5 Ways to Deal with Parent Envy

Other households have an edge over your family? So what. Here's how to stay focused on your own children instead of indulging in a bad case of parent envy.

Cheryl Butler
Episode #472

3. Celebrate Others' Successes

One of the common traits of parenting is that we want to see our children be successful. Whether it’s in sports, academics, or in the relationships they form, there is no better feeling than to watch your child flourish and succeed, especially when they overcome a difficult challenge.

Not every child experiences success as easily as his peers or even his own siblings. I watched three of my own children struggle to learn how to speak while their other five siblings were speaking before they turned one. I’ve sat in the bleachers and cheered on kids who have hit numerous homeruns while another was lucky if he could hit a foul ball. And of course, while raising my kids I’ve encountered countless scenarios where plenty of my children’s friends have taken our household by storm by simply succeeding: earning major scholarships, pulling perfect GPAs, being accepted into the finest colleges, receiving brand new cars in high school, and never having to worry about some of the financial hardships our family has faced through the years.

I learned a wonderful lesson from a professor I had in college about crabs in a bucket. This term is used to describe a person who does everything in his power to destroy the ambitions of those among them who wish to improve themselves. The professor explained that when you catch a crab and place him in a bucket, the first thing he'll try to do is escape. If you put two crabs in a bucket, as soon as one tries to climb up out of the bucket the other will grab the escaping crab by the legs and try to escape itself, to which the process gets repeated to the point where no crabs end up escaping. I always remember this analogy when I’m feeling envious about someone else’s good fortune or success. I certainly don’t want to be compared to a crab that tries to keep the rest stuck in the bucket with him.

Take time out of your hectic life to be thankful and grateful for all that you have on a regular basis.

Instead, be happy and celebrate the triumphs another person has achieved. Most people have worked hard to accomplish their big moments. Celebrate their success and know that soon you, too, can experience the same thing for yourself and your family.

4. Use Envy as a Tool for Self-Improvement

Although I don’t necessarily like to feel envious of another person or family (those Joneses—they seem to be everywhere!) I can honestly say that there are times when it proves to be a useful motivator. For example, my daughter has a colleague at work that is praised constantly. They both have totally different job descriptions, but no matter what my daughter accomplishes, her colleague can command the attention of those in charge without hardly any effort at all. And to top it all off, no matter what the topic of conversation or project at hand, this gal is confident in letting everyone know that she can handle anything that comes her way.

My daughter is a recent college grad, so she’s learning her away around the workforce. She’s been envious of how her coworker interacts with the other employees and has been peeved that her own contributions to the company are being overlooked, but instead of complaining about it or continuing to feel pangs of envy, she decided to work on her own interpersonal skills so that she could stand out a bit more herself.

Sarah Hill, a professor in the department of psychology at Texas Christian University, says that envy is kind of like experiencing physical pain. “When we touch something hot or we stub our toe, that sort of thing isn’t pleasant, but ultimately it provides a useful, adaptive function.” In the case of physical pain, it prevents our body from injury; in the case of something like envy, that function can help you look for ways to improve yourself or your situation,” Hill suggests.

The next time you find yourself going down the path of envy, change directions and see if you can improve something in your own life that will empower you instead.

5. Count Your Blessings

It’s easy to get sidetracked from your own situation when you get a small taste of something that appears to be quite delicious in someone else’s life. "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" has long been quoted when people are not satisfied with their own set of circumstances and yearn for what they think is so wonderful elsewhere.

One of the quickest ways to combat any type of envy is to stop and count all your blessings. You may not have an Einstein on your hands but is your child healthy and happy? Not living in your dream home just yet? Be thankful for the roof you do have over your family’s head until a new living arrangement presents itself. Not raising a quarterback? How great is it that your son loves being a Boy Scout and enjoys giving back to his community?

Take time out of your hectic life to be thankful and grateful for all that you have on a regular basis and you’ll feel less envious and more blessed when envy comes knocking at your door.

How do you keep envy at bay? Share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT

Image of an envious father © Shutterstock


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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