OPINION

Mum's the word | Parenting is not a competition

AVOIDING COMPARISIONS: Don't lose sight of the many joys of being a parent while you are trying to meet someone else's expectations. Photo: Shutterstock.
AVOIDING COMPARISIONS: Don't lose sight of the many joys of being a parent while you are trying to meet someone else's expectations. Photo: Shutterstock.

I saw a woman the other day - she was nursing her new born baby and had two other young ones in tow. She looked exhausted and she seemed incapable of cracking a smirk, let alone a smile.

It occurred to me that I probably had that look once. I felt a little sad for her.

What I wanted to say was relax, don't be too hard on yourself.

This is a precious time, enjoy your children. Before you know it they will be grown up and you will be wondering where the time went and why you didn't enjoy it more.

But I knew better than to tell a new mum what to do.

I remembered all the well-meaning advice I was given. It came from so many different angles. Some tips contradicted other tips and in the end I was totally confused.

The best tip came from myself - when I finally removed the multiple, other well-meaning, voices from my head. I told myself that each day will be different, each child is different. Deal with each situation as it arises and be committed to doing the best job you can for yourself and the child.

But the best tip of all was "don't compare yourself to others, don't compare your children to other children."

It was a tip that took me a while to embrace - after all every time I went to a mothers' group or anywhere there were other mothers with children of a similar age the conversation seemed to inevitably turn to the topic of raising children, or how wonderful their child was.

"My three-week-old is already sleeping through the night," or "Little Johnny never cries."

The kind of comments any proud parent wants to make, but the same claims can also make other parents feel like they're failing. The last thing a new parent needs.

I would sit there thinking wow, what am I doing wrong? I'm just going to sit here quietly and say nothing. I don't want anyone to think my child is less than perfect.

What I should have noted was that those same parents looked exhausted.

Just like I felt. I don't think their children were sleeping through the night - unless, of course, they considered a sleep-though from midnight to 5.30am. And little Johnny may not cry, but I bet he kept his parents on their toes all day.

My reality check often came from a dear friend who would turn up late to those mothers' gatherings, juggling children, baby bags, and a toddler in tow who had clearly dressed himself in the dark, while she sported a rather disheveled hairdo. But she was always smiling and always happy to share that life was chaotic and parenting served its fair share of exhausting challenges. She could always laugh about those challenges and she had me laughing too.

I loved that friend. She was keeping it real. For the record all four of her children have grown up to be down-to-earth, hard-working adults.

Please note that parenting is not about proving your worth to others, it is not a competition. It will be exhausting at times but don't lose sight of the many joys while you are trying to meet someone else's expectations.

  • A mother-of-three grown kids, ACM editor Mumma Jak is familiar with the variety of approaches needed to help raise well-rounded humans.