Beside the joys of seeing your children grow and develop their unique personalities, there can sometimes be the challenging part of getting wrapped up in competition about whose child rolls, walks, poops or talks sooner.
Have you ever felt like you’re in a competition with other parents?
From the outside, it may seem like other parents are doing an excellent job at raising their children, while your parenting system seems to you more like a baby-step, slow process. This comparison attitude could lead to stress, frustration, or it might prolong perinatal depression in some parents.
Playgroup NSW CEO Karen Bevan explains, “We’re vulnerable when our kids are born. Parents’ confidence level tends to be low when their children are very young. Parenting babies is a new experience, which is why it can be a tough time to deal with certain insecurities and judgements that might arise.”
Beside the low levels of confidence, there’s also the lack of sleep, which may add low energy levels into the equation. Some parents suffer from postnatal depression, which only adds to the negative perception about one’s parenting skills. Brought together, these feelings can create high sensitivity towards what is perceived as “competition”, which may in turn lead to you comparing yourself with other parents.
“How do they make it? When do they sleep? How do they manage to do so many things in a day?”
Have you ever asked yourself these questions? While in your eyes parenting may seem easy for other parents, keep in mind those parents may be thinking the same about you.
Karen suggests a simple way to handle parenting insecurities: taking action, choosing not to compete in the first place because, “for there to be competition, you have got to be a part of it. And with parenting, there is no competition, no checklist you have to tick off.”
For those times when it’s impossible not to feel the pressures of parenting on your shoulders, Karen offers a few expert tips that could help you cope with the situation:
1. Reflect on your feelings
Karen advises to be honest with yourself and ask yourself a few questions, like: “Are people really analysing your parenting skills? Or are you hearing it through a judgement frame where you think it’s about you, when really it’s just a couple of people reflecting on their day.”
When you’re feeling vulnerable and comparing yourself with other parents, you can reflect on what’s currently happening in your life that might make you feel the way you do. It takes a bit of honesty and introspection to figure out what’s really going on, but you can do it.
2. Refrain from making judgements
Making assumptions about other parents’ choices and the reasoning behind those choices might be an easy thing to do. However, trying to put yourself in those parents’ shoes might reveal that parenting decisions are not easy to make, and there is no “tested and true” solution to raising a child.
If you want to know more about a parent’s decision-making process and take out valuable lessons, ask them about it. Most parents will have no problem talking about it if they see you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.
3. Empathy goes a long way
Karen wisely recommends, “Be aware of how you impact others. Despite being sleep deprived more often than not, try to think about how others might perceive your decisions and the way you talk about your choices.”
All parents go through roughly the same ups and downs on this beautiful and unique experience called parenthood. If you are feeling insecure, other parents might be going through something similar as you.
4. Confidence is a golden asset
It can be difficult for new parents to have confidence in their skills, as they’ve never dealt with parenting before. Again, there is no right or wrong with parenting, just a learning curve you come to master in time.
The good news is, once you adjust to the new reality of being a parent, your confidence can get a well-deserved boost.
Karen admits to having experienced this herself but she highlights that, over time, many of us become more solid about our choices. “At the beginning, parents might be more vulnerable towards being competitive and judgemental only to validate their own choices, especially if those choices are contrary to popular beliefs.”
Karen points out the importance of staying true to what you believe is right for your children. “You’re going to have values you want to instil in your children,” she says, “and you need use that as your guide, your centre. Other parents have values that might differ from yours, and that is normal too.”
5. Embrace your differences
Acknowledge that each person is unique, which means it is only natural for their decisions to differ from yours. Nonetheless, in all our differences, supporting one another is key.
Karen proposes to start from a place of common ground. “You can accept other people’s choices without having to agree with them. You can do this by recognising their decision is not one that you would personally have made, but you can be supportive of it. We don’t all have to be the same and act the same in order to get along with each other.”
All in all, parenting is a journey. While you might feel that other parents’ paths are better paved than yours, remember they might think the same about you. And if you ever find yourself tending to be judgmental about their parenting decisions, keep in mind there is no right or wrong way to parenting; we are all doing our best to raise beautiful, smart, independent children who will make our world a better place.
Do you want to talk to other parents about parenting?
One of the things parents love about playgroup is that it offers them the chance to exchange tips about parenting. By learning what others are doing and how they are coping with certain situations, you can gain valuable insight into the whys, the hows and the whats of parenting.
If you want to exchange thoughts about parenting with other mums and dads, find a playgroup in your area.
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