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How Not to Be a Green-Eyed Momster

I remember the seemingly innocuous questions in the early playground years, "What's her latest trick?" "Is she walking yet?" The questions never felt completely innocent, as they would lead to a conversation about what our children were, or weren't, doing. It always had a competitive undertone.

I didn't want to carry those feelings around with me, but after being in the working world with a paycheck and professional kudos, mothering felt like an around-the-clock volunteer job for which I hadn't been trained.

I think my kids were the only reflection of how well I was doing. If they weren't doing well, I'd turn into a green-eyed momster as I quietly I compared my own kids' successes with those of their peers. It was a scenario in which nobody won.

RELATED: Opting Out of the Mom Competition

But how to stop the comparison game? In the dog-eat-dog world of the playground, it's nearly impossible not to notice that the child born two months after yours already climbs the jungle gym like a mini-mountaineer, or that 1-year-old in his stroller is speaking in full sign language sentences while your baby hasn't fully mastered "bye-bye."

They don't tell you how you'll regularly feel like you aren't fit for this job.

The first few years may be the hardest when a mother is new to this life-transforming task and doesn't know what to expect. Nobody teaches you how to be a parent. They don't tell you how much you'll love that baby, how much you'll worry about her or how you'll regularly feel like you aren't fit for this job.

The voluminous amount of instructional books ("How to Raise Your Child's IQ/Self-Esteem/Verbal Skills") can worsen matters. In previous generations, our mother's had Dr. Spock and some time-tested advice from their own mothers to see them through walking and first words. These days, hundreds of pediatrician-endorsed tomes promise answers when there may not be any.

Consider this: Unless your child is really missing the milestones, maybe she's just fine.

OK, easier said than done. I get it. I do. My kids are teenagers now and the competition around the college stuff is brutal. But, here's what helps keep me out of the comparison game. See if it works for you:

1. Keep a broad perspective

Stop comparing your kid to some book's standard or another parent's child, and remember what your own child does well. How's your toddler's emotional quotient? What about her ability to blabber? Is he good with puzzles? No? Well, does he throw a ball pretty decently? We all have strong and weak areas; this is what makes us human.

2. Remember what you do well

I myself can do about 3 things really well, about 10 things in a mediocre way and I stink at everything else. Can you imagine if you were expected to excel at sports, at math, at reading, at art, at socializing ? If you actually do, well, that's a different problem. But let's assume you are normal like the rest of us. Consider your strengths and apply that same realistic attitude to your own peeps.

RELATED: 5 Lessons From Childhood That Make Me a Better Parent

3. Appreciate other children

I know a woman who is pathologically afraid of her children not being the best at everything. Her seething compliments give you the feeling that she's going to rush home and try to bring her own kids up to speed and whatever yours are excelling at. This kind of attitude makes us tight and mean and no fun to hang out with. Instead of bragging, once again, about your own brilliant little sports stars on Facebook, sing the praises of your neighbor's adorable child who made you a mud pie or the girl on your daughter's baseball team who scored the winning run. Spread the love.

Image via Sandra A. Miller

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