Parents do a lot. We manage homes and jobs and children and friendships and relationships. Any one of those items could (and should) be considered a full-time emotional endeavor and, as we're doing all that, we worry. We worry about our ability to continue to manage. We worry about our kids choking on grapes (they're the size and shape of a toddler's trachea, for heaven's sake). And, perhaps above and beyond all else, we worry whether or not we're good enough. That doubt gnaws and aches and settles into the fiber of our being and, in the end, there are doubts even experienced moms can't shake.
I am of the school that believes "If you're worried about how you're parenting, you probably don't need to worry much at all." If you're self-aware enough to have doubt, you're probably self-aware enough to make an effort to be the best mom you can possibly be. In addition to all the amazing things moms do, I also believe our kids sense the effort we put in, even when things don't go the way we'd like (or the way they'd like, really). Sure, children aren't always appreciative on an effort-to-effort, day-to-day basis (which, real talk, can get demoralizing and annoying), but I think the cumulative mental labor comes across in the end and, well, they silently tip their metaphorical cap in our direction.
We often keep our doubts to ourselves, because sometimes we even think that having doubt at all is already a sign of failure or weakness. The truth of the matter is, usually the creeping sense of worry and insecurity we feel is shared by a great many other moms. I talked with a group of mothers who have been at this whole parenting thing for a while now and here's what they had to say about self-doubt, the feat of failure and all the insecurity that comes along with parenthood:
"Shit! Is this going to cause future therapy?!"
"Will my kid tell me (or my partner) the important things regarding her outside life, thoughts, and feelings?"
"If I were to sit back and think about the one situation that causes me the most doubt, it regards my time with postpartum depression. Did I cause some sort of disconnect with my son (although we seem fine)? Would he have been a different child if I had been closer and more connected to him? Did he feel my anxiety and strong desire to escape it all? My son is such a great kid, he definitely has some very interesting personality traits which I always wondered if I was the cause of these certain stressors for him. [It] probably was not the case, but that is the one thing that will wake me up out of a deep sleep and hurt my heart with doubt."
"I constantly worry about whether or not I'm feeding my daughter a well-rounded, nutritionally-sound diet and doubt whether or not she gets enough of all of the required vitamins/minerals/etc. ... She's not picky. But there are days when I'm like, 'I'm pretty sure all she's had to eat today are complex carbohydrates and a Flintstones vitamin: when is the last time she ate a vegetable?' This may or may not be slightly (or majorly) exacerbated by the fact that she's 5 years old and has yet to solidly hit 30 pounds. (And I know there are a lot of reasons why this is the case and it's not for lack of trying and feeding her well on my part. Still, the doubt creeps in!)"
"I am constantly concerned with development. My son is autistic, so baby sister's milestones are under a magnifying glass. I should be enjoying her babyhood more than I am, but there's always this worry that I can not shake."
"Am I doing the best I can? Will I be able to guide them into becoming good and happy people?"
"I worry that my kids will end up in therapy, traumatized by something I said or did. I also worry that we won't remain close when they get older."
"'Is she getting too much screen time?'I keep that APA recommendation of no more than two hours a day in my head constantly, and my daughter definitely gets over that most days. However, she is eloquent, artistic, kind, empathetic, and knows her letters, numbers, and shapes like she should. She has no problem turning her attention away from screens and shows interest in lot of other things. See? See how I am rationalizing myself? But simply put...without TV and the games on her Kindle, shit wouldn't get done. At all. It helps us get ready in the morning and helps her settle down after school while we cook. It's also a great distraction while we clean!"
"I don't know if it counts as a doubt, but I have this constant worry that my kids are going to die. Like, we'll be in the middle of a happy moment and I get this flash of dread. It's not because I don't think I'm keeping them safe, it's just the knowledge that bad things happen and the fear of losing them."
"Am I doing this whole parenting thing right... Every aspect of it?"
"I constantly doubt if I'm feeding him enough, the right things (though, for a 5-year-old, yogurt and corn dogs are normal breakfast items, I think?!). [I doubt if I'm] giving him enough intellectual time, and whether or not he is doing well at school and away from home with manners. Then, conversations like, 'Mom, what does on purpose mean?' or, 'Why are clouds dark when it rains?' or, 'How is cement made?' happen and I'm reassured that he's doing just fine. Of course the corn dog breakfast isn't great, but I'll take what I can get."
"Do they feel loved?"
"'Am I really giving them what they need?'
I know I'm trying my best, but did I make the right decision about this or that? Especially when it's health or mental health related. And I worry, worry, worry, worry that I caused food allergies and that I'm going to do something wrong and trigger my kids to have autoimmune disease like me."
"Am I giving you enough attention? Am I coddling you too much?"
"Is the woman I'm raising going to be a strong, independent, intelligent, and body-positive woman or am I doing this wrong? Do I need to cut out the princesses and stop telling her she's pretty? Do I keep on saying, 'You're so..... good at math' or, 'You're so.... trying so hard' or who knows? At some point in about 20 years, people will start writing articles about how parents of our generation held on to the concept of grit far too long and took it too far and it's basically our generation's version of every kid getting a trophy."