The Importance Of Teaching My Child About The Two Sides Of Comparing Yourself To Others

Comparing yourself to others is a pest. I’ve been fighting it for more than ten years. “Make the best out of who you are!”, I used to tell to myself. Yet, my mind kept on assessing the life of other women. Before I could be able to stop assessing, I found myself sad or even depressed that other women are much better in every single aspect of their lives or physically more appealing. In 2008, during one of my meditations, something miraculous happened to me. I started crying and my soul was overwhelmed with kindness as if I had been embraced by the divine grace. Happiness and self-content stepped into my life. After that moment, this automatic mental assessment still happened but I was able to stop it and replace it with the thought, “Each person is different.”

I was able to control my tendency to compare myself to others until the day I became a mother. My mind became more fragile than before. Comparing myself to other mothers became daily routine. I felt I did nothing right – my baby hardly touched the food, he did not sleep for an entire night. Other mothers seemed to have everything under control. I desperately started talking with my mother-in-law who very wisely pointed out to me that my baby has me as his mother and whatever I do, that is the best thing for him.

We are all wired to compare ourselves to others. Some of us enjoy measuring their results against other person’s results. And there are others whose benchmark is themselves one year ago or five years ago ( Even for the latter group of individuals, comparison with others is a mental mechanism which has been built in us ever since the beginning of human kind and it springs from the competition between individuals.

Parents raise their children in the spirit of competition ( When you hear your parent bragging, “My kid is the best in class.”, you grow up fighting to stay on top. Or when you keep on hearing the disappointment of your parent, “Why can’t you get an A as Julie does?”, your self-esteem becomes flimsy.

Now when I am a mother myself, I have a double challenge: to stop comparing myself to other mothers and to raise my baby in the “find inspiration around you” spirit. Comparison may not be entirely erased since it’s so well printed in our genes. However, I do believe that it can be turned into the positive habit of getting inspired by the persons with whom we interact. This is what I want to teach my baby – to look for inspiration around him.

Staying on the negative side of comparing ourselves means living under the rule of jealousy, envy and anxiety. They can stifle all the creativity, like the creativity which comes from hearing stories of success. I am talking about stories which are not making headlines. They are stories of people very close to us – of our childhood friend, our room mate or why not, our grandmother. We have so many lessons of life to learn from one another, though we need to be careful to be authentic and not to imitate. For example, I find inspiring Michael Nobb’s story about how he stopped trying to follow in the footsteps of the artists he admired (

Parents want the best for their children, they want their children to be happy and successful in life. If comparison has negative effects on our inner lives, why do parents raise their kids in a competitive/comparison state of mind in our modern society? Are the end results more important than the state of mind of our children?

The main culprit I could come up with is the educational system. I remember the feeling of victory when I used to get an A. There were only two or three other classmates who took the same grade. The rest were others who were not as good as us. The performance measured in grades resulted into an automatic comparison between myself and the others. Later on, when I competed for the study right at the university, it turned out that the grades from the previous years were one of the criteria for admittance. I can only conclude that the design of the educational system supports the negative side of comparison with others. How can I help my child not get brainwashed by this kind of performance measurement of pupils/students?

Focusing on your talents and desires is a possible mission in life. We come into this world endowed with one or more talents and it would be a shame not exploiting them. The subjective experience of cultivating your talents is more important than the objective measurement of the results. In addition, if we can learn the lesson of cooperation, we may reach amazing results – both subjective and objective. Cooperating on projects of similar interests is the best way to personal and professional development. Great ideas come from talking and working with people. If you find your true calling, you’ll find your place in the competitive society more naturally.

Last but not least, I’ll be talking to my child about the importance of being humble, which is the prerequisite for staying on the positive side of comparison with others. At the end of this life, we are all going to die. The least we can do is to make it our own way through life.

Do we know what to expect when we decide to be stay at home mothers?

“Mine, mine! I can’t manage to read anything … Aurora takes all my time… and there are moments when she does only what she wants! … she gets upset with me if I scold her and she would not talk to me anymore.” This is a fragment from the Skype message written by a friend who is the mother of a 2 years old baby girl. She took up studying for a new degree while being a stay at home mother.

