There is a stark different between first time moms and second time moms. I’m sure there is a difference for third and fourth time moms as well, but I can only speak from experience. I was the stereotypical first time mom, just like most everyone else. A mix of excitement and nerves meant researching baby gear in great detail, consulting doctor Google for every little newborn grunt or sniffle and keeping tabs on every little milestone my baby reached.
The baby years can be a high-stress season of life, but is filled with endless joy of watching our little miracles learn and grow. However, there is a common bad habit that can undoubtedly rob us of this joy. It’s difficult to avoid and many of us fall victim to it at one time or another. Sadly, it can be damaging to not only you, but your child as well. So what is this bad habit? Comparison. Isn’t it always the chief thief of joy?
More specifically, comparing developmental milestones.
I’m sure you’ve heard that all children develop at different rates. You may have even enthusiastically nodded along and believed in those words whole-heartedly, but then perhaps you heard that a friend’s (or heck a stranger’s!) child, one the same age as yours, was rolling over, clapping, sleeping, teething, walking, speaking, reading, etc. At that moment your joy faded; fear and worry invaded.
Doubts started to take over. Am I offering enough stimulation? Am I supposed to be putting them to bed earlier? Is there something wrong with my child? Am I a failure as a mom? In the blink of an eye your joy was gone.
Find solace in knowing that you aren’t alone. Every mom I know, myself included, has put herself through this unnecessary ringer of comparison. It comes from a good place, a place of love and wanting the very best for our children, but in reality, it’s damaging. I have found the best thing I can do for my children and myself is to support and celebrate them right where they are. Encouraging is good, but pushing a child past the point they are developmentally ready for will create frustration, self-doubt, and a sense of failure for all involved.
Of course developmental milestones exist for a reason, but let’s leave that to our doctors to decipher. Professionals see a wide range of developmental progress and can help monitor any true concerns. Stressing ourselves out because our children aren’t doing XYZ yet when so-and-so’s baby has been doing that for month gets us nowhere.
With Kaitlyn (baby #2), I haven’t googled a single milestone. It’s been glorious and freeing. The other day she counted to 6 then named all her colors correctly. We both clapped ecstatically, excited for her expanded knowledge and capabilities. But then there it was– a tiny part of me wanted to reach for google- is she ahead? is she behind? A friend’s child was singing the entire alphabet at 18 months… Kaitlyn almost has it, but still skips a few letters… should I focus harder on that?
Luckily I stopped myself right there and refocused on my two year old- the one dancing around in a circle, giggling and counting. The joy came back.
My girls are growing, they’re learning, and they are happy.
In today’s in-your-phase society of social media, comparison can feel ever-present. But it doesn’t have to be. In my experience, posts about milestones are from parents overflowing with joy because perhaps they finally got a full night’s sleep after month’s without or maybe they just watched their baby that they’ve been housebound with roll for the first time and it helped break their cabin fever. I find there is rarely ill intent in the postings.
So instead of internalizing it or using it as a check point, my hope is that we can celebrate each other’s joy without letting it interfere with our own.
Let’s revel in the joy that comes from our own children’s discoveries and see what a truly incredible thing it is that each child is so different. If you have true concerns, of course consult your doctor, but otherwise let’s try to see the world as our children do- with excitement for each new day and the journey of growth, without the need for comparison.
Have you ever struggled with comparing milestones?
Does social media affect your happiness with your own parenting?