Last week a friend messaged me, saying, “I just can’t keep up with the housework. I don’t dare tell you the last time I washed windows and I’m behind on the bathrooms. How do you do it?”
I wondered if she’d made a mistake. Clearly she’d intended to message someone who has it all together – or someone with clean windows and bathrooms. Neither of those describe me. Not on a regular basis, at least.
“You’re supposed to wash the windows?” I asked. “You think I’m kidding, but I never do that, and I pay my girls to clean the bathrooms.”
I assured her that window washing happens when a kid wants to earn some extra money or is in trouble, or on the rare occasion I get a wild hair to clean them.
Y’all, I don’t do it all. It’s bad enough when we beat ourselves up comparing ourselves to what other moms actually do. We’re really setting ourselves up for discouragement when we compare ourselves to what we think someone else does.
Is this fact or fiction?
My friend was so relieved to discover that my windows are as dirty as hers (maybe worse since she was actually worried about cleaning hers) and my bathroom is in need of a thorough cleaning.
Before beating ourselves up over our shortcomings, we need to determine if we’re comparing our factual situation to our fictional version of someone else’s. For most of us, real life doesn’t look those Pinterest pins.
We need to consider how many takes went into that Pinterest image.
If I’m being real and showing y’all my Friday morning kitchen sink, you’ll get to see the dirty dishes piled high. If I’m doing a how to deep clean your kitchen post, I’m going to scrub and clean, put away the junk, adjust the lighting, and make sure everything is just so. Then take a dozen or so photos to get the one I want to post.
Don’t compare your Friday morning sink to my how to deep-clean your kitchen sink.
Am I comparing my weakness to your strength?
We moms tend to compare our weaknesses to another’s strength. Once when my niece was over, she looked up at my kitchen light fixture and asked, “Aunt Kris, why is there dust on your lights?”
My answer? “Because I’m not a clean freak like your mom.”
My sister is one of those deep-clean housekeeper sorts. You know, the kind who actually moves furniture when she vacuums. I’m more of a big-picture girl, often overlooking detail work – like dusty light fixtures or dust bunnies under the couch.
However, my sister often comments on the elaborate (her opinion, not mine) meals I prepare. Her thing is cleaning; mine is fixing a meat and two sides for dinner most nights. If I compare my house to hers, I feel messy. If she compares her dinner table to mine, she feels like a poor cook.
Her family gets fed every night. Mine lives in a relatively neat, sanitary home. That needs to be the end of the story. Unless, of course, my sister wants to clean my house in exchange for a meal. That might need to be the end of the story.
Is there anything I can learn from comparing?
I read an interesting comment on Facebook recently. In response to a post about not comparing homeschooling to public school, someone remarked that some comparison is a good thing. She said that in comparing, we often discover room for improvement.
That makes sense. Comparison may not be a bad thing if we maintain some objectivity.
If I really did have clean windows and spotless bathrooms, when my friend asked me how I did it, I would have told her. Then, she could have decided if my methods would work for her. If so, great! She’d be on her way to clear windows and a sparkly bathroom.
If not, she would have two options: Determine if there were any adjustments she could make so that my methods would work for her or decide that there was nothing applicable to her and move on.
The same is true in our homeschools. If my friend is teaching her kids something I’m not teaching mine, I need to ask myself some questions:
- Is this something I want to teach my kids?
- Is it beneficial to our family?
- Is there room in our schedule?
- Are my kids developmentally ready?
If it’s something truly beneficial, I can try it. If not, I need to move on.
Comparison can provide opportunities to learn, grow, and refine. We just need to make sure that we’re being objective and not allowing misconceptions to result in unnecessary guilt and stress.
Do you find comparison guilt-inducing or motivating?
Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.