February 4, 2013 ~ Mirror, Mirror ~ The Comparison Trap
Mothers often fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to one another. This is a trap many women fall into. We compare our families, mothering styles, fashion sense, careers or lack thereof, bodies, etc. Even mothers with babies in heaven compare the way we grieve our children. I know…sad…but we do it, if we’re honest enough to admit it. So, how can we find freedom from this? Sharing is a start…telling the truth…admitting the struggle. I think, then, we will see that we all love our children, regardless of how we choose to remember and honor their lives…whether publicly or quietly…with big parties or simple moments of remembrance. Be real on this week’s post, and let’s free ourselves from the trap of comparing!
This post is really for every woman, because if we’re honest, we all do it. Compare ourselves to one another…notice the ways we’re lacking. There is so much to say on this topic, I wasn’t sure where to begin. Until last night, when I was talking to a beautiful woman who spoke of the depth of her struggles and longing for children…pain so deep, she has attempted to take her own life more than once. I have been praying for her with such a heavy heart…and reflecting on her words. I wonder about our tendency to look at what others have with such longing, feeling the canyon of emptiness for what we do not have. It steals our joy. Whispering such blatant lies. And, yet, the longing is very real for the heart of a woman. Real and worthy of hurt, yes…but not meant to steal every ounce of joy, and deceive one into thinking her life isn’t worth living if she cannot have whatever it is she is longing for.
It may not be something as precious as having a child for some of us. It may be youth or beauty. Her eyes may wander to her flat stomached, tall young friend as they bounce alongside one another in exercise class. With a sigh and a shrug, as her eyes turn back to her own jiggling pouch, she wonders, Why did I eat those Doritos? Feeling the hopelessness settle in, wishing she would have just stayed home on the couch instead of subjecting herself to this. She’s just going to fail again anyway, and it’s easier to hide behind the food than try to change. She’ll never look like her friend. And, you can’t turn back the clock. Might as well at least enjoy yourself, right?…she justifies, slipping further under her stinky onion layers. Believing the lie. She felt good about working out, until her eyes wandered…until she noticed the woman beside her.
Mothers do it. We compare our kids…we compare ourselves to other moms. I am quite verbal with my children…and in weaker moments, I’ve even been known to yell from time to time. I’m not proud, but it has happened. All of my emotions get demonstrated…it’s how I’m wired. I try to reign them in, but sometimes they ooze. The benefits are a deep connection with my kids…and a great relationship. They will often talk to me openly about many things, and so do their friends. They feel, I hope, comfortable, safe, and loved here. God whispered to my heart when our oldest son entered adolescence that grace and love were needed much more than stringent rules. We have rules, yes…but we also have grace. The down-side is that my children sometimes take liberties with their words and cross the invisible boundary with me. I have a few friends who are more mild-mannered and quiet. Their children would never sass them, and they seem so obedient. In a frustrated exchange one day, I said to my oldest son “________________’s children would never sass her this way.” And, he said, “______________ would never raise her voice at her kids.”
Hmm. I didn’t like his response. And, he was right. For awhile it stung, because what he didn’t know is how I already internally battled the comparisons between my home-schooling, seemingly always patient, quiet, mild-tempered friends and me…willy-nilly, messy-housed, stay up talking to my teenager and his friends if they wanted to chat, cooking for them in the middle of the night, kids in public school, going shopping on a school night, feeding my children cold cereal and frozen pizza, bustin’ a move to some Just Dance with my middle-schooler, and even sometimes raising my voice…ok, like a banshee.
Eventually I have come to terms with the differences, and I’m ok with the mom I am, flaws and all. Because, while _________ may never raise her voice, she also may not enjoy the same heart-felt conversations. It’s ok that I don’t parent like some of my friends. What matters more is that I parent in a way that pleases the Lord. He is working on my rough edges…and pouring grace over the places where I fall short.
I know this post is supposed to be about grieving mothers comparing themselves to one another…and I’m getting there. I guess the thing is…that this comparison dilemma is not isolated to grief. It’s what women do. And, it brings all sorts of destruction. There’s a reason He included covetousness in the top ten don’ts.
Now, as I said, mothers do it. Grieving mothers do it too. I know, it’s a bit disgusting to admit, but search your heart. I bet it’s in there. We compare each other’s experiences. We compare our responses. We compare where we are in the journey of grief. We compare our performance. We notice that Lyn has beautiful pictures of her child, and we didn’t think to take any. We notice that Mary cherished every moment of the time she had with her child and took all the opportunities to make memories that she could. She left nothing to regret. She did it with grace, while we stumbled along…just trying to survive, too oblivious to know we could. Bev did a balloon release. Ann seems like she’s healing so well, Penny is still a blubbering mess. Norma had her baby cremated after a private memorial. Louisa had a large funeral with family and friends, followed by a graveside service.
Do you do it? Does it stab your heart when you read of the way one mother walked this path…if she did it differently than you did? Do the regrets wash over you? The inadequacies? Do you feel them dark and accusing in your face…gripping your heart, distracting from the truth? What is the truth, anyway?
Hear me on this. The truth is….you are a beautiful woman, precious in the sight of God. Most of you on this walk are mothers…whether to babies on earth, in heaven, or both. Right now, I want you to really search your heart and see some of the yuck in there. I know it’s hard to look. But, you have to see it in order to do the next thing….LET IT GO.
You are not meant to carry these lies one more second. They exist only to steal your joy and distract you from what truly matters. However you walked this path…however you spent the time you were given with your precious children, you did it the best way you could do it in those moments from where you were in that season of your life. I didn’t do many things other moms do. I didn’t know I could. Every time I see beautiful pictures of babies whose lives were brief, or read about the ways you brave mothers honor the lives of your children….my heart aches a little. I’m so happy you know to do those things…so happy you are free to do them…and confident enough and knowledgeable enough. But, my heart aches because I didn’t. My heart aches for what I missed. And, I can’t go back. The only thing I can do is make sure that as many mothers as possible do have the opportunity to experience precious memories with their babies…no matter how briefly we are graced with their presence. And, Lord willing, that is how I will spend the rest of my days. I’m grateful for that privilege. But, I’m no better or worse as a mother because I can do now, what I couldn’t then. And, neither are you. You, beautiful momma, if the best you can do right now is brush your teeth and get out of bed, are no less a momma than the one who is able to write a book and speak on a platform at Women of Faith or the one who has beautiful scrapbooks full of memories from her time carrying her child/children. You love your sweet baby just as much as a mom who walks differently than you. Please stop judging each other’s performance or measuring love by the ways it is displayed or kept quietly in our hearts. And, most of all, please stop judging yourselves.
You are meant to walk in grace and freedom. The times I struggle most are when I take my eyes off Jesus and start looking around at others or my circumstances. Walk your walk with confidence….it’s the only walk you were created for, dear sister. And, no one can do it better than you. And, no one can be a better mother to your children than you. After all, God chose you for the job…and He never makes mistakes.
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy…