I think all of us experience it at one time or another. Humans are, I believe, rather competitive by nature; we judge our accomplishments according to what our peers have also achieved. As mothers, we often compare the development of our children to those of our friends or family members. Further, we sometimes view our children’s accomplishments as some kind of barometer by which to measure our own success as mothers.
I’ll give you an example. At 13 months, Lucy frequently babbles, hums, and even sings. However, her words are limited to mama, dada, baba, and yeah. Further, even though we’ve worked extensively with her on signing for 6 months now, Lucy only uses a handful of signs, and still somewhat irregularly.
The daughter of a friend is only a little older than the Goose, but is incredibly verbal. Not only does she speak many words, but she speaks them clearly. Additionally, she can sign. Overall she has an incredible grasp of language for a child of her age.
Am I jealous? TOTALLY!
I know I shouldn’t be. I know it’s ridiculous. But I feel the same way when I hear about a child who sleeps through the night, or practically runs through the house, or has hit any number of milestones Lucy hasn’t yet. I know it’s not fair to compare Lucy to other children. I should be satisfied that she is healthy and happy and developing well-within the spectrum of “normal”- who determines what is normal, by the way?
Also, because I work outside of the home, my “mommy guilt” is intense. I’ll bare my soul here: I often wonder if Lucy would be developing differently if I were a stay-at-home mom. Would she be signing more by now? Could she speak more clearly? I feel a great deal of guilt for not being able to spend more time with her during the week.
Please don’t get me wrong- Brett is a fabulous father and does an amazing job with Lucy during the day. He takes her on little trips to the library and the pool, builds pillow forts in the yard, bakes cookies….. I’m immeasurably grateful that not only have we avoided putting Lucy in daycare, but that she gets to spend every day with her Daddy.
I do my best to make the time I get to spend with Lucy quality time, mainly through attachment parenting techniques like extended breastfeeding, babywearing, and, until recently, bedsharing. Still, the daily separation from my daughter is difficult. The guilt that I feel from having to work every day (and yes, for the record, I HAVE to work- my military service commitment wasn’t up yet when Lucy was born) makes it hard for me to justify spending time away from her at all when I’m not working. For heaven’s sake, I felt terrible for *one time* leaving her at home with Brett instead of taking her grocery shopping with me on a Saturday morning. I have a gift certificate for a massage sitting on my office desk that’s been there since Mother’s Day- how could I possibly justify spending one of the two mornings I have off during the week at the spa?
I can’t help but look forward to the day when I’ll get the chance to stay home with Lucy and her little brother or sister. I can’t wait until I can guiltlessly take some time for myself because I “earned” it, having taken care of the kids all week. I’m anxious for when I can take them to the library, go on play dates, etc- at which point Lucy will probably be old enough to say, “Why can’t Daddy stay home with me?”