I have a friend, Audrey Rindlisbacher, and recently I was listening to an early morning Facebook Live she did. The topic was ‘comparison.’ Audrey is an exceptional woman who has been speaking and teaching for years on great books. I have sat with rapt attention in her classes. She inspires me with her knowledge of natural law and principles.
Not too long before she did this Facebook Live, she spoke with another woman that she considered exceptional. This mom had been the Young Mother of the Year, had multiple degrees, and currently lives in a foreign country where she has been for the last ten years with her family doing full-time work with refugees. Audrey admitted that during her conversation, she had thoughts like these – “You have always wanted to take your kids and do some humanitarian work. Why haven’t you? If you had, your family would be so much better off. You are so lame!”
I had to smile inwardly because when I first heard Audrey speak, I had similar thoughts – “Man, you should have read more great books than you have. Why haven’t you gotten as much out of them as Audrey has? How come you don’t understand natural law and principles as she does. Reading isn’t enough; you needed to think as she has. You are so lame.” When we begin comparing ourselves to others, our self-talk plummets! When our self-talk dives, then our life-results also dive. We must speak kindly about and to ourselves.
Another reason to speak well of ourselves is that how we are and what we do,speaks volumes to our children. We want to model a way of being to our family that will help them as they tackle hard things in life and as they begin seeing that where they are and how they are doing is different from someone else.
Tools to Derail Comparison
When I find myself treating myself poorly or comparing myself to others, I have a couple of tools I use to get myself back on track.
1. Focus on gratitude. When I shift from seeing what I am not or what I don’t have and focus on who I am and what I have, my self-talk improves. My result improves. There are many ways to stay in gratitude, but one that I use is a gratitude journal. Each evening before bed, I take a moment and write at least three things I am grateful for. No matter how terrible the day has been, I have yet to be stumped. I can always find at least three and usually more. Keeping my eye on what I have that is good keeps my mind on a higher plane, so I don’t spiral into negative thinking and self-talk.
2. Limit social media. As much good as social media has provided, it is a hotbed of comparison and envy. Currently, three of my daughters have taken breaks from social media. No Facebook, no Instagram. They have found that they feel better about themselves when they cannot compare their worst to someone else’s best. I spend less than 1 hour on social media each day, and on days when I don’t need to be on it for work, I spend none at all.
You don’t have to give up social media. Just limit the time you spend there. If you have a hard time, then turn off your notifications. Give yourself set times during the day to participate. When we compare ourselves to others, it creates unrest within us. It sucks the joy out of our accomplishments. It diminishes us in our own eyes.
We each have strengths and weaknesses. We all do well at times and at others do poorly. We all are in the process of becoming. Accept that you are still learning, growing, evolving. Be kind to yourself. Speak and think with generosity, and it will improve your pace. It will also give your children a better example of what to do when you are not perfect. It will do your family good.
Take the time to let a friend know about these simple tools to derail comparison.
I have always had a dining room or kitchen table. Even in our first home, which was small, we had a table. I loved having a table. It was good to rest my elbows when I was reading or studying.
As our kids came, we sat around our table for meals and talked. It was a gathering place, a homework place, my sewing space when the need arose. We used our table a lot.
Then ten years ago, when our daughter’s family and we decided to share space, I gave up my table. We lived in a basement apartment of our daughter’s home with lovely big windows. We had a kitchen and living room. However, there wasn’t a dining area. The kitchen was narrow and had a bar. I thought the bar would be enough.
But it was high and required stools. Don and I were in our sixties, and so we never used it. No resting elbows while reading. Fewer conversations. That’s because we used TV trays. They work but don’t lend themselves to the same intimacy one feels at a table.
Then we moved again. We have the south side of this beautiful home with lots of sunshine. We have a new kitchen which we built. We have a nice sized living room. But again, no place for a table. We have been in this space for three years, and my need for a table has grown.
This spring inside, I was screaming, “I NEED a table.” I couldn’t put into words why I felt such a need for a table. We had our TV trays, and since the space is not large, it seemed the thing to do. BUT something was missing, and I knew it in my heart.
