In today’s social media-obsessed culture, the old adage “comparison is the thief of joy" has never been truer — especially, it seems, for moms.
Scrolling through Instagram photos of Pinterest-worthy projects, HGTV homes, and perfectly dressed children can make even the most confident mother question her abilities.
Studies show that social media use among most new mothers has become ubiquitous — and unsurprisingly, mothers who are more frequent visitors to Facebook report higher levels of parenting stress.
With everyone presenting the heavily-filtered “Facebook version” of themselves, mothers are bombarded with perfectionism at every turn. It doesn’t take long for comparison to creep in, creating a messy environment of dissatisfaction and discontentment.
In a culture that idolizes perfection, how can mothers show themselves grace and fight the pressure to compare themselves to others?
Ruth Schwenk, who's an author, founder of The Better Mom blog, and mother of four children, told The Christian Post that it all begins with a proper understanding of identity.
“It comes down to where we find our worth,” she said. “My identity, first of all, isn’t in motherhood, it’s in that I’m a child of Christ. As a mom, I need to remember that my value doesn’t come from what I do or don’t do, but from the fact that I’m a daughter of God and created in His image.”
It’s important to understand that God “made us the mom of our child for a reason,” Schwenk stressed, adding: “I’m the perfect mom for my child, and you’re the perfect mom for your child. God doesn’t make mistakes when He gives us the children we have.”
Viewing other mothers as competition, she said, only isolates us from what could be a life-giving, mutually beneficial friendship.
“The things you do are great for you and your family, and I can learn from that,” she said. “This isn’t a competition. There are things I'll do in my life that will look different than you, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some things from your life that would actually be really great to implement into my motherhood.”
But social media, Schwenk said, presents only a “highlight reel” — and most mothers aren’t going to post photos of their child’s tantrum or the messy realities of parenting.
“Those pictures I see of you online are not really the whole picture,” she said. “We know that, but we don’t know that. It’s a constant battle of saying, ‘OK, this is part of their picture, and it’s not always perfect, because nobody’s perfect.’ What if, instead of viewing each other as competition, we thought, ‘Wow, this is an incredible community where we can learn from one another.'’’
Mothers are often presented with two extremes when it comes to parenting, she said: Either strive for perfectionism or glorify the self-deprecating mess of “mom-ing.” But God calls mothers to far more than that.
“Becoming a better mom doesn't begin with us; it begins with God," she said. "It starts with who God is inviting us to become. Motherhood gives us the opportunity to grow and become more like Christ.”
Understanding that God is sovereign over the life of every child also “relieves pressure” for mothers who struggle with feelings of inadequacy, she added.
“It’s important to be intentional in raising our kids, because we're raising children that we hope and pray will be a light to the world,” she said. “But the bottom line is, no matter my best intentions, God loves them so much more than I do and, and I can do everything right and things can still go wrong. But at the end of the day, He will take care of them.”
Trudy Cathy White, author and daughter of Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy, explained that ironically, in seeking perfection, mothers are less likely to actually parent effectively.
“Your kids are always watching you, and you need to be the best role model you can be for them,” she said. “Your children grow up to be just like you, so if you have things in your life you don’t want in their lives, don’t do it. We have to be on guard and model well for our children.”
White, a mother and grandmother herself, encourages mothers focused on perfectionism to seriously consider the message they’re sending to their children.
“We live in a society where kids are under a lot of pressure, and it’s so easy to point out the things they don’t do well,” she said. “But the role that God has given us is to try to find the good in our children, recognize that, and give them accolades and encouragement. When we do that, we empower them to live in society with confidence and relieve the peer pressure they’ll experience in school and the challenges they face.”
White emphasized that the ultimate role of a mother isn’t to throw blog-worthy birthday parties or create Instagram-able moments, but to raise children grounded in the truth found only in Scripture.
“Truth is the key to setting our children up for success and pointing them back to God,” she said. “Truth is a piece of equipment that will allow them to climb mountains, and we’re called to model that for our children. And, at the end of the day, the greatest tool I have is my dependency on God to get through difficulty and my own failings as a mother.”