How Am I Doing?

There’s one thing that mothers and fathers everywhere wonder about from the moment they bring that little baby home until the day they die …. Am I a good parent? Am I doing it right?

We all struggle with this and it doesn’t help that very few of us get any real training in pulling off the most important job on the planet. As a result of this one simple fact, mommies everywhere suffer needlessly from deep feelings of insecurity. But don’t despair. Parenting is not something that can be done perfectly right off the bat. Or ever, actually! Rather, being a good parent is something to aspire to and work towards and truth be told, it’s often done by the seat of your pants.

But just in case you want a few concrete reasons why you shouldn’t worry, or ideas on how to stop, read on. Let these few thoughts from one mom to another settle into your brain and remember them next time the Judgement Monster threatens to blow your cool and your day.

You know enough.

For now, anyway. And just remember, since we are primates, when it comes to child-rearing we have to learn everything. No exceptions. So don’t think that you are the only one out there who doesn’t know what croup is or how to insert a rectal baby thermometer or how to tell if your kid is experimenting with drugs. You could fill a stadium or two with local parents who are also scratching their heads about any question you have at the moment.

Luckily there is a mountain of resources out there for parents looking for help and many people who would love to share their knowledge with you. Find them and ask. Just to keep yourself from going nuts, focus on learning about your baby’s current age and up to about one year in the future. And keep on asking and learning as the months and years go by. One day, you will be someone else’s beacon of wisdom!

STOP comparing yourself!

You know how that one goes — you arrive for your playdate, little one in tow, ready to chill out and enjoy a mommy chat with your friend while the kids play. The moment your friend opens the door, you are struck by how perky and well-rested she looks. And how fit and put together she looks in those cute, skinny jeans! You immediately start to chastize yourself for wolfing down that cider donut on the way over and make a vow not to skip your date with the treadmill again tonight.

Next thing you know, you’re all hanging out in her very organized (and clean) family room. Why doesn’t your family room look like that, you wonder? And when did she get that great Little People Stand ‘N Play Rampway? She always has such perfect toys. As you are mulling these things over you suddenly notice that HER child is kindly sharing toys and filling the room with “pleases” and “thank yous” while yours is having an epic meltdown and smearing tears, snot and peanut butter all over the brand new, white (!) twill sofa from Pottery Barn that you have been coveting for months.

And so it goes. But here’s the deal: every single mother in the world has, at one time or another, felt like she didn’t measure up to the other mothers around her. Trust me here. I mean every single one. The questions about how to do it right (whatever that means at any given moment) are endless. But don’t worry. You will learn that parenthood is filled with moments of absolute confidence-building mastery balanced by periods of anxious self-doubt and despair.

You might as well accept it because there is no getting around it. There will always be people who are better than you at some things and worse than you at others. Some have more, some have less. Instead of focusing on all that you don’t know or don’t have, look instead at what is there already and build on that. And remember that as long as you are actively learning, you’re golden. It’s enough!

Embrace the chaos.

Life is messy. And when small children are involved, it gets even messier. Don’t constantly stress over the condition of your house, your car or your kid’s wardrobe. And get used to the idea that the life of a parent is frequently marked by things flying at you from left field. So what if the new normal at your house is a kitchen table covered with art supplies and sippy cups? Or that since the baby arrived you haven’t been able to get dressed until one in the afternoon? It’s what’s happening now and now is great. So let it be. Things change drastically from moment to moment in the life of a parent and flexibility is required. Expect the unexpected and be prepared to go with it as best as you can.

Learn to forgive yourself.

This one can be tough. Mistakes are going to be made and some of them might be serious. But in order to move forward and make a good start with each new day that dawns, you have to be able to forgive yourself. Make the best decisions you can with the information you have at the time and then let it go. Don’t waste a lot of time second guessing yourself. If a course correction is needed, take another look and make a new decision. But don’t dwell on mistakes or should-haves. That kind of thinking will undermine your self-confidence and do more harm than good.

Tomorrow will be better

I so remember  those days when everything that could go wrong did and how depleted and frustrated I felt. I also remember talking to a good friend at the time who would sympathize and tell me that tomorrow would be better. And it almost always was. So hang in there, despite whatever it is that’s going on today and remember that in life, things are ever changing. Good days often follow bad ones … they really do.


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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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