Do you see that perfect mum over there? The one with the beautifully made up face and the toddler who is sitting nicely eating a finger of red pepper dipped in hummus. He really loves that red pepper. She must excel at feeding him a varied diet packed with super foods. He’s finished the pepper now and, still sitting nicely, he begins completing the puzzle she placed in front of him. He’s so clever. I bet she spends all her time playing educational games with him. Her clothes are incredibly stylish. Where did she get that amazing change bag from? Yes, she really is perfect. I wish I were her.
Now divert your glance back a bit. Can you see the toddler in the corner? No, not the one riding a trike at the back of the hall. I mean the one in the far corner licking the wall. His clothes are covered in biscuit crumbs and his overgrown blonde hair has a large brown smudge in it. Let’s hope that’s chocolate. He’s still munching on the soggy biscuit in between wall licks. When he finishes cleaning the wall, he toddles over to an unsuspecting child, smiles at her and pulls her hair.
See the mum running over to stop him? Yes her, with the hole in her jumper and the dishevelled hair. See her? Her clothes are certainly not stylish; she must have worn them a lot. She doesn’t have an amazing change bag; it’s one of those free ones you can get in Boots. She’s picked up her son and now he’s angrily slapping her in the face while screaming, struggling and spitting the biscuit all over her.
The second mum – the harassed, biscuit covered one – is me. I imagine that the perfect mum is watching my son and I in complete disgust, while making a mental note never to invite us over for a play date.
Or is she?
It’s funny how we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. Sizing them up, mulling them over, deciding what to feel envious about and berating ourselves in the process. She’s prettier than me, she’s happier than me, she’s a better mother than me…It could go on forever and there’s really no logic to it.
I recently came across a quote that changed my perspective on the whole comparison thing.
‘DON’T COMPARE YOUR BACKSTAGE TO SOMEONE ELSE’S HIGHLIGHT REEL.’
A great example of the accuracy of this statement is Facebook. Not many people, myself included, share their backstage on their newsfeed. I see pictures of friends on exotic holidays, beautiful gifts they have been given and all of their child’s gymnastics medals. But I don’t see pictures of them up all night with a screaming baby or snaps of their white carpet after one of their kids has trampled dog poo all over it. Yes it’s great that your friend’s son got into Cambridge University to study astrophysics at age seven. But I bet she doesn’t share pictures of him having a tantrum and smashing up the TV.
Facebook is the ultimate highlight reel. Once I understood that, I stopped comparing.
This applies in real life too. Appearances can be deceptive and snap judgements can be fantastically wrong. You may look at someone and wish you were more like them, while at the same time they are wishing they were more like you.
So perhaps I will brush the regurgitated biscuit off my holey jumper and go talk to the perfect mum with the beautiful face and the clever son. I’m sure she must have insecurities too. Maybe she doesn’t feel the perfection I have projected onto her. I have no idea what her backstage is like. We might become friends. She may even be brave enough to invite us over for a playdate.
Though, good luck to her if she tries to give either of my children slices of red pepper and hummus as a snack.
Aimee Foster is a mum, freelance writer and social media manager, bookworm and sea lover. Find more of her ramblings over on her blog, New Forest Mum.