I was sharing a New Years Eve celebration last night with some dear friends. One of them, Bronwen, shared a story with me about how she was out with her two young girls at her local café for breakfast when a familiar looking guy approached, and said ‘Bronwen?’ She looked at him, mid bacon cutting for her youngest, and wondered who he was. His name was Jason, he said, and he was in her degree at university, a million years ago. He was a now a father of 3 boys, and lived nearby. She probably knew his wife. His three kids were dressed in clean, matching clothing, one of hers was wearing socks with sandals, and not in a cool way. Her girls faces were covered in babycino, she had no makeup on and her face was shiny from her matte UVA/UVB sunscreen. She probably had egg through her teeth too. He was standing and she was sitting. She’d been up most of the night soothing the night terrors and walking her hallways. He’d had a rough three years he said, no sleep. Just coming out the other side he said, as he attended to his well behaved twin boys. They agreed this stage was hard. They shared information in a swapping way, which was kind, but with the seemingly inevitable comparisons. He seemed to come off better. A house in the best area, that was renovated and bought 8 years ago when prices were almost half what they are now. His wife had just returned to work, their lives were starting to come back together. Meanwhile our dear friend Bronwen, was still in the trenches with a baby and a toddler. She was trending in the right direction (we all are, by the way), but in the comparison game, he definitely had the upper hand.
They said their farewells, neither wanting to swap numbers, and Bronwen navigated the café bathroom with her toddler who refused to pee without a piece of toast in his hand, and a baby who was intent on removing the toilet role holder from the wall. She managed to pay, and get the girls into her beat up, smelly old car, and make it home to her perfectly lovely home. She chided herself on getting in the loop of comparison – because she, like all of us, knows better. We all have our days where we put our clean clothes, beautifully behaved best selves forward, and others where it just doesn’t come together. Jason’s day looked like a catalogue, hers looked like a normal day in the life of a busy mother with two little ones in the aftermath of the holiday period. She turned off the car, and asked her two girls whether they wanted to play indoors or outdoors now they were home, and took in the chaos that is the back seat of her car. She half smiled/half grimaced and kept the show moving. Just like we all do - one foot in front of the other. She snuggled the baby, in her greasy, babycino chocolate faced glory and lifted out the toddler in her blood stained (minor accident at the park) t-shirt. After depositing them in the safety of the sand pit, in their hats of course, she silently congratulated herself on re-framing her interaction with Jason in a way that she came out comfortable with her stage in life. Because as he said, he was there just a few moments ago. This is true for everyone. There is no one in life who gets through without egg on their face (or in their teeth). She felt better.
Then she looked down and saw that her shirt was on inside out.
True story. Sometimes you just have to laugh.
How do you make sure you don't engage in the often destructive comparison game?