I’m in an awkward stage of life. One might say our teens take that title by a long shot, and while it is indeed a formative phase, I personally would call it fickle before awkward. I am thirty years old, and in a stage where big life choices are made by many in my age group: should we get married? Should we have kids, and how many? Where should we live? What school district will our kids attend? What kind of parents do we want to be? These are all questions that many people my age can somehow relate to. What’s most interesting is that these don’t even scratch the surface of the real questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis. Women especially are held to a specific standard. In modern America, we are expected to want and do it all. Go big, or go home, and if you’re home, then it better be tidy.
We’re expected to abide by the “popular” rules of our culture, and if we stray from them we might be considered odd, and that’s why this is an awkward phase. Awkward might even be an understatement because, at this age, we are basically dictating the trajectory of where our lives go, who we consider community, and how we raise our families; if we even want them at all.
What if our dreams aren’t the American dream? What if at this age, we have all the tools but no manuals? It’s my belief that in a time when it’s so easy to be impacted by other’s decisions, and life events, we should strive to remember who we are and what works for us as individuals. This is not to say that we throw caution to the wind, but if we’re not being true to ourselves now, when will we?
I’ll take it one step back and pump the brakes. What if we don’t parent exactly like others?
A couple of weekends ago, we traveled to the Cleveland area to visit friends and family. As I was packing food that I made Alexander in a chilled pack, I couldn’t help shake the idea of comparison. I considered not bringing it because I didn’t want anyone to feel like they are inadequate for not making baby food as well. More so, I catch myself feeling inadequate for not doing the same thing other parents do. Isn’t that a common theme? While comparison is, in fact, the thief of joy, it is almost impossible to not subconsciously compare ourselves to others, let alone in our same stage of life. Being a mom of two young children, I find myself pushing comparative thoughts out of my mind on the daily. When I do so, however, those thoughts morph into slight guilt. Guilt that I put the kids in daycare a couple days a week to work, guilt that I work, guilt that I don’t work enough, guilt that I raise my child any different than friends whom I admire. The real question that needs to be asked is, where is that guilt coming from?
Brian, my husband, is incredibly supportive, and very careful to not make me feel guilty about said choices as a mother. I can confidently say that the only source of guilt comes from lies that I tell myself. The tricky thing about this is that I am considered exceptionally positive in my outlook on life. Nevertheless, even the most positive people will catch themselves in this battle. No one is safe from it.
What’s important is how we handle it. Do we let our comparisons fester, allowing them to become so unmanageable that we can no longer hear good truths from those who love us the most? Or, do we allow ourselves to address them? Bring them up with a friend, talk to someone, journal your thoughts, even pray about them, but then let them go and don’t look back. The latter is the more difficult task, but it will reap tremendous benefits in the long run. How am I supposed to do that, when comparison creeps in on a daily basis? you say? Call it out and remind yourself otherwise. The more you practice that, the more natural it becomes to see yourself the way those who love you the most see you. This is all simply from experience, I don’t claim to be a professional.
Understand that no matter what stage you’re in, you’ll find yourself comparing yourself one way or another. Please, remember all of your attributes, and don’t get caught up in what others are bringing to the table. We still need you in all of your uniqueness.