There was a time when we would scramble into church a few minutes late every week with kids missing socks or hair-combs and notice all the perfect families sitting calmly with their well-behaved kids. We wondered what in the world was wrong with us.
That was back before we learned the most important maxim of parenting: “Never compare yourself with other families.”
There are two reasons for this:
1. All families are different and each family is unique.
2. You can’t see what those other families have gone through or what problems they have, so if you take them at appearance value, you are comparing that family at its best with your family at its worst.
Another thing we used to do was compare our children with other kids. “Why does that child interact socially so much better than our son?” “Why do academics seem to be so much easier for that kid than for our son?” “Why can’t our daughter play soccer like that girl?”
That was back before we learned the other most important maxim of parenting: "Never compare your kids with other kids.”
First of all, we believe along with most of you that our children came from a premortal life and are unique, with personalities and gifts just their own; and second, other kids come from different situations and have different gifts.
Still another thing we used to do was to compare our parenting to other parents. “How does that mom stay so calm?” “How does that dad afford that new minivan?” “Why can’t we communicate as easily as those parents seem to with their kids?”
That was back before we learned the final most important maxim of parenting: “Never compare your parenting with that of other parents.”
They don’t have your kids or your circumstances or your marriage or your personality, and you don’t have theirs. And your kids did not choose them to be their parents; they chose you and they want you. And God did not choose someone else to be their parents; he chose you. And God did not choose someone else to be your kids; he chose the ones you got — for you and for you alone.
Comparing breeds envy. If you start thinking about how much easier someone else has it, how much better they do at things or how much better their kids or families seem to be doing than yours, you start feeling bitterness or jealousy or discouragement. Or, if you look down on other parents and families, thinking you are doing better than they are, then your comparing breeds conceit and condescension.
In fact, comparing has a lot to do with one of the Ten Commandments — the last one, which is about coveting.
It’s so much better to practice what we know: that we are each unique, that our situations and challenges and families and kids are unique and that they were all given to us for a reason. We want to improve, of course, but we do it by working on ourselves and our own situations — not by comparing ourselves with others.
One of the greatest blessings of the Restoration is that we know God knows us and loves us as unique individuals. He loves us for what we each have gone through and what we each have become, through the eternity of our premortal lives. He gives us situations here that he knows will be, in the long run, best for us. To compare too much, to envy, to put ourselves down, to wish for a life other than our own or a different family or different kids is to second-guess God, and who would want to do that?
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com.