Stop playing the comparison game
Motherhood is challenging for most of us – and yet it can be difficult to believe that when you browse through Facebook or Instagram and all you see are the smiling entries from your mummy friends: the happy looking selfies, the professional-looking pics of home-baked kale crisps, the latest art project by little Joseph that looks like it should be hanging in a gallery. Silvia Wetherall is a counsellor with More Mindful, and Co-Founder of Mindful Mums and the MumRadar App, and she knows it all too well. We took a break from scrolling through our news feed to get some advice from her on how something that makes us feel so good can also make us feel so bad….
The comparison game
If only Facebook could hear and talk. What tales it would tell on us about what lies behind all those happy images we post. It’s natural that people only broadcast the happy moments in their lives. But when you are also all on the receiving end of apparent constant joy, achievement and success, you naturally start to play the comparison game, in which somehow, no matter how hard you try, you always come out losing.
If this is getting you down, it’s important to introduce some perspective: before social media we may have compared ourselves to our mothers, aunts and friends in the community around us. Now, often living in a more isolated nuclear family, you compare yourself with the world: Gisele’s perfect postnatal body, Gwyneth’s healthy organic recipes for kids, Jessica Alba’s impeccable taste in nursery decoration. It’s no wonder that you feel you’re falling short. Become clear on whose opinion counts, who should influence you and why what you’re doing is the right thing for you.
The online community has become the “go to” place in the guidance and mentoring of new mothers now that so many of us live away from family and friends. There are many advantages of this virtual connectedness: access to resources, information and support, and staying connected to people who live far away.
And yet, for a mother who has in the past struggled with self-esteem issues and may not be feeling very confident in her ability as a new parent (who is?), this social media pressure can increase her feelings of inadequacy. Some research has shown that social networking can contribute to feelings of poor self-esteem, increased negative rumination, and in turn exacerbates depressive symptoms.
Try to reduce reliance on virtual communication and make connections with people that live nearby, that you can visit and that can understand your everyday life. Joining a mothers group can provide a great support.
Bombarded by information
Many mums bemoan how difficult it is to know “what is the right thing to do” considering the vast amount of information, often conflicting, that they inadvertently receive from other mothers and parenting experts on social media. Should you pick up the baby or let the baby cry; bottle or breastfeed; follow baby lead weaning or puree everything; to go back to work or become a stay at home mum. In an attempt to push the uncomfortable “I don’t know what to do” feelings away, many of us end up holding on more rigidly to certain ways of parenting, all the while experiencing this uneasy feeling that perhaps we’re getting it wrong.
New mums and young mums can be especially susceptible to being overwhelmed by the plethora of wanted and unwanted parenting advice out there. But it applies to any mum whose child, or themselves, is reaching milestones, from potty training to choosing a school. So while you enjoy the virtual community, and can even use it to your advantage, remember also to listen to your own parenting “inner voice” as no one else’s advice or expert’s opinion will be a replacement for your own judgement and experience. Your child is unique – be flexible and learn from him or her what works and what doesn’t.
So next time you are browsing Facebook and get that uncomfortable feeling of not being good enough, remind yourself that you are doing your best with the resources you have right now. And know that in your not so proud moments, you are not alone! Or better yet – take a break from that news feed and enjoy something in the real world instead.
About the Writer
Silvia Wetherell is Co-Founder of MumRadar. She works as a counsellor and psychotherapist in an obstetric setting and has a special interest in maternal mental health. Originally from Portugal and much time spent in England, she now lives in Singapore with her husband and two young children. Silvia is also a Postpartum Support International Coordinator and Co-founder of the support group Mindful Mums.
Silvia has the loudest laugh, loves swimming in the ocean and snuggling on the sofa with her two cats, Jaffa and Freddie.
This article first appeared in Honey Kids Asia.