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Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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January 31st, 2012

Coveting Thy Neighbor’s Good

 
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I’m going to be honest. At the end of December I was not in a good place. I was unhappy with everything — my home, my relationship with everyone in my life, my spiritual life, my performance at work. Everything. I felt really bad about how I was doing all around. I just kept playing these scenes over and over in my head about times I had screwed up or done something to offend someone or said the wrong thing. I couldn’t get these conversations out of my head.

On my first day of vacation I just couldn’t shake this cloud that was hanging over me. So as I usually do when I’m feeling crummy, I decided to poke around the Internet for something interesting to read to get my mind off of myself. Whoa, did that make everything worse. I read about a mom who homeschools her kids and built a kiln in their backyard to teach them about chemistry and how it applies to pottery and glazing. Then I read about a Notre Dame grad with a beautiful family who is home with them full time, has a really successful sewing business, has great style, and has one of the prettiest blogs I’ve seen. Not to mention she makes her kids really cute clothes. Then there was the mom that was showing her luscious garden and all the beautiful food her family ate from it. I read about a mom who cooks every single meal her family eats and only eats out once a year. Then, to top it off, I read a blog about a mom who had just finished reorganizing and redoing the last room in her house and was showing the befores and afters of her whole home. I remember sitting in our living room with our laptop and Brandon sitting across the room reading. I’m pretty sure that I audibly screamed, slammed the laptop shut, and ran to the closest sugary snack I could find.

I couldn’t admire these women’s accomplishments. I couldn’t appreciate how wonderful all of these great things were for them and their families. All I could feel was resentment that they have this gig figured out better than me and boiling anger at myself for not being a mom like this. It was not a pretty sight.

Ok, I’m going to get out of the house for a bit. Clear my head. A nice leisurely drive should do it. Hmm, look at those women running. They are so in shape. Ugh, I really need to start running. I am desperate to get this baby weight off. Never mind. Think of something else. Oh, there’s a Mobile Loaves and Fishes truck. That is such a great organization. Oh, wow. There is a mom there with her young daughter handing out sandwiches to the homeless. I should be doing that with Olivia. Why am I just wasting time driving around? We need to volunteer. We don’t help anyone. And on and on. Needless to say, the drive did not help me clear my head.

I finally realized that I just needed to stop comparing myself to every other mom I saw. It is hard enough being myself; I don’t need to add all these unrealistic expectations that I set for myself. I have no idea what trials these women face. I have no idea what has brought them to their current state of life.

Sometimes I forget that God made me to be me. God wants us to see the good that others do and to appreciate it. But we shouldn’t be good exactly the same way another person is good.  God calls us to do our own good.  God doesn’t keep a tally sheet to see who is doing better than whom.  God just wants us to do what God is calling us to do. I just had to keep telling myself this over and over. God wants me to be me, not that other mom who I think is ridiculously amazing. I need to find my own amazing.

And slowly, really slowly, I am not hating other moms for being good moms. And I am working on not hating myself as much for feeling behind the curve. Now I can actually start making a dent in the things I would like to change. I’ve started organizing our house a bit. I’ve started cooking more. I’ve started writing more frequently. Shoot, I have even started running again. Ok, I only ran a couple times but at least my running shoes don’t have cobwebs on them anymore. I stopped just sitting and whining that everyone is doing better than me and realized I was doing pretty good to begin with but changing a few things would not be a bad idea.

It’s so easy to play the comparing game and not realize the good that you are doing. It is easy to start letting a few negative comments and thoughts sit in your head and grow until you’re just plain miserable. These feelings of being inadequate aren’t all bad. It should be a signal to us that we need a change. We need to shake things up. At some point in life everyone can feel like they don’t have anything put together and the rest of the world has figured everything out. But God gave us a community for a reason. It’s good for us to see what others are doing. Not to compare ourselves to them. Not to get lost in the misery of coveting another person’s good. But to learn from each other.

 
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The Author : Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft
Vanessa, a Notre Dame grad, loves the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and overbearing Mexican mothers, which she may or may not be. She lives in Austin with her husband and three daughters and is a freelance writer. You can find Vanessa at v.kraft.im or follow Vanessa on Twitter @laluped.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • miaj

    Thank you for the article. I really needed this.

  • Gaby

    College kids do this to themselves too! I know this from personal experience. :) It’s actually something I’m dealing with right now, trying to be me, not compare myself to others, but also to learn from the good that they are doing.

  • Susan

    Thank you for this column, and thank you Bea for that inspiring quote. I try to keep God’s love and acceptance in mind all the time. Yet, as I sit in my messy home, getting annoyed at my average children, while I fail to do any gardening, sewing or crafting, often feeling exhausted, and only working three-quarters time, I can’t help but be curious – How DO these women do it?

