The Comparison Game

comparisonA couple of years ago I was at the place where the year was quickly dwindling down and it had been rather hectic. As I realized that there were only a few months left of school, deep down there was a part of me that began to panic. I felt like I had failed at giving my children the best education possible. In fact, if report cards were to come out on me – the children’s teacher – I was to the point where I would have been satisfied with a C-. I was discouraged, and yet no one knew it.

A homeschool monthly mom’s meeting was scheduled on the topic of “Homeschooling through the High School Years” and I knew this was just the encouragement I needed. So I put on a smile and headed out the door. But what was intended to lift my spirits, turned into guilt and great discouragement. As I listened to various moms share their experiences, I began to compare my life to them and a few hours later ended up driving home in tears.

My discouragement lasted through the next day, until I finally picked up the precious Word of God.

 “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:6.

“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established,” Proverbs 4:25-26.

 It was clear. My eyes were not fixed upon God. I was looking around to the left and right, comparing myself and my family to everyone else. And it is just that – the comparison game – that will leave us discouraged every time.

This is not the only thing that can contribute to this type of discouragement for moms. Books, magazines, and social media can all add weight to the problem. Ideas of having the “perfect” marriage or a busy mom’s guide to “getting it all done” can raise our levels of expectations to an unhealthy level. Pictures on Pinterest of beautifully-decorated, insanely-organized, and superbly-spotless homes can also add to the comparison game.

Here’s the truth: Every family will look different. No marriage is perfect. We cannot and should not even try to do everything. And, having a lived-in home when love and laughter flows, is much better than the “picture-perfect” home where all are stressed over spills and messes.

Don’t get me wrong. We are built for relationships and God will often use people to encourage and exhort us to be better wives and mothers. We should examine and learn from others, and we should follow after those who are living godly lives. The Apostle Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” I Corinthians 11:1. But there is a difference between following others by letting their example be an encouragement to us, and comparing our lives to theirs. The Bible warns us to not compare ourselves with others in spiritual matters. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise,” 2 Corinthians 10:12. The principle applies here as well. It is easy to want to compare ourselves to others, but it is not others that should set our standards. God’s plan for our life is the standard all must seek. God created each of us in a unique way. He created our family unique. Unless we embrace our differences and seek out God’s will for our family, we will constantly struggle in this area.

There is a fine balance between striving for excellence as wives and mothers, and killing ourselves by trying to live up to some unattainable form of perfection that we “think” we see in others. Let’s not forget that often we are only seeing highlights of people’s lives, moments of triumphs, and glimpses of won victories. Often the failures, struggles, and disappointments are not on display. This comparison game trap was a good reminder for me as well. When talking to a new believer, a first time homeschooler, or a newlywed I need to remember that each child of God is on a journey in life to walk in the ways of the Lord. We are all striving to live our life and raise our family in a way that is pleasing to Him. Some are simply further down the road than others.  Some have been traveling longer. Some travel at a faster pace. And some take a different path altogether. My life will not look like yours. Your life will not look like mine. But let each of us look like Christ. If we are going to compare our lives with anyone, let it be His!  “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked,” 1 John 2:6.

Be content to travel down the path that God has laid before you.  Acknowledge Him, take your eyes off self, focus upon the One who establishes all your ways, and let the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind focused upon Him.

Nurturing Your Marriage – Part Four

 The third key to nurturing your marriage is practical application of these truths previously mentioned.  Knowledge (knowing truth) is not enough; we need wisdom (applying truth) in our marriages.

Homeschooling mother, I know you are busy.  Life is demanding.  You are home all day teaching the children.  There is work to do, places to go, errands to run, a home to manage, lessons to be taught, projects to complete, and schedules to make and keep.  Some days bring many challenges and there are probably times when your husband walks in the door only to be greeted with chaos.  While these days are a reality, I have found that a conscience effort to manage my “office” well is very beneficial to our marriage.  I have always said that my career is my family.  It is my job, given to me by God.  Therefore, if my career is my family then my office is my home.  I’m going to take the liberty to speak for all the husbands out there.  They do not want to come home to a messy house with loud children running around.  They do not want to see dishes in the sink and laundry piled up in the living room.  The kitchen table does not need to be overrun with school books, paper, and computers.  There does not need to be a science project hanging in his bathroom either.  He doesn’t want to see the children dirty and unkempt. And he certainly does not want to see his wife in sweats and a t-shirt with a chili stain left over from lunch on the front of her shirt.  You husband wants to walk in the door and greeted by a smiling wife and children who are happy to see him.  The home needs to be orderly.  I am not saying it has to be immaculate, but it should be managed well.  A little care goes a long way in a home.  If your husband comes home every day at 6 p.m. make sure by 5 p.m. you have a plan for dinner, the house is somewhat picked up, the children are happy and quiet, and the schoolbooks are put away.  If you are not finished with schoolwork by 5 p.m. then you need to start your day sooner.  I am speaking from experience.  Trust me; I have had a few of these chaotic days.  But let me say that when my home is managed well things go much smoother.  It’s certainly worth the extra effort.

Another must for marriage is Date Night!  It is imperative that you spend at least one day a month out on a date with your husband.  Just to clarify, this means without the children.  You are old enough now that you do not need chaperones.  The dates do not have to be elaborate.  While that is nice every now and then, it is not necessary.  Date nights can be as simple as a hamburger from McDonalds and holding each other’s hand while walking through a store together.  The important thing is that you spend time together, talk, and enjoy each other’s company.  Date nights can also be at home.  Put the children to bed early or rent them a video, fix a late dinner, and light some candles.  Your children will appreciate the fact that their parents make time for each other.  And your husband will appreciate the fact that he has a wife that desires to spend time with him.

Communication is also essential to a thriving marriage.  Homeschooling is a big part of your life.  Make sure you and your husband communicate often about the children.  Typically the dad does not spend as much time with them as the mother does so he needs to be involved.  Let him know how they are doing academically.  Share their successes and their failures with him.  Let the dad oversee the direction of their schooling.  Do not make him feel bad for always being at work. Thank him for working hard so that you have the privilege to be able to stay home and homeschool the children.  It is common mistake to have the attitude of “Mother knows best” when it comes to the education of the children.  But, when it comes down to it, the father as head of the family will be held accountable by God for the direction of his family and the education of the children.

Finally, do not over commit.  It is easy to go through life doing good things and completely miss out on the best things.  Sports are good.  Ministry is good.  Homeschool groups and activities are good.  Hobbies and recreations are good.  But marriage is best.  Children are best.  Relationships are best.  Warm memories are best.  Don’t become so busy that you are exhausted all the time.  Don’t become too B.U.S.Y. (Bound Under Satan’s Yoke).  Don’t run around doing things and forget about people.  Make time for your husband and make it a priority.  Make plans to eat together as a family.  And make sure every now and then that it is at home at the kitchen table and not in the car running to your next activity.