You’ve stopped attending those Mommy and Me groups. You made fast friends with the other mama’s and loved an excuse to get out of the house, but you couldn’t help noticing the other babies. They were all moving through their milestones quickly, some even skipping milestones altogether. Was your baby behind? They aren’t alike at all. You began to worry and decided it would be easier to avoid these meetings. You don’t want to play the parenting comparison game.
Maybe your baby was the one hitting all the milestones – and it wasn’t until your second child came along that you noticed things were different…why weren’t they progressing like their older brother? The anxiety builds.
You attend your scheduled doctor’s appointment, only to see your baby’s measurements slide off of the carefully plotted curve. You take it on as if it is your fault – you can’t produce enough milk. Why can’t your body do what it’s supposed to? (Side note – this is NOT your fault).
Then there is the guilt you may find in the safety of your own extended family. Everyone has an opinion on how your child should be raised – “Co sleeping is a bad idea. They will never be able to sleep on their own.”
You somehow make it through the infant year, but are struggling your way through toddler-dom, you have “that child” in the preschool play. Or, you find yourself into the school-age years before their struggles in math class have you worried they won’t be able to be “whatever they want” when they grow up.
Looking for Answers
These feelings of worry, guilt and anxiety exist for most parents – in one way or another. When it strikes – we can easily panic. More often than not, this parenting comparison game sends us into research, with Google becoming our favourite friend, determined to find the way to do it all “right”.
But this is what the “right” way to parent looks like –
Hopefully, this makes it clear. If you’re looking for an easy guide to parenting, there isn’t just one to choose from. Parenting is HARD. There isn’t a one-sized-fits-all answer to any of our questions. There can be answers if we put in the work, holding fast to a series of trials and errors.
We are the Experts of Our Children.
It is so important that we take action against these feelings of anxiety and worry. They can prevent us from seeing our children clearly. They can rob us of the precious time we have with them, or even keep us from providing our children with what they need, when they need it.
Our first step in being the expert of our children, is going to be in taking care of ourselves. We’ve all heard the adage, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.
As soon as we begin to harness these feelings of worry and guilt, we will be able to see the comparisons for what they are – comparisons. There is no “better”, only different. Being an early walker does not necessarily mean you will be winning gold medals in the Olympics for track and field, and being a late talker does not discount you from winning awards for Public Speaking.
In tracking milestones and making comparisons, keep your focus clear. What is the purpose? If it’s to feel some sort of satisfaction or sense of hierarchy, you are doing it wrong. Parents, stop playing the comparison game.
As every child is unique, so is every family. When it comes to raising our children, only we know what will work best for ours. By being able to take the concerns of our doctors, along with those of our extended families, and make healthy comparisons between our kids and others their age, we will ultimately be able to understand what our child’s needs are.
Even more, as we keep reading these articles handing out advice on child development, we will be able to pick and choose the strategies that will ultimately work for us – ensuring our ability to help our children to grow and learn where their strengths and interests lie, which is ultimately all we could ever ask for.
Lindsay Fricker is a mom of four – two plus twins. Kindergarten teacher by day, Lindsay enjoys helping others find ways to navigate the ugly parts of parenting, while keeping their sanity and positively supporting their children. You can read more from Lindsay here or follow her on Instagram @serendipity.six.