  • Ann Turner

    Vanessa, thank you for being so honest about your internal state, which Anne Lamott sometimes calls, “A bad neighborhood.” You piece reminds me of a piece Anne Lamott had in “Plan B; Further Thoughts On Faith” (I think!) where she talks about the mother of a friend of her son who has perfect thighs and always wears slim latex running shorts. How she disliked her! Until she got to know her better and see her wounds. I think we all do this, as moms, and it makes me crazy. We would never, ever be so unkind to a friend as we are to ourselves. We need to show mercy to ourselves, that’s what I’ve learned. Even though I often don’t succeed at the mercy thing either!

  • Elizabeth

    I do not read “Mom blogs” for this very reason. Many of them do more harm than good, and run the risk of becoming a subtle form of Pharisee-ism.

  • ruth housman

    Being at “home” with oneself: This is a great article most of us can relate to, about comparison’s and how really easy it is to look at someone else and say, They’ve got it together and I don’t. I think it’s very true we each have our own path through life and I deeply see that empathy itself has the word “path” within. I think it’s about this, about learning compassion not just for others but being compassionate and kind to ourselves. Like yourself! I have a bowl that reads around the edges You are a Goddess. It’s great to eat from this bowl, because it’s affirming, and surely we all ARE goddesses, a way of saying, YOU are GREAT.

    I do deeply see, we’re all here on a Mission, and that Mission as in the Blues Brothers, a Mission from God.
    Maybe it sounds like a Soap Opera, but this is how, ‘the world turns’.

  • M

    This applies to us dads too! I have several friends who are outstanding in their work and home lives and I find myself envious of them regularly. But I am trying to look more closely at the good that I contribute to my daughter, through work and through volunteering. That stuff quietly adds up and can lead others to have an elevated image of you ad you have of them.

    I am horrible at ‘living in the moment’ and regularly lose my train of thought, but have gotten better at taking a moment to say, ‘can I be doing something better with my time?’ This usually hapens while watching TV. It has helped me regain energy and use my time better.

    PS – I had thought I would blog about parenthood and still haven’t started. So there’s something I can see in you as awesome!

  • Gage Blackwood

    I wonder what that family does if it only eats out once a year and it’s a bad meal or the waiter/cook messes up everything.

    Do they just wait it out another year?

    Curious minds want to know :-)

  • Teresa

    Thank you for the beautiful article bringing to light something that most, if not all, women struggle with. Women everywhere have this tendency to compare themselves with other women. We compare and despair. We forget that we are simply called to be ourselves and to be the best that we can be, in God.

  • Kathryn

    V, every mom suffers from this affliction. It is how we are hardwired. BUT, I recently read an article that helped my perspective tremendously. The only family that is worthy of our comparison is the Holy Family. Keep striving for spiritual richness and the rest will fall in place. I think that’s my new mantra. You ARE doing a great job. I admire you greatly :)

  • AnitaH

    Thank you for sharing this. How often we’re loathe to admit how insecure and behind we feel when compared to the rest of the world. And once we admit to it, we remember that we’re not meant to be someone else in the world. We’re meant to be us and to accept ourselves as we want the rest of the world to accept us. When it comes to comparing our spiritual lives, I find this quote from “Eat, Pray, Love” helpful:

    “So the holy truth of the whole adventure here in India, is in one line: “God dwells within you…as you.” God’s not interested in watching a performance of how a spiritual person looks and behaves. The quiet girl who glides silently through the place with a gentle, ethereal smile…who is that person? It’s Ingrid Bergman in “The Bells of St. Mary’s” – not me. God dwells within me…as me.”

  • Bea

    I totally identify with this!
    I constantly compare myself (weight, energy-levels, mood, social skills etc), my mothering skills (or lack of), my achievements (or lack of) with everyone around me. It’s exhausting, and so demoralising.

    Recently though, when I catch myself berating myself for not being as good a cook, or whatever else the other person in the room is being good at, I am now (trying) to remember Blessed Henry Newman:

    “God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.
    I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
    Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham.
    Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons.
    He has not created me for naught.
    I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.”

    I thank God that He has uniquely created each of us, with all our differences, because we can all be amazing in our own unique way, glorifying Him by our lives :)

    Thanks for an inspiring post. :)

  • mary

    Being the mother of two small girls and working full time to support your famliy is amazing. You are not giving youeself enough credit for how wonderful you are!!

  • Jane

    This is a wonderful article…and such an important reminder not to judge ourselves through the lense that the world sets up for us….look at ourselves through the eyes of God…and remember HE loves us in spite of our frailties and the unfinished items on our to do lists. He sees and loves us for who we are and simply asks each day to be the best person we can be that day. Some days we amaze ourselves by what we accomplish…other days we feel like failures..but we need to begin each day anew and keep trying and making our lives a gift to God…and in turn we will be a gift to those around us too! Thanks for writing!

  • Yvonne

    What a great article! I identify with this so much. I’m also slowly “finding my own amazing,” (great line) and coming around to realize I was created exactly the way I am – quirks & all – by God. It’s a great reminder that I’m loved for who I am.

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