Even the most insignificant thing can set off a parent's feelings of failure.
Have you ever had a moment where you felt like a complete and utter failure as a parent? A moment that made your question every single decision youíve ever made since those two little lines on the pregnancy test turned pink?
I have these little moments frequently. My daughters are almost four and almost two and Iím forever questioning what the heck Iím doing and what I could be doing better. But the thing that made me feel like an utter and absolute failure was the fact that my eldest daughter cannot draw stick people.
Yep. No bodies with arms and legs coming out of every crevice. Just scribbles, even though by this age she should be able to draw stick people because I'm told it's 'developmentally appropriate.'
It feels utterly ridiculous to feel like I've failed her based on this, when it's a well known fact all children develop differently. So why do I do it? Why do a lot of mothers, at some stage, pick up on something so insignificant and dwell on it to the point where you are almost going crazy from guilt?
So she canít draw stick people. What is it about that fact that makes me feel like failure? Is it because I shouldíve tried harder? It is because I didnít try to encourage her to draw enough? Is it because I let her watch a bit too much TV at times, when she could have been working on her stick people?
Notice how I say ďIĒ a lot? Do the developmental achievements of my sweet little girl weigh so heavily on my mind that when she does lag behind in some way, I feel like Iíve failed her?
It could be anything that sets off the feeling of failure, whether it's about a developmental issue or not. A note home from a teacher about your lunchbox choices. A passing comment about their speech or toilet training progress, or a friend's Facebook post about how their child the same age can write their name, do multiplication and long division, use a spreadsheet and has basically been accepted for a job at NASA.
My daughter is lots of things, including caring and empathetic and adores her little sister. I'm not going to go into what she can and can't do but at almost 4, but she can do plenty.
The thing about children is - and this is something I have always struggled to get my head around - is that all children develop differently, and at their own pace.
Can I really spend the rest of my life worrying about whether or not sheís developing at the same rate as her peers?
No. If I'm not worrying about bloody stick people now, I'll be worrying about something else. I can't control how she develops - I can sure help, but some things are well and truly out of control.
So how can we all combat these feelings of failure? Here are some things Iím working on.
Firstly, know you are NOT A FAILURE!
Are your kids fed on a regular basis? Dressed? Living in a safe, loving environment? Cuddled daily and understand that they are completely LOVED? If so, you are by no means a failure. Not even close. You are doing a good job, mumma.
Understand that all kids are different
I cannot stress this enough. Just because your friendís child is able to do a task with ease, it doesnít mean yours hasnít tried their hardest! Childhood development is a complex thing, and no two babies, toddlers, preschoolers, school children or teenagers are the same or develop at the same rate.
Donít sweat the small things
Motherhood is a good time to stop overthinking everything. It's already exhausting without questioning every single decision youíve ever made. Accept those past decisions, understand that you made those choices for a reason and get on with enjoying life with your kids.
Donít take social media too seriously
So youíve seen a video of a friendís child on social media that has sent you crawling into the corner in the fetal position because your child canít do the same thing yet.
Come out of the corner, please. Social media is NEVER the whole story. It is only a fraction of what is going on in someoneís life. It doesn't show the hours, sweat and tears put into getting that child to do whatever task they are now performing, so donít take it as gospel.
Donít pressure them
Pressuring them into whatever you feel like they need to be doing, such as walking, talking, drawing, writing, reading etc, will only take the fun out of all of these tasks. Relax!
And lastly, enjoy your children!
Amen. Enjoy this time with your kids. So what if they canít draw yet, or write, or read. They are only little once and will get there one day. If youíve tried your hardest, thatís all that matters - not stick figures.