When I was pregnant, I heard talk about milestones, but didn’t really give them much thought.
At that time, my main concerns were getting to my due date, managing the nasty pain in my pelvis, trying to stay awake past 8:00 p.m., packing my hospital bag, and ensuring I had everything ready at home.
I figured, there’s enough on my brain at the moment, I’ll deal with the ‘milestones’ when we get there. And to no one’s surprise, we got there real quick.
First off, I want to be very clear that I’m not a medically trained professional and whole heartedly understand the purpose of milestones — to ensure your child is developing at a healthy rate.
But as a first time mom, the “Is she doing (specific task)?” question from family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even strangers, when my daughter wasn’t quite there yet, caused me to question my abilities as a mother. Even if their question was directly followed with, “Don’t worry, she will soon.”
And to multiple my worries, it seemed like every other post on Instagram would feature a child similar in age to mine accomplishing said milestone.
I knew in my heart it wasn’t a competition, but it sometimes felt that way. And being a very competitive person, who strives to always do my best for myself and others, it didn’t sit well.
It started from the early months with questions like:
“Is she sleeping through the night?” (the absolute worst question to ask a sleep-deprived mom, FYI).
“Is she taking a bottle?”
“Can she lift her head yet?”
And continued through the first year with additional questions:
“Is she sitting up?”
“Babbling or understanding words?”
And the list goes on and on.
I understand most people don’t mean any harm by milestone questions. I’m even guilty of asking them. It’s easy to ask these types of questions, especially after you’ve had your own children and easily think back on those special, big memories that usually end up in a baby book.
But for those first-time mothers (or second, third, or fourth), who are constantly questioning if they’re doing enough for their child, I’d challenge you to rephrase your questions. While this can be a bit of a brain game to stray away from the milestone questions, here are some ideas:
Try These Questions Instead
“What has your baby been doing lately that brings you the most joy?”
“What is your favorite thing about this stage?”
“How is he doing?” (you can always ask how mom is doing too — much appreciated).
“What is she into currently?”
“What are some of his favorite toys, movies, stuffed animals, foods, etc.?”
“How are they adjusting to daycare, school, or extracurricular activities?”
If a child has reached a milestone and mom is excited to share it, these questions still offer room for those answers, which 100% should be celebrated!
But if mom is feeling a little down in the dumps on a certain situation or skill, these questions won’t trigger the worry meter upwards. Instead, it will push them to look at the many positives of their child. And if they want to share their worries or concerns, that’s great too. As their sounding board — listen, encourage, and don’t compare.
My daughter recently turned 15 months old and for months the other kids at gymnastics have been walking and running around her while she instead turns on her ‘turbo boosters’ and happily crawls and climbs wherever she needs to go.
I leave class telling myself repeatedly ‘don’t compare’ and am reassured by my husband that she’ll be running with them when she’s ready.
But it can still be challenging not to compare. And not to worry about her achieving these important milestones. Fortunately, conversations on how she brings us so much joy make the worries fade away.
And we worry because we care.