Finally, I decided I HAD to have a table. I bought one for $40, used. But it was too large and felt overbearing in the room. I thought about it a lot. I NEEDED a table. So, I did what I do. I prayed, and within a couple of days, someone gave me the perfect table. It was the right color and size. It came with chairs, and I was ecstatic.
We have had the table for a few months now. Has it made a difference?YES! And here is how. I can finally explain, in words, what was missing. There is something ‘connecting’ about sitting face to face around a table. There is something ‘family’ about it. Many times, over the last few months, my husband has said, “I like sitting here and looking at your face.” That doesn’t happen when you’re seated at TV trays. My mother talks more while we eat. Because she has Alzheimer’s, I guess she felt a bit isolated in her chair in front of her tray unless asked a direct question.
Our conversations are better, more intimate, more interesting. Frankly, the temptation to turn on the TV is less. Last night we played music while we ate. It was awesome!!
And when we aren’t all sitting at the table, I study there. I rest my elbows, and I read. I am aware of the life going on around me, and I like feeling my family’s pulse. A table, well used, creates a sense of ‘family.’
You probably have a table. My questions to you are:
Do know what a gift it is?
Do you use it?
Are you taking the opportunity to connect your family at least once a day?
Are you developing that ‘family’ feeling?
Reasons to gather at your table at least once a day:
A. It will help you get what you want—Eating together goes a long way in helping you create the family culture you see in your mind or have written down.
B.It will unify your family—During the years our children were making poor choices, the time at the dinner table held us together. If we couldn’t agree on the best way to live, we could at least gather once a day and eat together. It kept us face-to-face and heart-to-heart. We didn’t teach or reprimand during these meals. We stayed out of management and worked on the relationships. This effort didn’t stop our children from making choices we disagreed with, but it kept our children bonded to us. It kept us unified as a family.
C.You can de-stress—If you determine that spilled milk and children falling off chairs are not interruptions and catastrophes but significant family life moments, then the dinner hour will bring you joy. Even when mealtimes feel hectic or disorganized, they have long-term benefits for children because if parents remain calm, kids aren’t stressed by dinnertime chaos. Remember, they think and see like kids and not as adults. And you, as you watch and listen to them, can breathe. You can let down your guard. You can relax. There is research that supports this. : )
D.You can build close relationships—Family meals are opportunities to develop more intimate family relationships. Although families live together, we each go about our business of living independently of one another. We aren’t all doing the same things each day. When we eat together, we have a few moments to reconnect, talk, laugh, and enjoy one another. Meals are a prime time for communication and understanding as we each live our individual lives.
E. You’ll have an improved sense of well-being—Anne Fishel, Ph.D., said, “Over the past 15 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members” (Fishel 2016).
F.You can practice Being Present—Eating together allows you to implement Present strategies. You can discuss a book the family’s reading together. You can memorize scripture or quotes you like. You can tell jokes and laugh. You can share what happened in the community or thoughts you had during the day. When having a conversation, include everyone. Keep it positive. Avoid nagging, complaining, or controlling the discussion. Listen more than you talk.
What If No One Talks?
If up until now, dinner hasn’t been a productive time to connect and build relationships with your kids, try playing the Conversation Game. This game can get the flow going. Go around the table and have each person share a high point of the day and a low point. Eventually, when done consistently over time, it will begin to feel safe, and your family members will open up more. This game is fun, and you can practice seeing and hearing your children.
Dinner’s the perfect time to turn away from your technology.Turn off cell phones while at the table—mute your landline. Even the ringing can be a significant distraction. Turn off the TV! Having the TV on negates many of the benefits of a family meal and prevents you and your family from being Present with each other. The comfort of the food will make practicing this less painful. : )
Eating together is an opportunity to empty your mind of your endless to-do list and focus on your children. What are they saying? How do they look? What’s their body language? What did you miss during the rush to get out the door in the morning? Mealtime is a perfect time to practice being Present.