Before becoming a mother myself, I used to think that mothers must have so much fun in the world of games and toys of their kids. I am now discovering the journey of motherhood – the reality of a stay at home mom. This is what I wanted to do for the first few years of my baby’s life. I had waited for such a long time to have a baby that I just didn’t want to miss anything that my little one is doing.

Leaving aside the expectation of having loads of fun, I had no other expectations about how my life would be. There are articles that build up the expectations of being a stay at home mother and that discuss whether it is healthier for the baby if the mother stays at home or gets back to work but in the end, it all boils down to what each mother wants to do ( I didn’t live up to my boss’ expectations when I extended my maternity leave. The most important aspect for my decision was that I was fully convinced that I am ready to embrace the role of a mother.

It’s been one year now when I haven’t slept an entire night. If I am lucky, I sleep for four consecutive hours. The day that follows, I find the creative energy to invent games to play together with my baby, which makes me very happy. If I am less lucky, the little one wakes me up every half an hour. The following day, the toys spread on the floor are but an annoyance. The scarce energy that I possess is saved for feeding and changing diapers, and I feel I am not a good mother for not being able to offer him more.

And there are days when the little one gets sick. On those kind of days, he is glued to me and I wish I was a kangaroo so that I could carry him in my marsupium.The whining is omnipresent in our apartment, which feels smaller than its actual size. More than ever, he cries to get what he wants.

Had my friend communicated her frustration one year ago, I would have probably thought, “Why is she complaining that she dedicates all the time to her baby?”. But now, I feel for her. In addition to frustration, I usually get lost in the pitfall of impatience with the baby, irritation with my family and bitterness with the world.

Why didn’t anyone tell me about this aspect of motherhood? The day progresses slowly while I am having a constant inner fight between what I need to do in the house and what my baby wants me to do. How can I manage this inner tension, which nests in me every week?

Let the baby cry while I proceed with the housekeeping duties? Tempted, but no.

Change my goals for the day? Yes, yes, yes! I put on hold my housewife duties so that I can prioritise the baby’s needs. Still, I have to admit that it is easier to make this choice than to actually implement it. And that’s the challenge of a stay at home mother – the inner struggle to get out of the pitfall with negative emotions. What it usually works for me is to write a few words to a friend, another stay at home mother who can sympathise.

I sometimes laugh at my naiveté to ever think that when you become a mother, you step into the land of never ending happiness. On the contrary, according to my experience, motherhood amplifies the weakest aspects of yourself. Sad examples are the new mothers who can be affected by post natal depression or, a more severe type of illness, puerperal psychosis. Statistics say that 20% of new mothers are affected by post natal depression and 1 in 1000 mothers can be affected by puerperal psychosis (

I have not suffered of PND nor puerperal psychosis but I do feel that my mind is more unstable than what it used to be. Even in days which I think they are good, there are moments when I find myself experiencing panic attacks. The adorable smile of the baby is not enough to bring back the required energy to carry on with the day.

When the mind restores its balance, I become aware of the space that has opened up in me. I assume that it happened when I was fighting my negative emotions but after all, it does not matter when or how it happened. What counts is the discovery of a new territory in myself. In this new space, I feel in touch with myself, more than ever before. I feel strong and bathed in a peaceful energy which springs from the reservoir of pure and unconditional love.

My mind and soul are free of personal limitations – at least for a day. The journey of motherhood continues at another level now – the level where resides the acceptance of my imperfections. There are still many fights to be carried on at this level, fights between the newly acquired awareness and my personal weaknesses.

When the personal weaknesses wins, I’ll say to myself, “This too shall pass and all that counts is that my baby is healthy!”. Furthermore, it may help to write on a post it note, “It’s up to you, woman, to get back in balance, so find a way, be creative!”. I will stick it to the fridge or to the baby’s crib to read it when shit hits the fan.

Carpe Diem? Yes, please, but how?

The Latin poet, Horace must have known since he was the one who created this aphorism ‘Carpe Diem’, which in English is translated as ‘Seize the day’. I was 16 when I studied Latin and read for the first time about it. “I wanna do that too!” I thought.  The idea became a part of me: life is short, enjoy this minute without worry about the future. Still, years passed and to my disappointment, I realised how hard it’s been for me to ‘Carpe Diem’.

