It’s been a while since I last had the opportunity to “blog”, but since my mat leave came to an end in February, I quickly fell back into the ever-so busy and demanding responsibilities of work, leaving me very little personal time. I have caught up with my grading and corrections and now have some time to myself! Wow – what to do with a whole hour? I should probably be cooking or doing laundry, but instead I have chosen to write about something that has been on my mind for some time. My almost 14-month old will probably wake up from her nap shortly, but in the meantime, I am relishing in the quiet and listening to contemporary jazz as I collect my thoughts.
Motherhood is really a wild thing, and believe me, I claim to be no expert! Before my daughter was born, I was slammed with all kinds of personal questions, from “are you going to breastfeed?” (and yes, I still get asked if I was or am!) to unsolicited “advice” from many different people, some whom I barely even knew!
It seems that there is this chain of interrogations that takes place in a young woman’s life. It begins with, “when are you getting married?” followed by “when are you having kids?” to “when are you having another one?” (as if G-d forbid women should have the right to stop after one – oh, the horror!), and so on…
As of late, I have recently discovered that these aren’t the only private probes that women have to deal with regularly.
The minute my daughter hit the 1-year old mark, everyone started asking whether or not she had begun walking, as if 12 months is the “magic” age where that’s just “supposed” to happen. I always feel as if I have to somehow justify my response and prove that she is getting there, which is just absurd! Yes, she’s “cruising”, and yes, she stands without support for 5.25 seconds… Is that alright?? As I said, I claim to be no expert on motherhood and I definitely still consider myself a bit of a rookie. But I do know a thing or two about child development since teaching that to adults is my livelihood. I am constantly reminding my students that “every child develops at their own rate”, yet somehow I cannot seem to muster up those words to anyone who asks, for fear I will sound defensive. But then again, I have no reason to be – or do I? The last time I was asked whether or not my child was walking yet, someone chimed in, “don’t worry, she’ll get there”. The thing is, I am NOT worried!! And telling me not to worry implies that there should be a little bit of doubt and concern somewhere in the back of my head. My daughter has a mouthful of teeth and molars that are emerging, while some of her friends have much fewer. Does that mean she will be a better “chewer” and eater than other children her age? I didn’t walk until I was 17 months old, but if you ask me, I think I turned out relatively unscathed.
I don’t know when child development became a competition, but I find that rather than celebrating the small day-to-day victories with our children, we are constantly comparing them to other people’s children.
From a professional standpoint, I can say with great certainty that if we are doing this to our kids now, they are definitely doomed later on in life.
The other incessant question I am also faced with is, “when are you putting her in daycare?” as if that is also an automatic given at the 12-month mark. I am fortunate to teach in the evenings, which leaves my days to spend with my daughter. Some women don’t have a choice and simply have to put their child in daycare once their mat leave comes to an end. Luckily, I do have a choice and I have chosen to keep my daughter at home with me for now. But again, this is something that I always feel needs to be explained. Do I sometimes second guess myself? Absolutely! Is she bored? Is she being stimulated enough? Am I offering her enough variety of things to do throughout the week? These are questions that are constantly racing through my head. But no matter how exhausted I may feel going into work in the evenings, no matter how bruised and sore my knees are from chasing her around the floor all day, and no matter how much extra coffee I need to drink daily to sustain myself, I wouldn’t trade a second of this for the world.
This is precious time that I know I will never get back, so when someone asks me about my plans for daycare, I don’t welcome being made to feel as if I am doing my daughter a disservice.
Your plans for your child might work for you, and right now, this is what works for us. She is very sociable and is developing all those fine and gross motor skills that she is “supposed” to develop at her age, and for the moment, I am enjoying the daily activities we do together with the knowledge and comfort that she has the rest of her life to be in school. This constant judgement and comparison needs to stop! We are all in this journey together and should be offering support and encouragement to one another rather than imposing our own beliefs onto other mothers.
I can now hear my little “energizer bunny” slowly starting to stir and wake up. Her batteries are now recharged! At least I managed to finish writing this piece. I think I’ll go into the kitchen and make that second cup of coffee now…
Heather holds an M.A. in Child Studies from Concordia University and is a professor at CDI College in the department of Early Childhood Education. She has worked with countless children in numerous daycares and in theatre settings, and often reflects on these experiences as she raises her own daughter.