You can master the challenges of motherhood.

PHOTO Credit: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

The influences on mothers today are mostly ingrained from their own childhood memories and abetted by comments on social media, from friends, and other women in your child’s playgroups. The result for many women is a constant striving to be the perfect mother. This likely means bending to the opinions and advice of others and paying special attention to those who imply that you might be doing motherhood wrong.

Even if you feel you can handle the pressures of being good at motherhood you probably worry that you are failing to meet your own expectations. You may tell yourself that you don’t care what others think or insinuate about your parenting, but there’s a part of you that likely does. Most mothers, especially first-time mothers, are insecure about some things—or even most things. 

Perhaps you had an ideal childhood and a mother you adored, and deep inside you is the desire to repeat the experience for your child. And then, boom—you’ve hit a real issue, for example problems with breastfeeding. You are miserable because you can’t meet current breast milk recommendations and you watch friends in envy as they sail through motherhood challenges with no difficulty…or so it seems. 

Hard Not to Compare

To some degree comparisons are unavoidable. Your child isn’t talking or walking yet, but his peers are well on their way. At the playground, you watch as your friend’s child hops on the see-saw and yours cowers and refuses. 

Sometimes authority figures in your child’s life add to your insecurity. Teachers may make off-putting or even non-sensical remarks about your child’s behavior or academic progress and it leaves you wondering what you did wrong. Now you start to worry that you didn’t read to your child enough or maybe you should have given your child more swimming lessons, so she’d jump fearlessly into the pool just like the other kids do. 

What gets lost in this self-afflicted motherhood anxiety is a simple fact: children, including yours, have their own temperaments and built-in traits. These have a clear say-so in how children behave, what they like and don’t like, do and don’t do and so much more and the opinions that others feel free to spout about your parenting are actually irrelevant. It’s highly likely that you’ll be better at mothering—and for sure happier—if you stop listening to the critics who are all too happy to imply or tell you outright what you “should” be doing. Keep in mind when you hear this idle chatter that children reach milestones when they are ready and you are the one who truly knows your child. 

Bet on Yourself

Instead of giving in to worry about your parenting or your child, or about something you can’t or don’t want to do, look to focus on your child’s pluses, perhaps her warm, loving nature, or her aptitude in music or art. Turn away from what social media, relatives or friends want to thrust on you—the mold they want you and your child to follow or fit into.

Children thrive when they are loved and feel secure. Extra months of breastfeeding, for instance, or an over-the top birthday party you felt you should have given to keep up with what your friends were doing or the math your son couldn’t quite master right away will be forgotten in time. To meet the challenges of motherhood, the skill you want to develop is the ability to shake off advice that makes you feel insecure, inadequate or unhappy so that you are free to double down on what you believe is best for you and your child.