I am no expert when it comes to parenting or motherhood, although I often wish I could be. My son, Hudson, is almost three years old, bouncing with energy, chatting in full sentences, and now almost three-and-a-half feet tall. What I can conclude so far is that parenthood is a ride filled with highs and lows, where moments of pure joy and contentment can plummet into irrational meltdowns.
In the beginning, being a new mom was just about getting enough sleep to function. Then came managing day-to-day survival, errands, a social life, and maybe the odd date night out. Now we’re in the thick of toddlerhood, and somewhere between the potty training, the YouTube binging, and the food-striking/throwing, motherhood has become a challenge, leaving me feeling more inexperienced than I’d like to admit.
What makes it more difficult though, is noticing those moms who seem to have it all figured out: they keep an immaculate house, have eliminated screen-time entirely, serve only wholesome snacks and are always punctual…all with their multiple children. But then there are the rest of us, some who have moved on to having a second child, and are sleepily juggling what is, in my opinion, a whole new level of skill and seniority.
I only have one child, so how do my efforts and experiences measure up to the mom-of-three who has all her kids potty trained and the full week of meals planned on a Sunday night? How do my frustrations surrounding the terrible, er, terrific twos compare to the resiliencies of the generation before me—you know, the ones raising five children without the advantage of technology?
I shouldn’t be complaining, right?
Too often we doubt our capability as parents when the reality falls short of our expectations. And usually, our expectations come from comparing ourselves to others.
While it can help to seek reassurance from those sharing similar experiences, it can also make us doubt our own intuition as mothers. We’re living in an era consumed by technology where texting is one of our primary forms of interaction, online mom-groups are our support systems, and the idealism surrounding motherhood is accepted as the norm. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we need to be kinder to each other—and ourselves—and learn to listen to and trust our inner voice.
Comparing myself to other moms around me and always internalizing what I could or should have done better only makes me more critical and self-sabotaging. Instead of embracing my unique journey and individual decisions, my inner critic tells me I should have potty trained differently, that I could have tried harder to get my son into swim lessons before they filled up, and that I’m a mean, authoritative parent. It tells me that I could have handled a grocery-store tantrum more gracefully, or that I was selfish for putting on Paw Patrol to get some work done.
I need to get a grip on that internal hater because the reality is that kid(s) are delightfully chaotic. There is no rulebook for parenting; we all start learning from the moment we become responsible for another human being.
Another reason to stop drawing parallels with others is that you never know what kind of support they may—or may not—be receiving. In our situation, my partner and I have amazing grandparents to help, but unfortunately none of them live close by, so that has been a challenge—even with only one child. I am grateful for the support I have from Hudson’s dad, my forever love, and our strength as a team raising our son.
When thoughts creep in to tell me I could have done things better, I remind myself of the nine months of pregnancy, when I developed a spiritual connection and awareness through each passing trimester. I reminisce about holding that baby for the first time with unfathomable, unbreakable and immediate love. I recollect the sweet moments of silence, the 18 months of breastfeeding, and the flashes of sacrifice, sleep deprivation, and tears—all contributing to the trusting bond we have today.
I remind myself that my goal isn’t to compete with other moms or to be as good as anyone else; my goal is to be the mother my child needs me to be. And that, without question, is doing motherhood right.
Rachel Dunstan Muller is the mother of five, and a children’s author. Her previous articles can be found at islandparent.ca.