After our daughter Everly was born, we were obsessed with the Wonder Weeks app. It was awesome. It helped us track when she may be in a developmental milestone, what she was learning and how that might show up in her actions and feelings.
As a licensed therapist who loves all things child development, it was super cool to know what was happening and to try and reframe hard times into developmental leaps and growing.
But over time, and with the increased anxiety and stress as a new mom — freshly in a pandemic and with a profound sense of dread — the app found its way into the heart of my shame and anxiety brain. In a time of constant change and insecurity (as a parent and person), I would do anything for a degree of certainty and control.
Suddenly, I was using the calendar to try and plan for leaps. I would look at their relative chart and make assumptions about what our lives would be like based on what could happen.
Whenever we had a hard day, I would get lost in the chase for “WHY”. Why was she upset? What was the leap? If the app didn’t show a leap, I would feel confused and insecure as a parent. What am I doing wrong?
I realized that the app was helpful — to a point. But if you are not careful, like anything, it could become an obsession. And the most important tool to help me understand my child was my child.
As Everly approaches three and I still find myself constantly looking for explanations or caught off guard when days feel hard “for no good reason,” I am reflecting a lot on what I can glean from these types of tools and what I need to leave behind.
What I am taking with me:
- Life is complex and ever-evolving. Your little one is going through a lot and as such, so are you. Not only are you helping take care of and guide them, but you are also going through your own evolution and grief. You aren’t failing if it feels hard. And guess what? Everyone has days they question becoming a caregiver. That’s not only normal but necessary. We can’t be 100% certain of any decision ever and the intense ebbs and flows within the world of parenting are ripe to leave you feeling that way more than once.
- Everyone struggles to adjust to parenthood. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be dozens of apps and blogs and Youtube channels dedicated to helping you find a system to parent. It is meant to be hard and no, others don’t have it figured out more than I do. We are all just doing the best we can with the information, energy and support we have in any given moment. And sometimes…well, a lot of times, we will get it wrong.
- You can reframe your mindset and focus on what they are learning or doing rather than the symptoms (not sleeping, irritability, crying) of their development. This helps you focus not only on the gain that comes with a developmental leap or milestone but also reminds you that these swings are temporary.
What I am leaving behind:
- Some days are just hard. Being a parent, especially to a newborn, is chaotic on the best day — and the toddler days, though different, definitely carry the same intensity. Both you and your little one will have days that suck — for
no other reason than they do.
- There isn’t a “right way” to leap.* Your kid will develop at the rate and pace they are meant to. Comparing your little one to a status sheet in an app or some blog post you read about developmental milestones does nothing but create shame and anxiety. Some things will happen earlier than anticipated. Some things will feel like they happen out of order. And some things will take longer for your child. Just imagine what it is like to wake up every day with a new brain and body. I have a hard enough time managing my life now, as a 35-year-old woman and I am still developing. Let’s show the little ones the same grace and celebrate their becoming rather than rank it based on an app.
- I don’t need an app to tell me my child is communicating their needs. This one is tricky AND absolutely true. Your kids aren’t consciously waking up asking themselves, “How can I make their day harder?” They are just trying to figure out how to exist in this world they are still brand new to. Listen to them when they communicate. And, if, in that moment, they are communicating through tantrums or interrupted sleep, be there. Give yourself a moment to feel your own feelings as that is not only necessary but helpful for you and them and then be with them in whatever is happening.
Now I turn to you:
- Have you ever found yourself in this place — something that was designed to support you only worked to make you feel more anxious and insecure?
- What have you found helpful to navigate the constant change that is raising children and supporting them through intense stages of development and growth?
- How can we be a better support to each other in these moments?
Every day I have to make a conscious choice to show up as I am and be the best version of myself I can be at that moment. I can’t plan for every cold, every challenging moment, and every tantrum. I can only anchor on who and what I want to be held accountable to and for and remind myself my best is always good enough.
*If you are concerned about major milestone delays or other aspects of your child’s development, contact your pediatrician to discuss this.