I’ve always been competitive. In school, in sports, among my siblings. You name it, I wanted to win. Coupled with my competitive nature is an overwhelming anxiety. This anxiety tells me that if I don’t win, not only have I failed, but I have utterly, epically ruined my life. Now, take this competitive spirit plus crippling anxiety and apply it to a concept such as motherhood… Well, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
I started comparing my baby to others before he was even born. What’s his heart rate? When did I start to feel him move? How big is my belly compared to hers? This game, naturally, got worse after my son was born. My baby didn’t crack his first social smile until he was nine weeks old, even though all of my baby apps that I obsessively checked every week told me he should be smiling by six weeks of age. These applications send me little updates every single week on the progress my child should be making, milestones he should be meeting. And in my head, especially early on, if he’s not doing the things this app says he should be doing, I’m failing as a mother.
It got infinitely worse when he started preschool. I’m a teacher at the school my son attends, so I’m up close and personal with all the babies in his class - how old each child is and what kinds of developmental milestones each child has or has not met. So-and-so is only five months and already eating solids. This baby is seven months and is already crawling - My kid is nine months and isn’t even close to crawling! This baby napped for an hour and a half today, but my baby only slept for 45 minutes. All the time, my brain says, I must be doing something wrong. It must be my fault. I must be a bad mother.
It’s a race, it seems. A baby race. But it’s not my kid who’s losing. It’s me.
But honestly, who decided that this has to be a competition?
It has taken a lot of work and several of my weekly therapy sessions, but I’m starting to realize something big. My baby is wonderful. He is so smart and so amazing and I’m so damn proud to be his mother. He’s developing exactly as he should be. He will hit all of his milestones in his own time. No one is concerned for his development. No one is looking at him or me and deciding that I must be an unfit mother because my nine month old isn’t crawling just yet. I’ve realized that people spend a lot less time thinking about you than you think, because everyone is so absorbed in themselves.
This is not a race. This is not a competition. You are not losing.
You, and your child, are doing just fine. In fact, I’d say you’re doing pretty great.