As women we are terrible for comparing ourselves to others, add to that becoming a mother and we become so much worse. We then compare ourselves, our parenting and (shock horror) our children.
It starts off when you become a first time mum talking to other mums because you want to get advice and bounce off each other, but as soon as you start to hit milestones (lifting head, rolling over, sitting up) then it is honestly impossible not to compare our own little babies with someone elses little bundle who somehow seems more advanced.
I remember going to a weigh in session with my eldest, I was sat next to another Mummy who was exhausted because her 9 month old kept running up the stairs when her back was turned. My jaw must have dropped, because my daughter would just sit and hadn’t ever come close to crawling, she hated tummy time and though strong on her legs, she just didn’t want to move. There was more chance her fluffy rabbit would run up the stairs.
I left the clinic and I found myself trying to justify it. It was probably because Anya was a little early or because she was a girl (not my normal feminist slant on life but I was desperate for an explanation) or, god forbid, was it because she wouldn’t breast feed????
Three months later, Anya was walking and those thoughts were a distant memory. (Also I have since had a 9 month old walker and it is in fact exhausting).
Sometimes my mind would go on a bender due to bragging mums (or proud mums may be a better way to define them), I remember an aquaintance once telling me her daughter had done a 35 piece jigsaw that morning (the kids were about 18 months old), I looked down at Tabitha (daughter number 2) as she was wrongly stabbing a wooden Melissa and Doug cockerel piece into the tractor hole of her farm puzzle and felt like I had failed her completely. Now looking back I realise that the mother who told me this probably wasn’t speaking the entire truth and if she was, well done for her little one because I am telling you Tabsy would have more likely eaten the 35 piece puzzle.
The comparing and worries don’t stop and when they start school it brings up a whole new pot of potential comparisons to make, the playground is the perfect place for proud parents to speak about their childs achievements, leaving mothers like me crumbling with self doubt. Whether it be which reading level your child is on, what part they got in the nativity or how many school awards they have had in assembly it just makes you compare (not always negativly, I must add). I feel very sorry for my eldest daughter, she is at secondary school now so had to have the full 7 years of my neurotic primary school sizing up.
Looking at all these differences I never blame/blamed my children, I blamed myself, I put it down to my bad genes or lack of my time with them. What’s abundantly clear to me now is that all this time I spent panicking about my failings were a complete waste, and if I am being truthful probably detrimental to my girls.
Kids are different and that is a fact. I have three daughters so it would be quite easy to compare them, but weirdly I don’t. I wouldn’t even consider it as they are completely different to each other and all have their own strengths and weaknesses, yet I constantly compared my daughters to random children.
I believe it is a natural thing to do but it needs to be something we should be aware of, not something that affects us. Yes, make note of what other children around you are doing as it can highlight you to real developmental and health problems (my youngest still walks on tiptoes and now is being referred to see a surgeon, I realised she should have grown out of it by seeing other kids her age walking flat footed, this is a positive comparison). What I have stopped doing is comparing abilities and seeing the difference as a problem but also to stop seeing it as result, yes be proud of our children accomplishments but be proud of them in their own right not because it is they are better than another.
My girls are my girls and they will reach these government implicated milestones when they are ready, they will also tick the schools boxes of academia when their brain allows but in the mean time they will flourish on everything else around them. My eldest daughter is academic, but not “sporty”, this may change or it may not (who cares), my second daughter will flip herself around the lounge in her leotard and has a flair for art, but she won’t sit on her own and read for love nor money. Lastly there is my third daughter who is 3, so I think that’s enough for her to get on with, isn’t it?
Love your kids, support them and help them fulfil their dreams, but from someone who knows, don’t keep them in a box of expectations because one of the most fabulous things about being a mum is knowing that your children have a glass ceiling to their potential and watching them on their journeys is magical, I can’t wait to see what is yet to come.