Sometimes I wish she would quieten down. Occasionally I wish I had listened to her. Mostly I try to ignore her. She is my inner competitive parent.
Her voice keeps asking my why my baby isn’t crawling. She keeps telling me my daughter should be eating lumpier foods and bigger meals. She keeps reminding me that my son at the same age was cruising round the furniture and almost walking.
Her voice asks me why my son still has his ongoing health problems. She questions why he won’t eat anything other than plain pasta and porridge. She reminds me that while we’ve made progress on these fronts, things should be a lot better than they are.
She questions whether I’m handling tantrums and the terrible twos correctly. She wonders out loud whether I’m just getting food for babies and toddlers all wrong. In her quietest voice she asks me if I’m simply no good at this thing that is parenting.
Insistently, and still in that voice, she asks whether I’ll ever be good enough for them, my two babies.
My inner competitive parent seeds enough self-doubt in my mind that I don’t need to compare myself to other parents. I’ve realised, this constant comparing, this constant competing – I’m only doing it with myself.
I have no parents at playgroups who I compare notes with regarding how many hours a day our babies nap for. I have no NCT mum friends who I share beef goulash recipes with while watching their babies down whole bowls of organic home-made lumpy food. I have no peers who I admire for their constant ability to entertain their children. I have no Pintrest boards full of mums who craft for hours on end with their toddlers and never seem to get frazzled.
You see, I don’t compare myself to the other mums. I realised years ago it was futile. I knew, after the birth of my first child, that every child would progress differently. I knew, then, that every mother would follow her instincts and bring up her child in the way that was right for them. I knew then that trying to make the yummiest scones for playgroup or trying to judge whether my child was smiling first was a complete and utter waste of time.
But now I have two children, only 18 months apart with the youngest nearly 11 months, there’s a new kind of competition at stake. I’m just about winning the battle not to compare my two children to each other, even internally. But I’m losing the battle against the mother I want to be.
I know it’s enough to love them with every inch of my being. I know it’s enough to live and breathe them. I know it’s enough to always put them first, do anything for them, and give up everything I have if it’s what they need. I know that wanting the world for them, that trying to be the best I can for them, that constantly questioning myself and trying to do better for them – I know all this is enough. I know wanting to teach them to be kind and loving and gentle and fair and just is enough. I know that inspiring them to follow their dreams and fight for their beliefs is enough.
But I still cant seem to quiet her, my inner competitive parent. She just keeps asking, am I doing this right? Am I as good as the mother I want to be? Is it really good enough?