There should be an 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not compare thyself to others."
My niece-in-law Kate, who ran the Indy Mini Marathon this year and finished in 1:59, is one of the brightest stars on the planet Earth. Seriously, the woman needs her own solar system she shines so bright.
The first thing you notice about Kate are her beautiful blue eyes and soft, light auburn hair, which is long and she usually keeps pulled back in a relaxed pony tail. And then, her friendly smile and effervescence strike you like sunshine in June. She's got a great body--she's 5'5'' and weighs (yes, I asked) 125 pounds. She's always intrigued by who she's talking with first, before she ever puts forth her own concerns or interests.
And then there's her family life. Two brilliant and beautiful kids, a son age 10 and a daughter age 8. Her husband of 15 years is a new attorney (he and Kate used to both work for Oracle in California, but moved to Indy after they had kids, and when her husband was far from enchanted with his Indy tech employer, he went to law school and recently passed the Bar Exam), and although he is working a lot of hours, he loves his new law firm.
She's educated and intelligent, speaks German fluently, having studied there for a year during college (that's where she met her husband). She has a fabulous 2 story house (Sophie asked me, "Mommy, does cousin J. live in a mansion?), in a neighborhood that has its own pool.
Kate works outside the home at a very demanding job. Yet she doesn't have cable or satellite TV (never has!) to babysit her kids, cooks real meals for her family on a regular basis (her children eat their veggies at meals!), and anytime we've visited her house it's pretty much immaculately organized & clean.
Now, I know that she's not perfect. She struggles with all kinds of demons, I know she does. Her childhood was certainly far from perfect. She has family issues, with parents & grandparents, just like we all do. And if she read this she would be rolling her eyes and punching me in the arm and telling me "Laura! You are SO WONDERFUL!"
But, somehow, when I look at her and all the external stuff that is visible in her life, I can't help but compare my life to hers.
And last night after spending several hours at our cousin's pool with her and all of our kids--with the help of good ole' PMS--I came home and face dived into a Hershey bar, a bagel with FF cream cheese & apple butter, and whatever was left of the vanilla wafers (seriously? maybe 20 or 30 of them, ugh). Because I felt utterly inadequate next to this Goddess of beauty, success, and all things domestically perfect.
I realize, 100%, that I am being irrational.
I realize that her life is not perfect, and all I am comparing myself to is the outward signs of success, without taking into account her own personal turmoil which I know she has.
I realize that there are probably women who look at what I have--on the outside--and envy me.
I realize that I am being the Queen of Self Sabotage and am a complete dumb ass for letting my feelings get the better of me, yet again.
And I'm ashamed of all this. Ashamed for feeling that what I do for my kids and family isn't good enough. Ashamed that I don't feed my kids the right foods all the time. Ashamed that my house is a wreck 90% of the time. Ashamed that I frequently use the TV as a babysitter. Ashamed that we have substantial debt (not even going there, but it's an issue that weighs on my heart) and aren't saving for our kids' college funds.
I remember when I was a kid, feeling inadequate next to my friends. We lived in a trailer until I was 14; my girlfriends all lived in houses. My parents were blue collar and my mom worked full time; my girlfriends' moms stayed home. I was chubby most of my adolescence and in high school & college; the skinny girls got the cute guys and were popular.
I had a mess of a life from about age 12 until age 23 (that's a whole other post and a year's worth of therapy). I was/am a perfectionist--I got straight A's in high school, afterall--but I always, always felt like I wasn't living up to what I was supposed to be doing. I was yearbook editor, but didn't finish the yearbook before I left for college; I was on the English academic team, but didn't read Moby Dick like I was supposed to; I got a full ride 4 year college scholarship, but took 5 1/2 years to get my degree.
It just goes on and on and on.
And apparently it still does.
This compulsion I have to compare myself to others who are "better than" me is something I'm sure needs some massive psychological analysis. I've been to counseling, several times, but never have we gotten deep into anything like this. Which I'm sure explains why it's still an albatross around my neck.
More than anything, I don't want my dysfunction to wreck my kids' lives. Either their present lives or their future ones. There are a lot of things I do right--a lot of things I do exactly opposite of how my parents raised me--but I know there are things I'll fail at, am failing at.
And I don't want it to (continue to) wreck my own life.
I don't expect perfection (well, okay, yes I do, but I know that's whacked). I just want to give my kids the life I never had.
Hopefully, I've learned enough about myself to at least know I have these issues. And hopefully that means I'll at least do a half way decent job of raising my kids into more-highly-functioning-than-their-mom-is adults. Although I'm sure they'll grow up with complaints and lots of stories to tell Oprah, just like most kids do.
I don't have any answers of how to enforce this 11th Commandment. I just needed to get it out there today.
If you're still reading--and I'm sorry to be such a downer on a Friday--please don't feel like you have to pump me up and tell me how fantastic I am (or, conversely, please don't tell me that, yes, indeed, you're a POS mother for feeding your kids McD's and letting them watch more than 2 hours of TV a day, LOL). I'm just dumping this shit here, because it's the only place I have to dump it.
Now, someone pass me a margarita.