choices.
I’m not going to force them to act a certain way because the neighbors kids are that way. I don’t shop organic because it’s really expensive. I don’t care if my kids wear sweatshirts covered in dog hair when they go out. And the other night we had cereal and fruit pies for dinner. And guess what-we didn’t sit down at the table together.
I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to discover that if I did my own thing and minded my own business, I’d be a lot happier. I’m not concerned with what other people’s kids are doing, and if they are concerned with what my kids are doing (unless it’s damaging to them or someone else), that’s their problem, not mine.
More to Read: