Putting words on paper about competition amongst mamas has been hard, to be honest. As I was trying to put down the struggles I’ve had about competing with others, it dawned on me that the reason we compete with each other in the first place, is because we’re comparing ourselves to that other mama. We were never meant to do that. Our identity should be in Him and Him alone. It shouldn’t matter if someone does something “better” than us or their kids are “better” than ours at something or whatever. All that matters is how He sees us.
One strategy I have used that I described in my first post is simple. Prayer. When I sense those feelings rise up inside me upon seeing a beautiful home, or a lovely closet of clothing, or writing piece so thoughtfully composed, I stop and say a prayer for that mama. Nothing elaborate, just a prayer of thanks for their life, their work, that they would honor God in all they do and that others would be blessed.
It works wonders. It really does.
Another strategy that works well is simple too. Praise. I turn on some praise music and just allow the reality of who God is to soak into me. Because when the lies start creeping into my head about my own weaknesses or how someone is just so much better than me, I need to shut the lies out by reminding myself of who God is. And when I do that, He is able to fill me up with who He is, who I am, and I can live from that place. That’s where my identity lies. And sometimes, praise can very quickly put aside those sneaky thoughts of comparison.
Even in the midst of these two simple ideas, I sometimes find myself still frustrated, particularly when the comparison I’m making is something that I want to be better at. Let me use writing as an example. I’m a tiny space on the Internet. I’m not doing this as my full time job, although that would be nice. There are thousands of women, who use their writing and blogs as a blessing and encouragement to others. I read some of their writing. They have large platforms and have worked their way to a place of being heard by many. I’m certainly not saying my writing and words belong up there with them, but the enemy can surely make me think that sometimes. And at the same time, he can make me think my words are meaningless and why bother writing if not many people are reading.
So with this mindset, perhaps I might read some amazing words from another writer. I’m thinking, “Wow, God’s been showing me that too but the way she explained it is beautiful. I can’t write like that. No wonder my words don’t get out there. Now THIS is someone who can encourage others. I’m nothing like her.” See how the lies creep in there?
And so I pray for her. And I praise God through it. And yet sometimes, I’m still left wondering about myself. This describes what has happened to me over and over when I read others’ writing. Your situation is likely different. But maybe you can relate.
And then, a few weeks ago, I read this beautifully written piece by Sara Hagerty called, The Silent Stewing Towards Other Mothers. When I read it (and please do read the entire thing when you have some time), I was like, “this.” This is what I had been trying to put to words and here someone was doing just that.
It seems harmless to remain silent at another’s successes – to look sideways and feel better about who we are because our successes might be bigger or to feel worse about what we’re not in light of their gold. It seems harmless to cast the side-eye and to stay silent. I mean they are, after all, succeeding – surely they don’t need celebrating in addition to enjoying all that so-evident fruit. Within my heart, however, they do need celebrating.When I don’t see the people in my world with the understanding that God has given to each a unique role within His body and that my job is to feel with another when they’re weak and to rejoice with another when they’re honored, I miss out on the beauty I was meant to receive from that person. And I miss out on the sweet whisper of God telling me, uniquely, who I am in Him.
Sara was describing what I felt and had trouble putting words to. That, mamas, when we compare, when we compete, we don’t celebrate each other. We remain silent when we could be rejoicing with another’s successes. We boost our egos just a bit when we see someone fall. We can be, pardon the directness of it all, a bit too focused on ourselves.
After I read what she wrote, I realized that even though praying for someone and praising through the times I felt I was comparing myself to other mamas, I was maybe feeling a little better, but I wasn’t really celebrating that mama. Perhaps praying for them is a silent celebration of sorts, but I still had a sense of longing. Sara goes onto pretty much give the exact words to what I was feeling.
Comparison is the masqueraded thief of motherhood, attempting to turn my head from what He has to say to me, for me and for my family and for my children.
That was it. When I see others, when I compare myself or my children to another, I miss what God is doing through me and through my children. That even though I know God has a plan for us, it was getting lost in my muddled thoughts of how it compared to others. And that’s exactly what the enemy intends. To confuse us, to make us feel alone, to make us doubt there’s a place for us at all.
Sara’s strategy for this is simple. So simple I can’t believe I missed it for myself. She gives this example.
And let’s be active about celebrating the ones in our world who are stepping up and into what God has for them. You have a child who’s struggling through the second grade and your best friend has one who is thriving. Celebrate with her, and then let’s scoot on back behind our own closed doors and ask Him: “what do you have for this child, God? What might you say to me, about your vision for my child and my family?”
Boom! I was missing the last part. I was praying for mamas yes, but maybe not celebrating them. And then, I was praising God, but not asking Him to show me what it means for me and my family. This last step was really what I needed. To not only celebrate another mama, but then to remember that God can use me too.
So going back to my above example. When I get tripped up over seeing the success of other writers, I can celebrate them. I can quote them and share their writing. But then, I can take it back to God. “What is your vision for me as a writer? Show me the words you want to deliver through my hands. May those who need to see the words still see them. May I be strong enough to share even when I feel inadequate next to someone else.”
And that, mama friends, is really and truly the most freeing of all. It allows us to take our eyes off of ourselves and celebrate each other, remembering God will use each of us. We have to trust that what He has for us is good and that He can use our story and the stories of other mamas together.