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Letting Go of Comparison During Postpartum

Letting Go of Comparison During Postpartum

It’s natural, and inevitable a bit to compare ourselves with others. Especially during that blissfully challenging postpartum chapter. How is everyone seemingly losing weight so quickly? Why are other babies sleeping better than mine? How does breastfeeding come so easily to some? And on and on the comparisons go. It’s easy to say “don’t do it” but harder to learn how. Thank you, Mommy’s Bliss 360 expert and Licensed Mental Health Counselor & Certified Perinatal Mental Health Professional, Kate McReynolds for teaching us to postpartum our own way. 

Comparing yourself to other moms can sometimes help you learn new things about parenting or your identity as a new mother. Other times, it can turn into a deep sense of maternal inadequacy. Maybe you notice another mom effortlessly doing something that is usually challenging for you and instantly question what is wrong with you. Maybe you see another baby reach a milestone that your baby has not yet and start to worry that you are not doing enough. Social comparison during postpartum can make you think you are failing, but it does not have to. Here are six tips for working through it:

Normalize Imperfection & the Urge to Compare

We have an innate human tendency to compare ourselves to others as a way of identifying desires, measuring personal growth, learning new skills, or gaining insight into the type of person we want to be. As a new mom who simply wants to be the best for your baby, you might be hyper-aware of what other moms are doing to be the best for their babies. After all, there is no clear-cut definition of the “best” mother – and therefore no singular way to be the best – so it makes sense that you would pay attention to how other moms are mothering. Do not try to be perfect or avoid comparisons altogether, as those expectations can lead to a sense of failure when you inevitably catch yourself making mistakes or comparing yourself to other moms. Remember that social comparison is a part of human nature and being the “best” mom you can be for your baby does not mean you have to be perfect.

Stop Evaluating & Start Observing

With all the societal expectations new moms feel pressured by, social comparison in motherhood often leads to an unhealthy mindset where specific experiences or choices make some moms more “admirable” than others (for example, moms who have unmedicated births are often praised for their strength and ambition, implying that moms who have medicated or surgical births are morally inferior). This evaluative mindset makes it easy for new moms to get stuck in the comparison trap – an unhelpful pattern of noticing differences between you and another person, then perceiving one of you as good/better and the other as bad/worse. Avoid getting stuck in this trap by shifting your comparative thoughts away from evaluations (“They’re better than me”) and more towards observations (“They’re different than me”). Being an observer can also motivate you to set new goals or provide opportunities to learn new tips and tricks along the way, like hearing about another mom’s morning routine with their baby and trying it out at home for yourself.

Reflect on How Comparisons Impact You

While some comparisons can have a positive influence on you – like feeling encouraged to try breastfeeding in public after seeing another mom do it – it might feel difficult to be an observer all the time and keep the evaluations at bay. Notice when your comparisons turn judgmental and pay attention to their negative impact on you. Ask yourself:

  • What negative thoughts is this comparison making me think about myself?
  • What unpleasant emotions are those thoughts creating?
  • How are those emotions influencing my behaviors, self-esteem, and stress levels?
  • Does this comparison serve me in any way, or does it only make me feel bad?

Knowing how comparisons positively or negatively impact you can help you feel more prepared to navigate them in the future and decide if they’re worth the emotional energy you’re giving them.

Do not Discount Your Positives

You might notice that comparing yourself to other moms is sometimes triggered by recognizing things or qualities they possess that you deeply desire for yourself – like a strong support system, a nice house, a deep well of patience, a kind personality, etc. Seeing another mom flourish in the areas you think you are “falling short” is bound to elicit self-defeating thoughts. You might even start to magnify their strengths/successes but minimize your own and magnify your flaws/mistakes but minimize theirs. Remember that we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and another mom’s “positives” do not automatically discount yours. Consider doing things that keep your positives well within your view, such as:

  • Identifying personality traits you like about yourself
  • Practicing gratitude for the things you have
  • Expressing appreciation to the people you care about
  • Viewing your mistakes as motivators or learning opportunities
  • Engaging in activities that emphasize your strengths and skills
  • Celebrating your wins (no matter how big or small!)

Talk Openly to Other Moms

Have you ever related to something personal another mom shared and felt immediate relief in knowing you weren’t the only one who thought or felt that way? The funny (but not so funny) thing about comparison in motherhood is that we all have insecurities but tend to think we are the only ones. The new mom whose postpartum body you are negatively comparing your postpartum body to might also be battling body image issues – but maybe they have never said it out loud because they are also stuck in the comparison trap. Imagine what could happen if one of you took the first step to talk about it, to normalize it? Consider the validation and solidarity you could receive from other moms if you allowed yourself to have honest conversations with them about your insecurities as a new mother. Chances are that many of them will be able to relate to what you judge about yourself, and sometimes, that is enough to alleviate the heavy sense of inadequacy and isolation many new moms feel.

Give Yourself a Compassionate Reality Check

If comparison keeps getting the best of you, you can always lean on one simple truth: every mom’s motherhood is unique. Every pregnancy, birth, baby, postpartum journey, partner relationship, career, parenting approach, home, and overall lifestyle are different. There are no two moms in the same exact situation, and it is not fair to your mental health as a brand-new mother to measure your worth by the experiences of other moms who are not living your unique life. When negative comparisons start creeping in, remember that you do not always know what other moms’ “behind-the-scenes” look like, and your perception of them is just that – your perception. Trust that you are doing enough, you are enough, and there will come a day when you finally feel secure in your role as mom.

This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.

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