Stop the Comparative Narrative. You're a Badass Single Parent.

I have been plagued throughout my adult life with the idea that everyone (truly, everyone) has a far greater grasp on this thing called human existence.

Like I just didn’t get the memo about how to be a successful, fulfilled, well-manicured, less neurotic adult. There’s a whiny, nagging voice inside my head like the worst kind of backseat driver, pointing out all the ways I have missed the turn in this lifetime. Becoming a single mother somehow turned the volume on that crazy-making bitchfest to full blast, and it’s a serious effort to tell it to shut the fu#k up already.

Last week a mom at my daughter’s pre-school who legitimately always looks she was just on set for a J. Crew photo shoot asked if we’d like to do a playdate after school. And I froze. In horror. Imagining my old, unwashed driving Subaru up to a perfectly landscaped, Marie Kondo-ed, Dwell Magazine house. Picturing myself and my child with our unkempt hair (because who has time??) fumbling and bumbling our way through a visit to the horror of a family with flawless fashion and perfect manners.

I pulled myself together in the school driveway long enough to thank her and let her know I’d be in touch…then spent the rest of the day spiraling into all the reasons I couldn’t possibly let this woman have a window into my life. By dinner, I had mentally compiled a list of all the reasons I had to avoid this playdate and this mom: I wasn’t successful enough, put together enough, clean enough… all the not enoughs, By bedtime, I had spent so much time stuck in my head about all the ways ….

To distract myself, I scrolled endlessly through Instagram and Facebook. Until I actually paralyzed myself with anxiety.

There were so many things I should have been doing with my time. You know, like paying attention to my 5 year old’s requests for help with her drawing. Or any of the one million and four chores left undone in our house at any given time. Or any work or activity of any sort that actually brings meaning and joy to my life. Nope, I was deep in the rabbit hole of the comparative narrative - and it wasn’t the first (or - let’s be honest - the last) time I’ve let judging myself against other people rob me of being present in the moment and comfortable in my skin.

As single parents, we’re taking on the role of the nurturer and the warrior. And that’s badass in and of itself. So why do we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to our friends, family members, co-workers, baristas, and complete random strangers we’ve decided are doing all the parenting things better than us?

Because we’re human.

And because the little rectangles that run so much of our lives put the highlights from other people’s lives at our fingertips when we’re deep in the trenches of making real life moves for ourselves and our kids.

But that shit’s gotta STOP. Because that comparative narrative is making us lonelier, and literally putting our lives at risk.

Deciding we don’t have enough - or just aren’t enough - sucks the life force right out of us. And we’re gonna need all that energy to get through another solo round of toddler Q&A, or endless pretend games with plots thicker than Game of Thrones, or…ages 12 - 18.

So here are 5 ways to get out of your head, remember we all have shit we’re working through, and give yourself credit for all you are and all you’re already doing.

  1. Use the actual telephone function on your phone to call a friend. Recount the most ridiculously embarrassing thing your child yelled at you in a very public place this week. Laugh about it - because the Target cashier probably didn’t.

  2. Go outside. Honestly, just put your phone down and step outside your door. Take a deep breath to shut the looping thoughts off for a second, then exhale and let that shit go.

  3. Write down all the amazing things you pulled off that day - starting with “kept a kid alive all by myself”, because that is actually A HUGE ACCOMPLISHMENT. You are a BADASS for making so many things like breathing, eating, and bathing happen every. single. day.

  4. Keep a copy of Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck handy. Use it like a how-to manual when you’re deep in the comparisons rabbit hole.

  5. Talk honestly and openly to anyone you trust about what you’re dealing with, and why it feels so crappy. Listen to them when they tell you they’re also dealing with insecurities, heartbreak, and WTF moments.

    If nothing else, take comfort knowing most people feel like we’re ‘not enough’ in some way. It’s a bullshit story we’ve been sold our whole lives. Let’s stop getting tripped up by it, and start reminding ourselves and our people who appreciated we are - and how clearly we belong in any heart or home, unkempt hair and all.