G. If you need one more reason to eat together as a family, ponder this: in a nationally representative Internet-based survey of 1,037 teens (ages 12 to 17), 71 percent said that they consider talking/catching up and spending time with family members as the best part of family dinners. These comments come from kids, just like your kids. They want and need time with you. They want your Presence, and one of the easiest ways to give it to the whole family at once is at the dinner table (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, “The Importance of Family Dinners”)!
I have loved finally having a table again. I enjoy looking at my mom and my husband. I savor the conversations and laughter. It has felt whole!
One time I asked my kids about their favorite memories. I’ll never forget Kates. It wasn’t about sitting at the table together but under it.
Kate—”I remember you and me sitting under the table reading a chapter of Katie John together. She painted her face with lipstick on picture day, and it wouldn’t come off. We laughed and laughed together.
Whatever works right. Being around or under your table, unifies families! Use yours!
This ‘table message’ is for all your friends who have families.
When you improve your life skills, it’s a boon to your whole family. The better able you are to navigate life and the more growth you have, it naturally rubs off on those around you.
Case in point. Over a decade ago, I began my quest to improve my ability to manage my thoughts so that my life results would be more in line with what I wanted. I read books, attended many events and classes, got some personal mentoring, and even did some energy work. I noticed that I was happier, more often, by choice. I spoke kindlier to myself. My confidence went up. I was able to help others make changes also. It felt good. My granddaughter, Mary, was born just after I began my quest to control my life, my happiness, and my responses; to stop being a victim. Although I didn’t know it, she has been watching me.
A few years ago, she saw a vision board on my wall and came and asked me what it was. I explained that it contained pictures of what I wanted to happen in my life. She must have thought about that for a few days and then she came and asked me to help her make one. She also noticed that I made my bed every morning, and soon she began doing the same. She was only eight or nine, and nobody told her to do it. She saw that I did it and that it was a good thing. She also saw the sayings and affirmations that I have on my walls. If you go into her room, you will notice that she has hopeful and joyful sayings all over the place. When she makes anything or buys anything, she makes sure that the words she loves are on it.
One day, about a year ago, she said, “Grandma, you and I am the same.” You know she is right. I work to remain in control of the story that I tell myself, and so does Mary. Her room, art, clothes, and actions all reflect her understanding that she oversees how she feels and how life looks.
Not all children will respond this way.My two grandsons are not the least bit interested in making their beds. : ) They don’t wear upbeat sayings on their clothes. They don’t do much art, and when they do, it doesn’t say things like “Love Yourself.” LOL However, I can tell they are learning valuable things, and it comes out now and then in something they say and do.
Our example to our children matters. If we feel like victims and live our lives as if we are, our children will see that and follow suit. If we blame and criticize, so will our kids. If we talk poorly to ourselves, then how can our children believe that they are any better. We can’t and won’t be perfect people or parents, but what will last and impact our children the most is when they see us growing. There is power in understanding and believing that you are 100% in control of your life. You may not be able to control all the circumstances, but you can manage your response.
I have seven grown children. Some are edging into their fifties, and they tell me how much my continued desire to become better has helped them. So, if you have issues in your family, look inside. See what you need to do to take control of your feelings, your own life. Let go of victimhood—practice consistency. Take charge of the story you live and tell yourself. Clean up your self-talk. It will not only bless you. It will bless your family!
I had two daughters who had babies last year – one in June and one in Dec. One daughter suffered from postpartum anxiety, not to be confused with the blues or even depression. It was excruciating. Just functioning was a challenge.Besides the new baby, she had one preschooler and one grade-schooler.
Despite her struggles with health and energy, I saw her remember what her kids needed to do to be ready for school. I watched her get them to their events and lessons. I saw her force herself to school with her new baby to participate in a classroom party with her daughter.
