Most parents I talk to are worried in one way or another if they are doing things right - Am I giving my child the right food? Am I playing with them enough? Are we playing the right kinds of games? Am I disciplining them the right way? The list goes on and on. Where does this come from? Most of us know parenting is a huge responsibility and we don’t want to “screw it up”. We want to give our child every opportunity to succeed. Our desire to do the “right thing” is ultimately about their well-being, right? But in the quest for our child’s well-being, we sacrifice our own by being stressed out and by questioning our every move.
I read an interview with author Anna Quindlen where she was asked “what are 5 things you know for sure?” One of her answers was “Motherhood is not a test.” What a beautiful answer. No one ever tells you outright that Motherhood is a test, but we sure act like it is.
If motherhood is not a test, then we would never worry whether we are doing things “right”.
If motherhood is not a test, it would not matter if you are a stay-a-home parent or a working parent, we’d all just be parents.
If motherhood is not a test, we would not spend hours scouring the internet for the exact diagnosis and holistic remedy for the sniffles that came home from school.
If motherhood is not a test, we would not beat ourselves up, replaying in our minds something “bad” that happened. Instead we would look at it as an opportunity to learn and do better next time.
What we don’t realize is that we spend most of our lives approaching every facet of our lives as if it is a test. It starts in school where “passing a test” means we’ve studied hard and earned the right to go to the next grade. In sports “passing a test” means you’ve accomplished your goal by winning a game, a championship or even a gold medal. In the workplace “passing a test” means you earn a promotion or raise. For many of us these three examples, school, organized sports/activities and career, make up a large part of our childhood and early adulthood. It is easy to see how ingrained this becomes in our daily life and how we unknowingly develop the perception that everything in life must be a test.
Our babies try to help us debunk this myth from their first days on the earth. They show us every day is going to be different, what worked this morning may not work tonight. But we don’t listen. We instantly think we must be doing it wrong, because we don’t see anyone else struggling. Everyone else’s Facebook and Instagram are filled with perfect pictures and cute stories. Rarely do you see a post with a picture of the baby crying, the mom’s status update of “feeling hopeless, tired and defeated”.
Motherhood is fluid. It changes and evolves. It’s not a linear path, but a winding journey for which there is no map. This is not something we are accustomed to – no map? No book? No internet to help me along the way? The tools are there, they’re just different. Relying on your intuition, those around you and the reactions of your children will give you all the direction that you need.
So the next time you find yourself wondering, “am I doing this right?” remind yourself this is not a test. Choose the answer you think is right and go for it. Unlike a test, you can always go back and change it along the way.
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.