Comparison is the thief of joy. Someone is always going to have it worse than you, and someone is always going to have it better.
I spent my first five days as a mom being wheeled up and down hospital hallways to visit my newborn baby girl in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center. It wasn’t exactly what I had imagined those first few days would look like. But it was only five days, so I should be thankful, right?
What was meant to be a routine delivery turned into confusion and fear. Baker had fluid in her lungs, and her oxygen levels were low, sending her to the nursery and eventually to the NICU.
Baker was born at 38 weeks, weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces. The other babies in the NICU were so tiny. I thought to myself, “We should feel lucky!”
But that wasn’t the case. I was scared, confused, emotional, worried, overwhelmed, and the only thing I knew was that my baby, who had just spent nine months growing inside me, wasn’t right there next to me.
Baker was ultimately healthy and going to be fine. So I pushed all those feelings down. In the most vulnerable moment of my life, I had the mindset to realize our situation was relatively easy, compared to what other parents were experiencing. That we were going to leave the hospital with our new baby, not endure weeks or months in the NICU. We knew we ultimately were lucky. But that didn’t take away all of the extreme emotions I was having from not being with my baby.
As new parents, we’re so quick to dive deep down into our own little world, and sometimes we end up throwing ourselves a little pity party about how hard it is, given whatever our circumstances are. But newsflash: we’re all struggling.
The mom who has an unlimited budget to hire help, she’s struggling. The single mom who’s figuring out how to do it all on her own, she’s struggling. The new mom who has support from her partner and her family, she’s also struggling. We’re all struggling. Sure it happens on different levels, but that doesn’t negate someone else’s struggle.
If you find yourself in a pity party, odds are it’s because you might be looking on social media seeing a perfectly curated, edited life of another new mom who has lost all the baby weight in a week, who posted perfect newborn photos of their perfect new baby who never cries, eats well, sleeps like a champ… but guess what, she too is struggling… and guess what, filters and captions and social media can paint such a pretty picture, but that pretty picture might just be a big fat lie!
I have made a conscious effort to show empathy for every new parent and meet them in their struggle, even if it’s not “that bad” from my perspective. Because either of us could have it a lot worse. Don’t let comparison steal the joy of the gift of life. Feel your feelings, cry your cry, ask for help, but don’t make someone else feel like they shouldn’t be struggling because they don’t have your same set of circumstances. And don’t let someone else make you feel like your struggles aren’t valid. Your experience is yours, and yours alone.
Erica Brennes is a working mom who shares the products and experiences that help make life a little easier for her through her blog, Real Mom, Real Tired. Erica is a former TV news anchor and reporter in Austin, TX, and now she works with family-friendly brands as an on-camera spokesperson and video content creator.