My other daughter has tweens, teens, and grade-schoolers. She was up multiple times a night. But one morning bright and early I witnessed this: she was in the kids’ rooms getting them up, reminding them of what they needed for the day, giving cautions about getting to work on time and bringing instruments home after orchestra so they could practice. It was all in her head, and despite her baby fatigue, she was letting it out at the right time, with the right tone. There is no getting around it,
MOTHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY’RE STRUGGLING.
My sons-in-law also experienced the addition of new babies into their families. One is in the last stages of genetic blindness and was ill at the time of the birth. However, he donned a mask and was by his wife’s side, not just during the delivery but until his wife came home a day later, even though fluorescent light burns his eyes. Then he returned, mask in hand because the baby had a severe bilirubin issue. His eyes burned as he endured hours of blue light. I watched him get up at night to feed his son, diaper, and cuddle him.
The other dad had a two-plus hour compute every day into the city. He left work early so he could get home sooner. When he got back, the load shifted from his wife’s shoulders to his own. He made food, played Candyland, fed the dogs, tucked kids in bed, and comforted his wife. There is no getting around it,
FATHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THE LOAD IS HEAVY.
Neither of these couples is doing it perfectly. There are down days, moments of resentment, and checking out. BUT they get up daily and do it again because they love each other and their families. There is no way around it,
PARENTS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY AREN’T PERFECT!!
Know a parent struggling because they aren’t perfect. Share. : )
I don’t care how good a parent you are; this is true. The problem that we run into is focusing on any one part.
Many parents focus on the bad. They forget that there is a large portion of good. Others focus on the good and forget that they need to work on the bad. And occasionally, some see only the dollop of ugly. Each of these scenarios lessens our ability to parent well, long term.
Let me share three personal experiences.
1. I was on occasion, not nurturing. I can recall hearing a child gaging in the night and then pulling them out of bed, running them down the hall, all the while repeating in an urgent voice, “Hold it. Don’t throw up.”
2. My youngest daughter wanted to be a cheerleader. During the try-outs, she had to do a solo routine and fell. It seemed like an eternity until she looked up towards the bleachers where I was, although only seconds had passed. When she looked my way, she saw me standing in a sea of sitting parents. She saw me silently sending the message, I am proud of you. I want everyone to know I am your mom. Get up, you can do this. P.S. She made the squad!
3. We had six kids, were living in Montana, and money was tight. One night I found an open Tampon in the bathroom garbage. A child had been curious, opened it, and it was now no good. I had, on occasion, found myself without that needed necessity. I flipped.
I drug six kids out of bed, lined them up in the hall and went up and down the line shaking the Tampon in their noses, asking repeatedly, “WHO OPENED THIS!”
Story one is bad. A good mom sits on the side of the bed with a pan, soothing a fevered brow and speaking calm and loving words. They aren’t concerned with vomit and cleaning it up. Right?
Story two is so good. I mean, doesn’t it make you want to be that mom?
Story three is ugly, totally out of control.
And there it is. We all have our ugly moments. We all have moments when we shine. And we all have moments when it’s clear that although we aren’t the worst parent on the planet, we surely could be better.
It’s vital to remember that you are not just one part, you are all three. There is no perfection in parenting any more than there is perfection in friendship, relationships, or life.
We need to focus on the good. We need to improve the bad. And we need to forgive ourselves for the occasionally ugly. When we do this, we are better parents. There is power in seeing the good, acknowledging the bad and forgiving the ugly and that power helps us parent better.
Here are a few things I have learned
about kids that make it easier for you to improve and forgive yourself, to worry less and to know that it’s going to be OK in the end.
• Kids love their parents unconditionally
• Kids are quick to forgive
• Kids are resilient
• Kids have a way of moving on
Our goal is not perfection. There is always going to be something you don’t know, haven’t mastered yet or that is messy. In a family, in life, there is always work to do. Keep improving yourself. Do more good, improve the bad and you will lessen the ugly. And in the end, it will all be OK.
The greatest compliment is when you share
but the greatest joy is when you comment. : )
Mary Ann Johnson | Relationship Transformations for Busy Parents, 2017