The Comparison Trap

March 25, 2024, cassieley

Recently, controversy erupted on Instagram when A line of pregnant people showing their bellies. (@BallerinaFarm) competed in the Mrs. World pageant only two weeks after giving birth. Many women shared reminders with their followers that postpartum rest is essential and it is normal to still look six months pregnant after giving birth and not fit in your pre-pregnancy clothes, let alone fit in pageant gowns. Other women were offended by those who shared these reminders, claiming it was hateful towards Hannah and that everyone should be accountable for not comparing themselves to her. While I agree that generally, we ought to be able to look to others without taking offense (or choose not to look if it is more harmful than helpful), I think it can be helpful to remind new moms that they do not need to compare themselves to others. I have heard it said that comparison is worthless because it makes one feel superior or inferior, neither of which is fruitful. I found this to be true when I fell into the comparison trap in early motherhood.

Three moms holding new babies and looking at each otherThe first few months of my daughter’s life were a big learning curve, so naturally, I looked at other moms and their babies. When I saw other babies of similar age sitting or crawling before my daughter, I started to worry. My daughter was not behind in meeting her milestones, and every baby has their own developmental timeline, but that was not the problem. I did not see these differences as a reflection of my daughter but as a reflection of myself. Was I doing something wrong? Not doing enough? Was I failing my daughter? Nope. Looking back, I can see that comparing made me feel insecure for no good reason. If I had evaluated and realized I wanted to help my daughter with specific milestones, a better response would be to ask for advice from other moms. Comparison that results in feeling inferior is unhelpful, but looking to others to learn is extremely valuable.

Comparison that results in feeling superior can be equally unhelpful. I am ashamed to admit that in that period of insecurity, “She is doing this better than I am,” started to slip into “but I am doing XYZ better than her.” Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, as well as circumstances. We also have different values and priorities. Her focus on Montessori activities is not a judgment of me. My passion for being screen-free with my daughter is not an indictment of her. There is not only one single way to be a good mother.

Three moms and toddlers sitting on the ground outside.While comparison is largely toxic, community in motherhood is vital. I love learning from other moms on social media, but if social media is a source of comparison struggles for you, consider taking a break. More important than social media, I have grown from in-person community with moms. Finding people you can be open, honest, and vulnerable with allows you to gain and provide wisdom and encouragement. Don’t underestimate what you have to offer; even being willing to share your struggles will make another mom feel less alone. If you want to find your motherhood community, join a mom’s group or a baby class.

Over time, I have relaxed into motherhood and gained confidence. However, I think it is normal for new moms to look to other moms, especially in the early days, as they try to gain their footing. I do not dissuade you from looking to other mothers, but I encourage you to focus on mutual growth and encouragement rather than comparison. Motherhood is better together!