As wāhine we are notorious for comparing ourselves, and each other. This is not exclusive to just māmā. There is a side to this comparison that is very often talked about, and a side that is hardly ever talked about. The frequently addressed side of comparison is when we compare our bodies, our relationships or our physical items and think "I want what they have". I'm not here to talk about that. Of course I want to talk about the side that is little talked about.
All women do it, in fact, probably all people do it. We justify something being hard for us by telling ourselves there is something different about it for us than when other people go through the same thing. It is so easy and so common to think “well she has it easier because...” or “well they just don’t get it because...“ or “nobody around me is the same because...” and the list goes on. It makes us feel like we aren't failing but instead that we just have more going on, but it also alienates us. It's a trap that we all fall into. I am in no way exempt from it. My motherhood journey so far has highlighted its ugly existence to me.
It never does me any good to try and justify my struggles in this way and I always come out feeling worse and like I'm alone with whatever I'm dealing with. We all have different experiences as we go through life and each one builds on top of the last to make us who we are. This makes our decision making totally different from each other. That's not a scientific fact it's just my observation so don't quote me, but it's relevant to how we go through struggles and compare our experiences while we are struggling. The fact is, someone else may struggle just as much but may never vocalise it to anyone. In the same way they may breeze through something you struggle with and tell you all about it. That can be a pretty annoying thing just FYI so don't come at me with how your baby has "always been a good sleeper".
It is not just about us comparing ourselves to others though, others also compare their experience to ours. One of the hardest things I find about motherhood and having different experiences is when someone has obviously had a rough time with something and it comes up in conversation. 2 of the most common ones are breastfeeding and types of birth. My breastfeeding journey was by no means easy, there were some nights of tears and one night I nearly gave up, but I have been in the situation with another māmā where breastfeeding came up. This māmā had a hard time with tongue ties and positions at the start but was able to successfully breastfeed her pēpi for many months. It shouldn't be about who had it 'worse', but this conversation made me feel as though whatever my experience was and however hard it was for me, I couldn't express that here because it wasn't as bad as hers. I'm sure we've all had a conversation similar and you usually realise it's heading that way after a few back and forth sentences where neither of you are really listening to each other. It usually ends with someone going "aww that sucks" and an awkward subject change.
These conversations have had me reflecting on what the real purpose and lesson is. I don't think that māmā meant to make me feel as though it wasn't my place to share my own struggles. I think she just wanted to be heard first and for someone to understand, even if they couldn't relate. A similar conversation happens with "natural birth", which should really be called vaginal birth but that's a story for another day, and c-section birth discussions. I feel for my c-section māmā's who I can always tell leave the conversation feeling disheartened, probably because we talk about vaginal births in such an uplifting, empowering, magical, natural way and make it feel as though the same is not to be associated with a c-section birth when it 100% is because birthing a baby in any way, shape, or form is hard work!
I am slowly becoming more aware and working on understanding or empathising with my fellow wāhine regardless of whether I think their situation is worse or better than mine. It's not about judgment. It's about uplifting each other and recognising and acknowledging their struggles. What you feel is relevant and important, even if it isn't the same as someone else's experience. The reality is nobody will have the exact same experience so no, they won’t be able to fully comprehend your struggles all of the time, but there will be someone who gets each part of your journey so you can build from all of their experiences combined. Take a lesson from each person, or just talk it out. You don't have to idolise or role model one single person. Make that person be you! Build from your surroundings and learn from each of their experiences to make yours better. Love your ataahua, mana wāhine mates and awhi them regardless of any struggles either of you deal with. Yip I'll say it again, we have to stand together and lift each other up! We got this wāhine toa!