The ‘culture’ of comparison

“Comparison is the root of all evil!”Roosevelt quote

Thus spoke an incredibly wise Sue, ordinary grandmother of two, a woman who would never see herself as wise – probably because she’d compare herself with people more wise in her eyes.

She had been listening to a few new mums at our women’s group at church who were all worried about feeding plans and sleep times. The usual worries.

I’ve never forgotten those words, they were so bang on, so profound, they’ve been reverberating around my head ever since.

Sadly, I didn’t hear those words till years after our first child was born. The day she crashed into our lives with all her beauty, noise and passion. A child born with colic and a strong temperament can leave the most calm and self assured parent a wreck. But that’s a subject for another post…

I’d noticed how torn by the winds of changing advice I could become when trying to work out how to stop my daughter from crying all day and feeding every hour.

Ok, you’re in a pretty desperate state then, in total shock and feeling more like a bulldozer has hit you than being blessed with a bundle of joy (all those cards with the words ‘joy’ on them left us at best quietly puzzled and at worst mildly irritated!).

But even when life was easier, when the colic had stopped, when she had become a true joy, even before she could walk, the pressure of baby signing or music classes started to peer its head over the family parapet. Those who didn’t partake risked disadvantaging their child for life if they hadn’t learnt ‘Wind the bobbin up’ by the age of two. And it hasn’t stopped, with the endless list of school activities available that help your child become the next Einstein, Darcy Bussell, or Rio Ferdinand.

Little did we realise when we got on that parenting road that we’d need to firmly apply the seatbelt of self assurance and confidence in our own judgement, not to mention a steely self control against that great monster, the Insure Your Child Against All Harm, Boredom & Stupidity marketing messages.

Of course, parents have been comparing themselves for years, but I doubt if it’s ever been as fierce as it is now, thanks to mass marketing which thrives off our insecurities like bacteria thrives off the condiments on the top shelf of our fridge. Through every ad we see or hear, we are implicitly encouraged, sometimes compelled, to compare ourselves with others in every part of our lives. Add to this the fact that most modern mothers have got degrees and careers under their belts and so have brought professionalism to child-rearing, with all its high standards, competitive edge and cost benefit analysis (have you ever tried to sell anything at an NCT Nearly New Sale recently in south east England? I rest my case…)

In short, and ironically, middle class, professional parents who are desperate to do what’s best for their little ones, can inadvertently do just what’s not best for them through our stressful, overanxious and comparative parenting.

Join me in my journey of ‘letting go’ of all that.

This post was my very first blog post.  Six months later I wrote The Good Enough Mums, on a similar theme, and caught the imagination of so many readers….

7 thoughts on “The ‘culture’ of comparison

  1. Everyone is looking to justify their own hesitantly made decisions by rejecting those made by other people as Just Plain Wrong, it seems. If only we could learn to just discuss our kids sympathetically with each other instead of constantly comparing or justifying ourselves. It’s very hard. A great premise for your blog!

    • Thanks, Catherine! Yes, I wrote this about a year ago as my first blog post so its wonderful to have someone see it afresh now. Thanks for looking at my blog! I’ll take a look at yours soon. Which was your PoCoLo post?

  2. Couldn’t agree more. Comparisons are odious, especially since, more often than not, you’re comparing your insides with somebody else’s outside! Great post, Siobhan – all power to your typing fingers!

      • That rings very true! You can never see beyond the veneer of self assurance on another Mum’s face. Liking this angle Shiv!!! I’m right behind you – particularly on the subject of competitive school projects, my own pet hate.

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