The toxicity of comparison

I’m part of a wonderful online community of other moms with babies the same age. It is, at times, a beautiful gift. Have a question about something your baby is doing? Want to know what other pediatricians are saying about a topic? Here’s a pool of 300 or so other moms to report back. It can be so helpful.

Other times, any group of many people engaged in intimate conversation about highly emotional topics can breed stress, resentment, and toxicity. A number of members have had to step back from the group to help them reframe their baby in a more accurate light. It can often seem like your child is falling way behind when all you see is those kids on the ends of the bell curve- the early crawlers, walkers, talkers, while your baby is hanging out in perfectly-average land. It can be a real struggle to appreciate the miraculous little being you have growing before your eyes when you’re worried that they aren’t growing fast enough or well enough, when you’d have nothing to worry about if you didn’t see those over-achievers.

I’m often caught being jealous of other people’s napping babies, when I otherwise would probably be okay with the fact that my son only wants to snuggle on me, since I enjoy the closeness and feeling so loved. I find myself getting frustrated with him for wanting to be close to me, which is such an incredibly normal thing for a baby to want. It can truly be toxic.

I’ve done this with my dogs, too. My first dog loved people- he escaped the yard one time and was caught by a neighbor as he went running up to say hello. He was a therapy dog, enjoyed going out for brunch, and helped me become a more social person. My current dog is not that dog at all. He’s scared of people, and can be found barking and lunging at strangers. For years, I struggled with missing my social dog and having this one instead. I try to celebrate his victories now, the times that someone says hello to us on the street and he walks past calmly, the dogs he can meet and befriend, the days he can settle down with new people in the house.

A lesson I’m trying to learn from both my dog and my baby is how to just live in the moment. How to be totally present and not caught up in what will happen or has happened. I’m a work in progress on that one, but reflecting on how toxic it can be to worry about how me and my tiny dependent creatures stack up to others helps remind me how important it is to just be.



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