Resist the urge to compare

Guest post by Kelli

Mother and Daughter (Strangers #17 & #18)
Thanks to MGM Photography for submitting this photo to the Offbeat Mama pool. Oh but PS: This is not a photo of Kelli. 🙂
To me, “offbeat” is recognizing the entire concept of “shoulds” is antithetical to being a good Mom. Solid parenting is about the mantra: Resist the urge to compare. And also – to me, it is about having the courage to hold your own path. You will not be an expert on children at first, because nobody is. But you will be an expert on YOUR child, very quickly.

I haven’t used the word “instinct” because it also has a culture behind it (instinctive parenting, attachment parenting, etc). Some of it may work for you, some of it won’t. Resist the urge to compare. Recognize the profound uniqueness of your own situation, your own you, and your own child.

I was 32 when I had my daughter, and I had been in my 20s an avowed childfree girl. I grew up on the fringes of the Seattle punk rock scene in the early 80s and all that came along with that. I met my husband early on and we spent many years together without children.

When he and I got pregnant, I encountered everything from Soccer-Mini-van-Mom co-workers who said “*gasp* Oh well NOW you’ll find out what it means to REALLY LIVE!!!” as if I hadn’t lived previously. Also, with the inevitable “advice” about 14 point $680 travel systems available at megalopolis stores, and how I would never want sex again. But I also encountered much unexpected B.S. from my alternative minded friends – feminist friends, about every subject under the sun and how I needed to do things a certain way.

I remember lots of things were terrifying to me, but mostly the concept I would lose myself after I had a baby.

I was routinely told, “You’ll feel differently after you have a baby.” You know what? I very much, unequivocally didn’t. That’s what I loved about having #2, I would literally say “Well guess what? This isn’t my first time at the rodeo, but thanks for your input.”

For the vast majority of things – some practical and some esoteric, my feelings and instinct remained the same prior to pregnancy, during, and after. The thing in my opinion that makes one “offbeat” is the willingness and courage to find your own way and then do it. Honestly – I took as much flak from my “grrrlfriends” about mothering as I did from Sally Fancypants in her Humvee on the way to soccer league. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

RESIST the urge to compare.

Listen to your gut – call it whatever word you want, it’s still brilliant advice. 100,000 years of evolution doesn’t go bye-bye.

Recognize that when a baby is born – a Mom is born too. The woman doesn’t go anywhere but the Mom is new. That’s OK.

Beware the “Baby Industrial Complex” — there’s a HUGE one with a pre-developed mindset for sale right along with it. The mindset says “You’re not good enough. You need this gear. Your instincts aren’t correct. Distance yourself from the baby by using X Y and Z product”. . I realize we’re not drilling down on content at this point but I’m telling you – you don’t need 90% of that crap.

Obviously there are things that change with kids. But the “lost” things (like lots of free time, for instance) don’t really mean diddly shit to you afterward. It’s almost laughable.

It’s OK to absolutely freaking love being a Mom. You can do that, and embrace it, and that experience can define you as much as other experiences in your life. It’s not mutually exclusive to being your own woman and your own individual.

Comments on Resist the urge to compare

  1. Sing it, sister!

    From the title of the post, I thought it was going to be about that annoying habit of some mothers to compare their kids constantly to others. It drives me batty when people say "Oh, Alice is doing that? Mine isn't doing that yet!" I never know what to say and I have to resist the urge to fall into the trap of "Oh, but she doesn't do *this* and he *does*!", as if to assuage poor mama's ego or whatever.

  2. I so needed to read this! While my "ideals" are way "offbeat" compared to my real life friends.

    I've managed to join so many Attachment Parenting and Breastfeeding communities, that I've brainwashed myself into thinking that if I don't do things "perfectly" then I'm not attached enough. I'm poisoning my baby because she gets a few ounces of formula a day. I'm just not trying hard enough!!!!

    Really, we all need to find our own way. Mixing and matching from different philosophies along the way.

  3. a-to the-men! was i was a new mom four years ago it was so easy to get sucked into the whole laundry list of "the right way" to do things. i love that i'm on child number three now. i am SOOOOOO much more relaxed, comfortable and confident in not only who i am as a mother, but even who i am as a person.

  4. I was a single Momma with #1 for four years, and being a young Momma I felt I had to prove myself to everybody. And now with #2 I just don't care. She took a long time with the crawling thing, and when people asked me about it I just told them she likes being stationary, it's a lifestyle choice. I find I don't compare my children to others because it's just not fair to them, but I do catch myself comparing myself to others…but how fair is that? My kids love me, they're healthy and I take care of them the best I can with what I have, so at the end of the day it really doesn't matter!

  5. "Listen to your gut – call it whatever word you want, it's still brilliant advice. 100,000 years of evolution doesn't go bye-bye."

    Sounds good, but I kind of cringe when I hear these words, as they're the rallying cry of the anti-vaccination crowd. I'm not trusting my "gut" over solid, verifiable facts when it comes to raising kids.

    • Hibryd, I totally respect your opinion here — but Kelli didn't say anything about vaccinations and it's not a subject I'm interested in debating in the comments of Offbeat Mama. There are LOTS of spots online to debate parenting hot topics, cringe over the "rallying cries" of people we disagree with, etc … and Offbeat Mama just isn't one of them. From our values statement: "we chose what we feel is best for ourselves and our children, and don’t waste our time decrying the parenting roads we choose not to travel."

      I don't mean to single you out here — this is something I thought a LOT about before launching Offbeat Mama, and felt the need to articulate pretty explicitly for fear of the site quickly sliding into the negativity that I see on a lot of parenting blogs. Feel free to contact me if you've got any questions!

  6. I know this post almost a year old, but I was drifting through and had to respond. Thank you! All I’ve been told so far is “well you shouldn’t drink that” or “well you should go to bed then” or “you’re never going to be able to do anything fun again, like bungee jumping”… Its as if those around me have completely written me off as no fun and that I’m not a good parent because “I don’t do what other moms do”. and I’m barely pregnant yet. Its so true, every relationship, every person, every child is different and we need to look at our own relationship with our child and stop looking around to see if what we are doing is right.

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