Parents love to brag about their offspring; that’s just a fact.
Before having a baby of my own, I never understood the manic excitement expressed over a child’s “goo-gah,” smile or bowel movement.
Now, I get it.
The heart-swelling pride you feel when your baby does something as seemingly inane as burping or as exciting as their first roll is quite incredible. So, naturally, you want to share it with the world. It’s as though you’re saying, “Hey, see this tiny human right here? Well, I made that and now look at it—it’s the most amazing creature that ever blessed this planet.”
Oddly, not every friend, acquaintance and stranger feels the same way about your prodigy. To them, it’s just a baby doing what babies do, even if it is cute.
But there is one place you can be sure others will share your excitement, or at least feign interest—and that’s with other mothers.
I have been absolutely blessed to meet some amazing mums and babies that I chat, cry and celebrate with. We’ve tried to avoid the sense of competition that I’ve heard can insiduously infiltrate mothers’ groups, taking what should be an environment of compassion to one of one-upmanship and comparisons.
Yet, even amongst kindhearted mothers, we’re making the comparisons anyway. We’re not out for competition, but nor do we want our baby to be the last in the group to reach an important milestone.
We’re told that there are important milestones our babies should be meeting: expect them to be doing x, y, z by age a, b, c. But what happens when they don’t? Or when “all the other babies” seem to do it first? Well, you might feel like a lesser mother. You might start questioning what you’re doing wrong. Maybe you even start to resent the other mums and babies for what they are already achieving.
For me, this holy grail is sleep. It seems like all the other babies do it. All night. In the five and a half months since my baby was born, I’ve been lucky to get two, maybe three hours of uninterrrupted sleep at a time. I’m operating on fumes. Exhaustion doesn’t seem a strong enough word. Everyone else’s babies though—oh, they sleep! They’ve slept through since four weeks (well, not really, but that’s how it seems). Do I resent these mothers their months of unbroken sleep?
Yeah, a little.
I know that for other mothers it’s their baby not rolling or not showing interest in food. It seems we all have something. While I don’t feel like we’re competing with each other, I do sense that we’re beating ourselves up. It’s an internal battle of needing to be “perfect,” not just “good enough.” We want to get it all right, all of the time, to show the world that we’re doing a good job. As if we need to create more guilt for ourselves!
If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s this: Mother Guilt is real, pervasive and overwhelming. There is enough of it to go around without adding, “Tommy isn’t rolling like Jimmy” to the mix. Plus, what a lot of pressure to put on our precious babies. I know I was walking at 10 months, while friends have told me they didn’t walk until they were 18 months. Are they any less proficient walkers now? Certainly not.
Perhaps we need to step back from the pressure, the guilt, the comparisons.
I know that suggesting we just relax is far more easily said than done, but maybe it’s not bad advice. I, for one, don’t want to miss out on all the incredible things my baby is doing because I’m so focused on the things he’s not.
I’m doing my best to be a mindful parent. One who doesn’t beat herself up when the mummy guilt train or the comparison monster visits (which is often), but rather acknowledges the feelings, accepts that it is how I’m feeling (at least for that moment), and moves on.
Editor: Brianna Bemel