Yes, the comparison topic. It’s written about, memes created, and we’re reminded again and again how it is the root of our unhappiness. Let’s look at this in a practical way that can help us in creating a happy homeschool.
Merriam-Webster defines compare as “examining the character and qualities of especially in order to discover resemblances or differences.” This doesn’t sound negative and there’s nothing inherently bad about a comparison.
So I thought about this some more, what makes us view comparison so negatively? The comparison isn’t necessarily the problem; it’s the negative judgments we make of ourselves that make us feel bad.
It’s possible for comparisons to help us learn and grow. I can look at someone else’s abilities or achievements and be motivated to improve myself. This is particularly the case if I believe I have control over my life.
By noticing similarities, I can find like-minded friends to share struggles with and offer support. As a mom with six children, it is good to have friends who understand how things are different in a large family.
Another positive effect of comparisons is that I can view an alternative way. I can consider different options and make the best choice for me.
Social Media Discontent
However, we live in a Pinterest, Social Media driven world, and I believe this is the source of so much of our discontent. We now have the ability to compare and judge ourselves 24/7 with people around the world.
The ubiquitous “Joneses” down the street with a new Cadillac are nothing compared to the hundreds of homeschool moms with beautifully behaved children dutifully creating lapbook works of art.
We forget that a picture takes only a millisecond of cooperation. It can be set up in a calm corner within a din of chaos. Everyone has good and bad days, if they don’t they aren’t human and I don’t want to know them.
We also tend to look at ideas and think we should be doing it all. I should have a meal plan, chore chart, homeschool schedule, personal morning routine, creative projects, diligent school time, limitless moments of inspiration, no debt and on and on. All while paying the bills and keeping up the laundry for eight people. I’m sure for some Type-A, highly energetic moms that might be possible. For this low energy, introverted mom, it’s not.
Fortunately, I don’t seem to have this problem with my kids as much. I think my kids are pretty awesome. They are unique individuals with their strengths and weaknesses. I’m sure homeschooling helps. If they were constantly judged and ranked in school, it would be a bigger issue.
How do we exert some control over and positively channel this comparison tendency?
First, understand the feeling.
For me, it helps tremendously to recognize when it occurs. Even to admit my jealousy to myself or husband, “Gosh, I’m jealous that they take so many trips.” This doesn’t make the feeling go away, but I’m better able to look at the situation and make a reasonable decision.
Then, force yourself to be rational.
Do I want to take more trips? Do I have the energy to take more trips? If it’s that important, what do I need to do to make it happen? This helps me to identify when something is not so important to me that I’m willing to expend the resources to make it happen.
Next, don’t feel bad to unfollow.
I will unfollow someone quickly if their posts consistently cause me to judge myself negatively. Many people thrive on the continual positive reinforcement of social media, but I don’t have to participate.
Also, have gratitude.
This is another platitude, along with comparing, that seems to be continually present in our newsfeed and on Pinterest boards, which is unfortunate.
Gratitude can become a judgment issue when we start to feel bad that we’re just not grateful enough. As someone who has dealt with depression, intellectually we know our lives aren’t awful, but that doesn’t make the negative emotions go away.
On good days, I realize how blessed I am, and I’m thankful. On bad days this takes a little more effort, but the gratitude has to come from within me. Someone telling me things could be worse or to just be grateful is not helpful.
So why is not comparing part of my Homeschool Mindset?
Women seem more susceptible to the judgment trap, and homeschooling moms might just be the worst. We’ve taken on a task few consider and with that comes self-doubt.
We compare ourselves to moms that send their kids to school, moms that seem to “have it all” together, moms who are perpetually peaceful and moms who never seem to sleep but still hold it together. Somehow, we think we should be all these moms rolled up into one.
To relieve some of this stress and worry, we must focus on our strengths and capabilities. Finding peace with who you are is the first and biggest step in having a happy homeschool. Without a doubt, I am not a lapbooking mom, and I don’t feel bad when I see a mom who loves lapbooks. That’s great, but I’d rather be on the couch reading aloud.
Also, the time I spend judging myself about what we do or don’t do robs me of time that I could be present to my family. My homeschool is happier when I commit to doing the things I do well. Looking at how others homeschool is beneficial as long as I keep it judgment free. Once I start judging myself as less than, it’s time to turn it off.
Is the Grass Always Greener?
Are you always looking at someone else’s grass?
Some people enjoy a perfectly manicured golf course where there isn’t a blade of grass out of place. Others prefer an English cottage garden where mop-headed flowers are flopping into the path. You can appreciate either without trying to recreate them.
Ultimately, that is what we should strive for. Compare and appreciate our differences without carrying around negative judgments about ourselves and our homeschools.
No judgement is part of my Homeschool Mindset, you can read more here.