Ever since I was young I have always compared myself to others; mostly my friends. At school, if a friend got an A grade on an assignment… Why wasn’t I as clever as her? At University, if one of my friends had a car and not me… How could I get one? And, later in life, a friend buys a massive four bedroom detached house… Why can’t we afford that? I never seemed to compare myself to those who were the same or less fortunate, only those doing better. It sounds like I put myself down a lot, but in reality it has helped me strive for more, given me goals and has taught me to have an “if they can do it, so can I” attitude to get what I want in life.
TTC and comparing myself to others (a bad combination)
In the last couple of years, since we have been TTC, my “comparing” attitude has got much worse. I spend a lot of (wasted) time doing things like:
- Counting how many months people have been married before they got pregnant. Thinking things like “Wow – were they only married three months?” or “They must be having problems, they’re not pregnant yet and have been married for almost four years.”
- Working out how old peoples kids are, counting back from peoples ages and comparing them to my age. Thinking things like “She must’ve had her last child when she was 40” or “she had three kids by the time she was 30.”
- Comparing myself to all of my friends who have children (which is most of them). Thinking “Why do they all have children and not us?”
- Worrying about being “lapped” by friends we know who aren’t even married yet. Thinking “They’re going to have kids before us, and we’ve been at it for two years already.”
- Comparing myself to every mother in a public place. Trying to work out her age, job and relationship situation (just from the way she looks) to see if we are better or worse off than them. Coming to the conclusion that we must be worse off as we don’t have kids and they do!
- Being angry about people who become “accidentally pregnant” or tell me “they weren’t even trying.” This still annoys me, even though I am never 100% sure about how true this is. I like to think that some people say this to save face.
- Comparing myself to others with fertility problems. Thinking things like “If she’s got endometriosis then maybe I have too.”
- Being angry about seeing a pregnant woman smoking, drinking etc. Thinking “How does she deserve a baby and I don’t?”
Why is it different?
I think my “comparing” attitude has got worse, because getting pregnant and having children is not something I can “strive to achieve” by normal means. In the past I could work harder at school (to get the A grade) and save up more money (for that new car and bigger house). TTC is a hard slog with no correlation between how hard you try and getting what you want. For example, we’ve worked our socks off for two years TTC, only to be rewarded with two miscarriages and no children (yet!).
I have discovered recently, that a lot (ok, most) of my worries and (sometimes) anger stem from comparing myself to other people. And it’s mostly people who have children already. Hubby is always telling me to stop comparing myself and asking me why I care about what other people are doing. And the answer to that is, I honestly don’t know! If we could live in a bubble where it was just us two, I think I’d be ok, but I can’t shut myself away for the duration can I? (Although I have to admit, sometimes I’d like to).
Do I have a solution to this?
In short, no! I have tried very hard to switch off my brain and stop thinking about other people and their situations. I have tried to look at people who have had tougher journeys than me and seek out the positives (because, on a positive note, all my friends who have had fertility problems now all have children). But it still sneaks in – I spot a couple in the park with their kids … “How old are they? How old would they have been when they had their kids? Are they happy? Is their relationship good? Did they have problems TTC?”
Training my brain (or trying to anyway)
I’m now attempting to train my brain to stop worrying and to stop getting bitter about what other people are doing. Of course, knowing what others are doing can be especially helpful in some cases and I love to hear how all my twitter and blogger friends are getting on. But I really do need to stay focused on OUR situation and stop thinking of it as some kind of race or competition. Why does it bother me how and when other people get their babies compared to us? Surely, the main thing is how we get ours? Hubby said to me the other day:
“Think about our journey and our goal of having a family. Don’t waste time worrying about everyone else getting there first, getting there more easily or whatever it may be. It’s a waste of worry, anger and time!”
Men eh? How I wish I could think in such a black and white way sometimes.
I think he’s right though, it is a waste. The worrying and the anger needs to go! If I can allow myself to think about it sometimes, but stop myself comparing, worrying and getting angry/bitter about it, it will sure as heck make our journey a bit easier.
Do you compare yourself with others? How do you feel when everyone around you has children? Does it feel like everyone else is “winning” the race and you’re being left behind?