Stresses of the modern day mom
Before I had my first child, I received a ton of advice, sometimes useful and sometimes unnecessary. Even after my daughter was born, I was constantly chided by family, friends and even strangers on everything from the clothes I put on her to the way I handled her tantrums. I wish while these people were busy telling me what diapers to use, which foods to feed, and what type of vitamin supplements to give that they would have taken the time to indulge me on the fact that no matter what, you will always feel like you're not doing enough for your child. Guilt gnaws away at you like a termite on wood, and nothing you ever do seems to cease this guilt. It could be something as small as denying your child a piece of cake to something as significant as deciding whether the early childhood education school they're attending is as good as the more costly alternatives.
Lately, and more often recently, a different type of guilt has been eating away at me--am I engaging my child in enough play dates? I recently gave birth to my second baby (also a girl) and I've spent close to a year trying to fight through the fatigue of pregnancy and now, for the last seven weeks, the fatigue associated with keeping up with a newborn. In the process, I've been focused more on spending time as a family with my older daughter, who is turning three this year. Only recently when we went to our first play date in a very long time did I realize that my daughter is not as social as she once was a year ago. She's in fact scarily more mature than other kids her age, and I think this has to do with the fact that she's been spending so much time with adults. She seems to be a lot more understanding and less silly (for lack of a better word) than other kids her age. This both pleases and frightens me. Social skills are so very important, and it saddens me that my daughter seems to be maturing a lot more quickly than she should. I'm trying to carve more time into my day for her so that she can spend time with kids her age, but I find that she's not very interested in socializing except when kids come to the house.
A few days ago, I realized I'm not the only one who seems to be facing this crisis. There's a whole little army of mothers who keep their toddlers close to family and, unlike me, they're not the least bit concerned. Their thoughts? They prefer their children spend time with family as much as possible in these early years (and even into later years if possible) so that they can create a strong foundation by teaching family values and creating a close-knit loving community for their children. One mom told me that she thinks of these years as being super precious since once kids cross a certain age, they tend to gravitate toward their friends (which they will eventually make in school) while shying away from family. I guess this perspective makes sense too. Which brings me to my point and the reason for this article: Moms worry too much about what other moms are and are not doing.
We don't want our kids to feel left out of anything. We don't want them to be the outcast and we don't want them to feel any different from other kids. So what do we do? We drive ourselves absolutely nuts trying to keep up with everything. She's doing ballet? Oh my gosh, I have to do it then! His kid already knows how to write the alphabet? Let's whip out our pencils and paper right now! It's a never ending uphill struggle and one that will end up exhausting everyone involved--most importantly your children. And what are we teaching them in the meantime? That we should be like everyone else...which is the very opposite of what we strive to teach them in their later years, right?
So fellow parents, this brings me to the moral of my story which is to take a deep breath, think about what is most important to you for your child, and remember that keeping up with others is like trying to fill a bottomless pit--you'll never attain success. There will always be someone doing something that you're not, and the more you focus on what they're doing, the less thought you're giving to what's best for your precious one.
And another thing for those of you who are like me and are constantly guilting yourself. Your child won't remember all those little details you guilt over; what they will remember is your love and devotion to them as a unique and innocent being who thinks the world of you.