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Parenting Perspective: Break Free from the Comparison Trap

Are you struggling with feelings of inadequacy compared to other parents online? You see their perfectly curated photos and the massive amounts of money they spend to provide entertainment for their kiddos. You wonder what their secret is. How do they have so much time, energy, and resources to spend on creating a perfect family life? Today, we're breaking free from the parenting comparison trap.

I've been there. I often see other people's posts and wonder how in the world they're doing all that. I know our family is different with some limitations from Down syndrome, but we can't really be that different, can we? If we weren't paying for extra therapy, supplements, and medical expenses for Redmond, would we be able to afford bi-annual trips to indoor water parks, a different children's museum or theme park every other week, and feeding our children sushi? I mean, I know what jobs they have, and the ones with big-time paychecks are typically working too hard to have all these crazy adventures. So, how are they doing it?

I'm not sure how they do it. My guess is that they carry pretty high credit card balances, or grandparents fund a lot of their adventures. But is that really any of my concern? Or yours?

That's the problem with social media. We compare our worst with their best. Maybe they stay busy all the time because there's a deep wound they feel too deeply if they just sit still and have a day of nothing. Maybe they have a deep sense of insecurity that's soothed by flashy living? Or maybe they're just really fun-loving people who eat rice and beans every other day of the week and drive old junkers so they can live it up on the weekends?

There may be something about you that makes them feel really jealous. If you heard it, you'd probably snort and think, really? Maybe your marriage looks amazing to them, like you two really have something special. Maybe your perfectly healthy, self-sufficient, average kids are like a dream-come-true for them. Maybe you posted a quick clip of your kids sleeping in their beds and they felt insanely jealous because their kids sleep in sleeping bags on the floor of their gorgeous house. (I've seen that more than you'd think when I nannied in mansions in Nashville. Living spaces designed by the best interior decorators and bedrooms with nothing more than sleeping bags on the floors. It was ALL about perception.)

Your family is unique, and you have things others want, too. Be highly suspicious of anyone who never posts about any problems online. People DO lie. They DO go to fancy places, take photos, and promptly leave. I've seen a mother set up a tripod with her camera, get her perfectly made up children to join her, then command them to laugh and act like they're having fun for the camera. I've seen her immediately pack up everything, yell at them to quit goofing off and get back in the car, then drive away. In fact, I've been the one who's wanted nice photos of my children in their Sunday best, commanding them to smile when they just want to eat lunch. Once, I heard my husband say, "You'll smile for the camera right now or you're in BIG trouble!"

I got the photo I wanted, but every time I look at it, I remember that they were smiling just so they didn't get punished. That day, I decided I'd never take another photo like that again.

When I was really struggling, especially with seeing photos online of social gatherings I'd been excluded from, I made a hard decision. I stopped following them. I didn't unfriend or block them. I just hit "unfollow." I also decided to be very cautious about posting photos online of myself at social gatherings where others might feel excluded. It's not that I don't ever post them, but it's rare. That girls' weekend you had so much fun at? There's likely someone who didn't get invited who would really have liked to be there. That time all your kids went trick or treating together and you posted their adorable photos online? There's likely a mother who doesn't understand why her children weren't invited to join yours.

Instead of allowing comparison and hurt to steal your joy, unfollow them. Stop subjecting yourself to the hurt. If you didn't follow them online, you probably wouldn't even know what they're doing

and who they're with. Just let it go. Be kind to yourself. Find some friends who do include you, even if they aren't as cool as the ones who've excluded you, and build a good life for yourself and your family. Remind yourself of everything you have to be grateful for. Keep a gratitude journal every day for a while to get your focus back on the good things you have.

The truth is likely that your life is pretty good. That marriage you take for granted is probably someone else's dream come true. That child who's driving you crazy is likely the answer to someone else's prayer. You're doing better than you think.

Take a deep breath. Look around. You have so much to be thankful for.

And if you're genuinely in a place where it seems like everything is crumbling and falling apart, I understand that, too. I've been there. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and feel His peace in the center of the storm. Let me know if I can pray for you. I'm happy to lift you up before our Father.



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