Before getting pregnant, I was meditating daily. Each meditation was a struggle to keep thoughts out of my mind! I used to sit there in my meditation position for half an hour in order to reach that state of ‘no thought, but peacefulness’ for few minutes only. Once in a while when my mind was too restless to meditate, I comforted myself with the thought that Elisabeth Gilbert had similar struggles, as she confesses in her novel, “Eat, Pray, Love“.

Now when I am a mother, I want to Carpe Diem with my baby. He is a very energetic and curious baby who sleeps for 2 hours maximum per day. Out of these 2 hours, he sleeps about 1,5 hours when I walk him around in his pram. One hour and half of walking provides the opportunity to have some time on my own. One day, I paid attention to my thoughts during this one hour and half. I passed by a playground where a mother was playing basketball with her kid. It was a joy to watch them. “I can’t wait for my little one to grow up.”, I thought.

I passed by a restaurant, where some people, smartly dressed were gathered in a circle and drinking wine from trendy design glasses. “Hm, the times when I used to be a social butterfly!” I was sinking into memories when I remembered how I used to think back then. When I used to see a mother and her baby, I used to think, “Lucky her! She must have the time of her life!”.

You must understand now the disappointment with myself. The life is here and now but my mind is all over, in the past and the future. The baby woke up at the sound of a machine drilling on the side walk. He started crying. “Huh! If he only slept ten more minutes to arrive home.” Faced with his louder and louder crying, all I could think was, “OK, what do I do now? Do I let him cry till we get home?”

His crying was breaking my heart. I took him in the arms. He calmed down and started pointing in the direction of the small park that we were just passing by. My mind started protesting, “You have to get home. Housekeeping tasks are waiting for you!” I was restless. In front of my eyes, the little one was shining with the joy of stepping on the green grass. He stopped at a tree trunk on which some mushrooms had grown (quite ugly, in my opinion). He looked at it carefully. I yielded to his desire. I followed him in his discovery of the vegetation in the park.

After this walk, I happened to find an article in Psychology Today, which talks about “Hiking with a Child“. The author of the article is Deborah L. Davis, a developmental psychologist who advises to consider two aspects when hiking with your child: 1. the temperament, interests and developmental stage of the child. 2. your goals as a parent. As a mother of a baby who is soon one year old, I found the article useful to put our short-term life into perspective.

What I found even more useful about the article was related to the goals of the parent, what is most important for the parent. My goal is to ‘Carpe Diem’ with my baby. The question is how to achieve that when having loads of practical issues that need to be done?

When negativity sneaked into my heart

It was the end of one of those days when the little one had been wining all day long. I was in the supermarket, on my mind with the “to buy” list and at the same time, I was trying to entertain our baby who was already getting bored in the shopping cart. Mothers know how it feels! A thought crossed my mind: “Gosh, I badly need half an hour to breathe in peace!”

When my husband finished his day of work, I informed him about my wish. I hoped I could prepare dinner while our baby would spend quality time with his father. What happened was that my husband started doing something else in the kitchen, which was important but maybe not as important. The baby was left alone with his toys. Being mommy’s boy, of course he came crawling to my feet. That was the last drop. I started boiling. He was pulling my pants and wining. You know, that kind of wining that is meant to drive parents nuts.

I looked daggers at my husband who was singing while emptying the dish washer. I looked at the baby’s tears and I sighed, “What is wrong, baby?”. I held him with one hand and with the other, I continued stirring in the sizzling chicken curry. Thanks God, I have two hands. In moments like that, I wished I had three or four. When my arm got tired of holding the baby, I went straight to my husband and … I felt like a bull in a  Spanish arena, starring my husband as the toreador. I started micromanaging him on a low voice. I briefed him on what was needed to be done in order to prepare our baby for bed time. He took the baby and moved to the bathroom singing. I was growling inside!

It was midnight when I was lying awake and feeling the huge irritability inside of me. I could hear the pitter pattering of the rain drops at the window. Under normal circumstances, that sound would put me in a peaceful and dreamy mood. But that night, the sound annoyed me to death. What was wrong with me? I wondered how mothers of more than one child were managing. Compared to their lives, my life must be a walk in the park. 🙂 Luckily, the fatigue came to rescue. I managed to fall asleep despite the irritability being still present.

