Our neighbor's daughter was selling magazines as a fundraiser and she never comes to hit us up for anything, so I felt compelled to buy. I broke down and I bought "O" the Oprah magazine. The magazine choices were slim and I despise any sort of parenting magazine for many reasons. I am convinced that their purpose is to make you a paranoid freak about your child's health and give you an inferiority complex that you are never a good enough mother. My primary distaste for parenting magazines comes from the abundance of recipes that make food into an object. It isn't enough to just feed your children healthy and daily. These magazines pressure mothers into thinking we are supposed to entertain our children with each meal. My hackles are raised at the sight of 'pine cone treats' which is some cracker, cheese, almond concoction to represent a pine cone, "spooky fingers", with red nails made from fruit leather or any sandwich made into animals or smiley faces.
It depresses me to know that there are writers (ahem!) who have been trying to get their work published in a national magazine, so they can get paid, and the editorial board at Conde Nast is deciding, "Hmmm.... we could run this funny and poignant piece about women being supportive of each other at the playground or we can do a story about Halloween and make grapes into eyeballs! Eyeball grapes it is!"
I open the latest "O" and one of the feature stories is about the women behind the scenes at the Oprah show. I start looking at their makeover outfits and doing the traditional scoffing at the price of the dresses (because really, who pays $620 dollars for a dress?! Not even my wedding dress cost that much).
Then I start reading their job titles and ages of the women featured in the article. Senior Supervising Producer - 43, Production Designer - 45, Senior Booking -39. As I read on I started on the dangerous and unproductive downgrade of questioning and comparing myself to these women. Before I knew it I had begun the traditional questioning of, "what the heck am I doing with my life?" and ending with "why don't I have a Very Important Job like them - and we are the same age!?"
I don't know why I make that wrong turn into the valley of comparing my life's journey against another. It is one thing to be inspired by accomplishments and set goals for myself. That sounds healthy and productive. It is not productive to keep going over in my head stewing that I am not a senior producer for the Oprah show, and how come I am not going to a television studio everyday working on some seemingly glamorous job. The thing is, it's not like I ever had dreams pursuing a career as a television producer - so I am not sure where this jealousy is coming from.
Or maybe I do know where it is coming from. I have gotten into the bad habit of comparing myself to others and telling myself the untruth that 'they' are better than I am. That she is more successful and better. Maybe it started when I became a mother and all of the bravado and cocky self confidence I had in my 20's was crushed. I was so unsure of myself as a new mother. My brain was filled with a constant internal voice of self doubt. I was convinced that every other woman out there was giving birth with less tearing, breast feeding better, skinnier than me, their houses were cleaner and generally happier and more joyful about mothering than I was. I resented any mommy blogger or writer out there who said she wrote with their baby perched happily on her lap or grabbed what ever time they could write while their baby napped. My first child napped in about the time it took for me to take a crap and when she was on my lap, I couldn't write if you held a gun to my head.
I don't think I wrote a sentence for two years or said a kind word to myself either.
Years later, that droning self-doubt in my parenting abilities has slowly evaporated. I am feeling that confidence again - it is like a muscle that I have to work at every day - and boy was it flabby! I kick-ass and I remind myself of this fact on a daily basis. I laugh and do that old Saturday Night Live sketch with Stewart Smalley, where I say, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And gosh darnnit, people like me!" But I do have to work on that demon of comparing myself to others.