Confession: I am judgmental. I see often see things in black and white, with little wiggle room between right and wrong. I “call ’em like I see ’em” sometimes without regard for the feelings of others. I am quick-tempered, think justice should be swift and thorough, and that those who continuously make bad choices should be given no more chances. However, I know the value of grace and mercy. I have learned empathy and how to look at a situation from many perspectives. I am improving. Thank God, He isn’t through with me yet!
Before I became a wife and mother, I worked as a social worker. One of the core social work values is that each person has “inherent dignity and worth” and is to be treated with respect. As a Christian, this principle is summed up in “the Golden Rule” (Treat others as you want to be treated). When working with parents that are often putting personal needs above that of their children, this is a difficult task to carry out. I am sure I failed numerous times to treat some of them with “inherent dignity”, particularly with the mother who has chosen her “paramour” over her children in situations of substantiated abuse or the parents who fulfill their wants over their child’s needs. I did my part to show the children unconditional love and respect while letting them determine their level of attachment during my time with them.
Though the Mommy Wars rage on all around me, I often find myself camped on the outside of the extremes. Many days, I wonder if my way is the best even as I’m tweaking our current method of doing things to improve the harmony of our home. Other days, I observe a situation and quickly have to fight off the “at least we aren’t like that” thoughts. It is the great Comparenting Trap.*
We often fall into this trap by our own prideful thinking. This or that family does such and such in this or that manner and we are better or worse for doing it in some other such way. If we are deeply honest, we’re anxiously searching for a way to get off the speeding merry-go-round of comparenting before we get too sick to parent our children.
Maybe you are wondering what I meant by “comparenting” or maybe you’ve rightly guessed it is made by combining comparison + parenting. This equation never adds up to a happy individual or a happy home. It multiplies bitterness and envy. It divides love and nurturing. It subtracts fun and learning. While we busy ourselves with comparenting, we may miss the most important moments of raising our children. If we focus on what other parents are doing, who is watching our kids? If our focus is on how much better or worse our child is behaving or performing in a particular subject or developmental area, who is appreciating our child for who he/she is at this moment just as God made him/her?
Isn’t it time to stop spinning? Isn’t it time to focus on the family in front of you? Get off the merry-go-round, solve the proper equation, and get out of the Comparenting Trap. You might stumble and go back to some old thoughts now and then. When the old way of thinking threatens to take over, remember that the days are long and years go by so fast.
*I made up this word (spell check and Grammarly hate me for it) but that doesn’t make this new parent trap less real.
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