Parenthood, a journey filled with boundless love and immeasurable joy, often comes bundled with its fair share of challenges. Amidst the sleepless nights, diaper changes, and endless responsibilities, many moms find themselves grappling with a unique and pervasive stressor — the constant comparison to others.
It’s the pervasive feeling that everyone else has mastered the art of parenthood while they fumble through the maze of motherhood.
The ubiquity of social media platforms only amplifies this struggle, as scrolling through picture-perfect moments becomes a daily exercise. It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap.
Flawless family outings and angelic children smiling in perfectly coordinated outfits can create an illusion of seamless parenting. It’s as though everyone else has discovered a secret formula for effortlessly managing the chaos of raising children.
The struggle to achieve the seemingly unattainable standard set by these images can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt among moms who are simply doing their best in the real and often messy world of parenting.
No one has it all figured out, and the perfect images on our screens are but fleeting moments in the grand tapestry of parenthood.
Realizing this truth can alleviate the unnecessary burden of comparison, allowing moms to focus on the authentic, messy, and beautiful moments that make their parenting journey uniquely theirs.
Reality star Stassi Schroeder
Here’s one example that struck me, from Stassi Schroeder, influencer and former star of Vanderpump Rules.
Stassi kept it simple last month by simply saying, “These photos are misleading. Hardest day ever with two feral kids. Instagram is a lie.”
Without that caption one might thing Stassi and her husband, Beau, have the perfect flawless life with their two kids.
But that isn’t the reality, she hand-picked and possibly edited these photos to give that sense of the “perfect” family. When in reality, as she wrote, they are misleading and she is dealing with two “feral kids” like we all do.
Yes, the photos still incite comparison culture, but her caption — that little bit of honesty — goes a long way when other moms are looking at her perfect family.
CEO and podcast host Andrea Miller
Andrea Miller, CEO and Founder of YourTango spoke on her podcast about Comparison Culture and gave a personal example.
“We went to see [The Chiefs] in Bronco Stadium. We had our jerseys on, and if you saw the picture, we looked so happy. It was snowing in the background, and, at that point, The Chiefs were still winning,” she continues, “But what didn’t show was that three hours earlier in our hotel room my 13-year-old and I were shouting at each other. It was like I was 13 and he was 7.”
Miller reflects, “It was foolish and I’m saying it to #KeepItReal and that’s the kind of thing I’m hoping a lot of people get behind.”
Author Joanna Schroeder
On the same episode, parenting writer and author of the forthcoming book Talk To Your Boys, Joanna Schroeder (no relation to Stassi) discussed what really went on behind the beautiful photos of stunning photos of her holding a chubby blue-eyed, blonde-haired baby boy overlooking a Southern California beach.
The reality was that Schroeder had to get some fresh air at a school event because she felt like she was flooded with anxiety, just as her friend, a fellow overachieving mom, confided that she hadn’t been sleeping due to her baby’s night wakings.
Joanna took the baby from her tired friend’s arms and walked him outside to take some deep breaths after a long, exhausting day.
“We had to take our kids to this event where they had to display their manners. Getting my daughter to this manners event involved crying on both of our parts, some screaming. She had lied to me and told me that they had already done the event, so I never signed her up for it s they didn’t have a certificate for her. The whole thing was so stressful,” she explains.
“I took Cassidy’s baby and I was taking deep breaths because I was so overwhelmed,” Schroeder continues, “So, you’re looking at this picture and you’re thinking, ‘Look at this amazing mom holding this perfect baby,’ but I was outside because I was like, ‘I’m going to have a panic attack’.”
Not only are we always lying about what is going on on social media, we do it in real life every day. We compare ourselves to others.
Influencer Nicki Marie
Momfluencer Nicki Marie spoke to her doctor about this pressure to be perfect and got a super honest and helpful answer.
“I’ve been with the same doctor for 20 years of my life. This is the first year that I said I don’t feel like I am who I used to be. I don’t even know who I am sometimes,” Marie continues, “We got into it and I said how overwhelmed I was. How many things I feel like I’m not able to accomplish and I’m not getting to and my brain’s not working. I’m trying really hard at motherhood. I’m trying at my career. I’m failing.”
The doctor said that no one is meant to be handling all of this, “Almost every woman that comes in here and says they’re overwhelmed is because they are not scientifically meant to handle everything they handle.”
Her doctor went on to say, “I don’t think you realize how accomplished you truly are.”
This goes to show that we never see what is working but rather focus on what’s not working.
Parenthood is a journey uniquely tailored to each family, marked by highs and lows, triumphs, and challenges. Embracing imperfections and understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all approach can be a liberating revelation.
Remember: behind every charming Instagram post lies a story of effort, patience, and the willingness to embrace the unpredictability of raising children.
Deauna Roane is a writer and the Editorial Project Manager for YourTango. She’s had bylines in Emerson College’s literary magazine, Generic, and MSN.