The next morning, I remembered this article that I came across in the Scientific American, The Joyful Mind. The article discusses the biology of pleasure, how different regions of the brain work together to create pleasure. The path to pleasure is a cause and effect between anticipation, desire, sensation and satisfaction. “Well, good morning!”, I said to myself. That was my problem the night before. This path to pleasure had been broken when my top desire to have half an hour of peace had not been satisfied.

Life is not only white and black. According to Aristotle, a person’s happiness is composed of two elements: pleasure and meaningfulness. I am living the most meaningful time of my life, when I witness the development of our baby each day. Then how can I have these moments of frightening negativity? How could a moment of broken pleasure cloud the happiness of a meaningful life? Back to the article A Joyful Mind, the scientists have not understood yet how the brain creates the perception of a meaningful life. Maybe I missed something that the brain scientists can’t find in the brain either. Something that Eckhart Tolle refers to as the “power of now”.

In these moments when my reality does not unfold as expected and triggers the out of balance, getting in touch with my consciousness is the salvation. Again, easier said than done, but hey it is worth trying! If I succeed, I will be knowing how it feels “To stay present in everyday life”. I will know what it means “to be deeply rooted within yourself; otherwise, the mind, which has incredible momentum will drag you along like a wild river…To always have some of your attention in the inner energy field of your body. To feel the body from within, so to speak”. (Eckhart Tolle, Practising the Power of Now, pp. 51)

Bye bye comfort

We are having dinner in a posh restaurant downtown. A friends couple invited us to celebrate their marriage. I participate in discussions on and off. When I am able to have a conversation, the baby is sitting in my lap and chews on a slice of bread. When he gets bored, he wants mommy to hold his hands and walk around with him. Luckily, the restaurant is half empty so we have a few tables, chairs and candles to admire without bothering anyone. Never mind that my tomato soup and the fishcake get cold. The baby is happy. I ask my husband to attend the baby so that I can eat the cold food. The table conversation continues.

Our friends share their memories from their honeymoon. My mind travels all the way to Delhi where I contemplate the streets full of life, color, and dirt. The waitress shows up triumphantly with the dessert on the tray. The icecream cocktail winks at me and my mouth is watering. The baby sits in his father’s lap and plays with a teaspoon. When the icecream arrives in front of me, I grab the teaspoon in a hurry and I drop it even faster. The baby just started crying. Our friends look at me. My husband tries to comfort the baby. Persons from the nearby tables look at me stealthily, or I imagine they do. I stare at the baby with a hopeless look. His crying is getting stronger and stronger. I stand up, take him from his father’s arms and wish them to enjoy the dessert. I really mean it! I let them savour the sweet moment while I am taking steps to a remote corner in the restaurant.

I keep on telling to myself that I am the one who can calm him down. So, here I am, sitting on a chair in the remote and dim corner, like a punished school girl. I dream of the taste of the icecream while my baby is drinking milk  greedily. 🙂 After a few minutes, he falls asleep in my arms. By the time when we return to the table, the icecream is almost melted.

This is not the first time when my dinner is interrupted. When it happens, I get furios with the world, with myself, with my husband and with our baby for not having the chance to finish my food. Then, I get angry with myself for getting angry with the baby. Argh! A loop of exponential anger which makes me even more angry. I want to put an end to it. But how? Anger is a feeling which can’t be too controlled, especially when being sleep deprived. “How about rationalizing and prioritizing my choices?” I think to myself. First choice, baby’s needs go first. Second choice, I want to have inner peacefulness when I hold him in my arms. Easier said than done especially when he chooses to cry for attention when I am about to have few minutes of gourmet joy.  I’ll mumble to my chin, I’ll smile to the baby and I’ll give him a kiss as he is crying his lungs out. And, I look at the bright side: at least I stay fit. I also wonder how other mothers handle similar situations. Maybe they don’t mind at all having their lunch or dinner interrupted. But if they do, how do they react? What inner mechanism do they have which keeps them in balance at such moments of trial? As for myself, I will keep on practising my own coping mechanism: mumble, smile and kiss good bye the moment of joy.