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Don’t stress, Mama — there is no normal

Motherly Love


Calah Alexander - published on 05/30/17

Just ignore Susie next door, who thinks your son is too big to need a diaper.

When I talk to first-time expectant parents, I always say the same thing: “Don’t read the baby books!”

I read the baby books with my first one, and obsessed over every milestone. Was she sitting up on time? Eating enough? How about her reflexes and vocabulary? And her head is really big — how big is too big?

Over at ScaryMommy, Joelle Wisler recently wrote a post about her small babies and the pressure she felt about them not being “normal”:

People will ask you if you are feeding them. Of course, I freaking feed them. I spend my whole life thinking about what to feed them. And even if your doctor continues to reassure you that your child is following their own growth path, if you’re an overachiever, you’ll still want to get them fatter.

She goes on to detail experiences that I didn’t know existed, such as celebrating the day her 2-year-old finally made it onto the growth chart or how stressed she got when they got sick and didn’t eat. And she notes how the “annoying” comments of friends, family, and strangers only added to her stress.

Read more:
A Story of Hope for Parents with Children with Developmental Disabilities

Luckily, my first kid stuck pretty close to the timelines laid out for me by the gurus at What to Expect. My second one, not so much. I stressed over her giant head (so big it couldn’t be plotted on the growth chart) and her tiny stature (10th percentile for height). I worried when she didn’t say a word by her first birthday, and was straight-up panicking by the time she finally said “shoe” at 15 months. I was sure something was wrong with her — after all, isn’t that what the charts and milestones are for? To tell us what’s normal, so we know when our kids aren’t?

The cool thing about having 5 kids in 10 years is that you quickly get too tired to check developmental milestones. By the time I got one who didn’t talk until he was 2, I was over it. Our pediatrician wasn’t worried, so neither was I.

It was harder to get over the comments from others, though. Judgments veiled as concern, like “Oh, is he younger than he looks?” or “Have you been to a speech therapist?” or even “Is there something wrong with him?”

After 11 years of parenting, I’ve learned what they should tell you on day 1: there is no normal. The charts and milestones are based on averages and best guesses. The reason the pediatrician plots growth is to make sure that your kids are growing consistently, because jumping up or down several percentiles at once can indicate a problem. The reason they track development is because many impairments or delays can benefit from early intervention.

Read more:
How caring for her disabled daughter changed this mom’s life for the better

But the reason the pediatrician tracks these things is because he or she has the big picture: complete health history, family history, and patterns in siblings. Susie next door, who thinks your son is too big to need a diaper, doesn’t know any of these things. Ignore her.

Same with the books. They write those to make money off anxious parents — ignore them. If you’re worried, talk to your child’s doctor instead of Google MD. But don’t obsess over milestones or stress yourself out by comparing your kid to someone else’s.

Being a mom is hard enough. We already spend our days feeding, clothing, bathing, holding, teaching, scolding, and loving our kids, and our nights worrying if it was enough. Don’t add the pressure of having “normal” kids on top of everything else, because there is no normal. There’s just kids.

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