They say comparison is the thief of joy, and no one understands that more than a mother at Christmastime.
Moms with less money might compare themselves to moms with more money, and feel guilty their children won’t be getting the same big-ticket items under the Christmas tree.
Moms who work scheduled shifts might compare themselves to moms who have flexible workdays, and feel badly for not being able to attend the school’s morning Christmas concerts or volunteer at the school’s Christmas dinner.
Moms who work full time might compare themselves to the moms who stay at home, and feel sad they don’t have free hours to do pre-Christmas crafts and baking sessions with their children.
Moms who spend more than they can afford at Christmas might compare themselves to moms who have no trouble covering the gifts without going into debt for them, and stress over the credit card bills that will come in January.
Moms who put up a few decorations might compare themselves to the moms with Christmas trees, houses and yards that could enter (and win) Hallmark Channel decorating contests and feel discouraged when their children say they wish their tree/house/yard could be as cool as so-and-so’s.
Moms who are too exhausted to do many pre-Christmas activities might compare themselves to moms who jam-pack their family’s schedule with holiday parties, cookie swaps, gift exchanges, caroling, sleigh rides and light tours, and feel lazy for not planning more “magical” experiences.
Moms who trek their families from house to house during Christmas might compare themselves to the families who stay put and feel resentful they’re spending much of the day driving around instead of relaxing.
Moms who won’t see their extended family on Christmas might compare themselves to moms who will spend the holidays with family, and feel guilty their children won’t get to experience a big happy, crowded family Christmas.
Moms who struggle with their mental health at Christmas might compare themselves to the moms who love the holidays more than any other time of the year, and worry their children won’t have as “special” an experience because of their own emotional junk.
Moms with shared custody might compare themselves to moms who have their children full time and feel sad about having to share the holiday and miss their children when they’re not with them.
Moms who need to work over Christmas vacation might compare themselves to the moms who are off work until early January, and feel jealous they’re missing out on those lazy, hazy, what-day-is-it movie marathons between Christmas and New Year’s.
As moms, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. We all have things we feel grateful for in our own lives, problems we’re struggling with and areas where we know we have advantages.
Christmas has a way of highlighting all of it —- good, bad and ugly.
Even though we know we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to other mothers — our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues — it’s almost impossible not to. While we’re wishing we had something from one mom’s life, there’s another mom feeling the same way about our own life.
So no matter what we’re struggling with this Christmas — and what we might be envying about another mom’s life in this moment — my Christmas wish for all of us is that we remember we’re all different.
We all have different jobs, schedules, households, bank account balances, relationships, upbringings, values, priorities and parenting styles. We can’t compare our situation to another mom’s situation because they literally aren’t the same.
Comparison is not only the thief of joy, but it also might be the Grinch trying to steal Christmas from us. Let’s refuse to let it.
Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist who married her high-school sweetheart. They moved from the city to the country, where they spend their days making messes and memories with their nine-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter. Follow their family’s adventures over at www.HeathersHandmadeLife.com.