Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Your Success Is Not My Failure (And Vice Versa)

When I shared this picture of Sam nursing, it's because his eye looked so dramatic and beautiful, not because I felt superior or wanted to pat myself on the back.

When I got married at age 29, I was a size 4. All my life, I wanted to know what it was like to be thin, and there I was. Thin.

In order to be as small as I was, I worked out for hours daily. I ate the tiniest meals imaginable, and chose at least one per day to vomit back up. I drank water constantly. I was irritable and depressed. I was horrible to be around.

Since then, being thin has not been as much of a priority.

But still, sometimes, when a friend of mine posts a picture of herself on Facebook looking effortlessly thin, I feel a sting. I feel jealous. I feel like a victim.

After all, it's not entirely my fault that I struggle with weight. I was sexually abused at a young age, and weight gain is a common occurrence after such a trauma. I grew up in a family that used food as a balm for all the turmoil we experienced. I grew up in the South with deliciously wonderful, fatty foods. I trained my cells to be fat early on, and it's really difficult to train them out of that later.

Why should I be made to feel like a failure just because my friend wants to show off her gorgeous figure?

Most moms compare ourselves to each other constantly. And many of us, at one time or another, feel like we're doing something wrong. That all the other moms around us have something we don't have.

Honestly, I do get annoyed when a mom posts about what a great sleeper her baby is. I want to scream when a mom talks about how her preschooler would rather eat raw broccoli than McDonald's. I sit, partly in awe, partly baffled, partly pissed off, when a mom Instagrams the Metropolitan Museum worthy artistic binto box lunch she prepared for just a regular old school day. I want to throw my phone across the room when a mom posts a picture of her tropical vacation while I'm stuck here in my drafty house, clipping coupons.

But then I stop. I look at my thoughts and evaluate them. I realize I'm not annoyed at that mother for her success, I'm just insecure. I feel like I must have done something wrong to have babies who don't want to sleep and are picky eaters. I feel like a failure because I struggle just to get lunches packed at all, much less make them pretty. I feel selfish that my career change caused my family a huge chunk of income. It's really about me.

So instead of giving in to negativity, I "like" that picture. I smile, because that mom has something to feel good about. I remind myself of all the good things in my life - some of which have come without too much effort.

A mother on a local message board said that breastfeeding stories and queries make her sad, because they remind her that she struggled while trying to breastfeed her own children, and ultimately had to stop. I felt for that mother. Her pain was real. I struggled with breastfeeding, too, albeit briefly. My daughter had a bad latch, so I endured months of pain (and stubbornly refused to call a lactation consultant for some reason) before it resolved itself. In the time between her birth and my son's, I did a lot of research and was much better prepared for his entry into the world. He and I have had an easy, pain-free, mostly drama-free nursing relationship.

When I'm excited about hitting a breastfeeding milestone with Sam or want to post a sweet picture of him nursing, that is by no means a way of rubbing it in someone's face. I breastfeed because I was able to and it is right for my family. I honestly don't care what anyone else feeds their kid as long as their kid is healthy. But my success at breastfeeding is no more about someone else's failure than someone's thin body is about my failure. We have different successes.

We're going to parent differently, because we're different people with different kids. But, as women, if we can find ways to celebrate each others' success and evaluate our own insecurities, I think we'd be amazed at what a supportive society we could create. Hooray for your success, even if it's one I'll never be able to attain. I hope you can feel the same way for me.

1 comment:

FormerlyMMM said...

Hear, Hear!

(And I needed to hear this, this week- Thanks!).