Parenting Comparisons: A Game You Can’t Win

One of the more damaging habits facing our society today is comparison living. It’s this idea of “keeping up with the Joneses.” This is an age-old saying, but the Joneses are more present now than ever. They seem to have the perfect life with the nice two-story house, two nice cars, the country club membership, and perfectly happy kids.

Comparison living is such a big issue that it’s the focus of the first money habit I discuss in my book Love Your Life, Not Theirs. This habit, which I call “Quit the Comparisons” is one of seven money habits that will help you live the life you want.

While comparison living is hard on all of us, it reaches a whole new level once you become a parent. Have you ever heard questions similar to these?

What kind of stroller do you have?

Did you upgrade to a minivan or a new Tahoe?

Have you pre-registered your kid for XYZ Academy? It’s so hard to get in to, so make sure you’re on the waiting list, even though kindergarten is five years away. 

Are you buying the baby’s crib from Pottery Barn Kids?

And that’s just the beginning! Once the kids start to grow, it becomes a competition between who’s doing what first. You might hear:

My baby started crawling at four months! Has yours started yet?

My little girl is already sleeping through the night! #blessed

Can you believe he’s already rolled over?

These days, the comparison game seems to never end. But it’s a game you’ll be better off not playing because it leads nowhere.

You shouldn’t want to keep up with the Joneses because, most likely, the Joneses are broke. They leased the new Tahoe, charged the fancy stroller, and put the furniture on a Pottery Barn Kids credit card. Simply put, the Joneses are living a lifestyle they can’t afford.

As parents, the best thing we can teach our kids is contentment. And contentment is simply the inner determination to be happy and fulfilled wherever you are with whatever you have. So what does that look like in real life?

I can tell you that content people are satisfied. They still have goals and are concerned about the future, but they’re also happy with where they are in life. The truth is you’ll never be satisfied as a parent if you’re constantly comparing yourself to other parents.

And social media only makes the temptation to compare worse. So if you need to log off Instagram and Facebook for a little while, go for it. Do whatever you need to do to help you become more content with your life.

Content people are also at peace. In Love Your Life, Not Theirs I say, “comparisons bring discontentment, and discontentment brings anxiety.” That’s the exact opposite of peace. When you’re content, you may not be exactly where you want to be, but you know you’re heading in the right direction. And if someone else is further along? That’s great! Celebrate with them!

So, my fellow parents, it’s time to quit the comparisons. Parenting is hard enough already without factoring in how “awesome” other parents seem to be doing at it.

No one has the perfect life—and that includes you and the Joneses. Let’s embrace that everyone’s life might look a little different and go at a different pace. Let’s be happy with what we have and begin taking steps toward loving our own life, not theirs!