Mums don't compare yourselves!

Generally first time mums don't have a lot of parenting experience. For the most part, they are all making it up as they go along.

Some days you feel like you’re winning, and other days your hair is a mess, your clothes are stained unidentifiable things and it seems everyone has got the hang of this baby gig except you.

It is natural to watch other mums with their babies and gauge how you're going but comparing yourself and measuring parenting success or failure against someone else is a sure fire way to feel inadequate .

Mum of two, Carolyn Brady*, sized herself up in the early years with her first child.

"In my first couple of years as a mum I compared myself with other parents constantly. It was like a bench marking system - I'm doing OK if I do it like this person, I'm failing if I don't," she says.

Almost every parent falls into the comparison trap at some stage, and two of the biggest hurdles that every new mum must overcome involve a baby’s two favorite activities - feeding and sleeping. 

"Most of the time I felt I  measured up OK but there were some issues that made me feel woefully inadequate. Cooking for my baby and getting baby to sleep through the night I felt were my biggest areas of failure," says Carolyn.

"Thankfully over time I realised that we don't all parent the same way. I stopped beating myself up over every little thing and focused on the big picture. My baby was happy and healthy and at the end of the day that's all that really mattered."

When we feel like we're swimming at sea and making it up as we go along, often we don't realise that we're bench marking ourselves against our peers. 

However, observing how others do things is not necessarily a negative thing.

"There can be many reasons why we compare ourselves to others," says From The Leftfield's child and family psychologist, Dr Sasha Lynn. "Sometimes it's to check if we're on the right track, other times we look to see how others do things, why they do things differently to us, to see how others got to where they are, to confirm or debunk our own ideas. Sometimes we just do it unconsciously."

Using observation to learn helpful techniques can help you traverse your new role as a mum as long as you use this observation positively and not negatively.
mum holding baby lying on bed
"Entering the realm of parenting is such a steep learning curve. There is no manual, and there is no hard and fast solution," tells Dr Lynn. 

"You're in a vulnerable state as a new mum; hormones charging through your system, sleep deprived, uncertain about just what the heck you're doing. Comparing yourself to how others are parenting can heighten vulnerabilities. Also, you don't know what's going on behind closed doors - you're only seeing what other parents are projecting. The grass isn't always greener on the other side."

Time and again research has shown that mums can benefit from having a community of other mums in the same boat, hence the success of mothers’ groups. 

Rather than using comparison as a means to see 'who does it better', maybe we could look at it as a way to build a support network.

"Instead of seeing what others do and instantly questioning yourself, talk to the person, ask how they do it, strike up a conversation about what you might be feeling unsure about," says Dr Lynn. " It really does take a village, and we need to get back to building a village, rather than shutting ourselves away and letting self-doubt take control. We can flip it around to make it more beneficial for ourselves- call it 'seeking support' and take the negative out of it."

At the end of the day, we all have our own paths to follow. Parenting is no different. We need to reassure ourselves that we are the experts of our children; nobody knows our own children better than we do. 

*name has been changed
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