Like most mothers, I worry about my kids. With the first positive pregnancy test, I my parenting worries began: Could I raise decent humans, despite having little to no training other than having become a basically decent human myself? Never mind that a multitude of factors outside my control play into my kids’ development—I still feel responsible for how they turn out.
When my kids were little, I felt certain it had to get easier. How could I possibly sustain that level of work and worry for 18 years? Now that I have a teen and a tween, it’s different, but it’s not any easier. (And I’m beginning to suspect it doesn’t get easier when they reach 18, either.) My worries about how my kids will turn out and whether I’m a good-enough mom haven’t gone away.
Then and Now: Different But the Same
Some parenting worries have changed, but others simply become different versions of the same concerns I had when they were little.
Then: How can I get my baby to sleep through the night? Is he destined to be an insomniac?
Now: When will this kid ever wake up? How much of his life will he sleep through?
Then: My baby won’t eat her green beans! She can’t get enough sweet pears, but she won’t touch anything green. Will she be an unhealthy eater her whole life?
Now: My daughter seems to eat nothing but salads. Could she have an eating disorder?
Then: Can we afford to keep buying so many diapers? How many diapers can one baby need?!
Now: Can we afford to buy all this food? How much food can one teen consume?!
Then: I’m worn out from so much together time. My toddler won’t even let me go to the bathroom by myself! Is he ever going to become independent?
Now: My kid spends 99 percent of his time at home holed up in his room or on his phone. Why won’t he talk to me anymore?
Then: I can’t decide which preschool to enroll my child in. Does she need more structure? More independent time? What about more socialization? More academics?
Now: I don’t know where my kid should go to college. Would she do better in a smaller school? A bigger school with more diversity? Should she go somewhere competitive? Would she thrive in a more nurturing environment?
Then: My friend’s son already knows some of his letters and can read a few words. Is my son delayed?
Now: My friend’s son got inducted to the National Honors Society and was chosen captain of the soccer team. My son hasn’t done any of that. Will he get into a decent college?
Then: Am I a bad mom for letting my kid watch Barney every day?
Now: Am I a bad mom for letting my kid spend so much time on YouTube?
Then: My kid bit another kid at preschool. Will he grow up to be a bully?
Now: My kid sent a mean text to a classmate. Is he a bully?
Then: Will my daughter make any friends in kindergarten?
Now: My daughter has a lot of friends, but are they bad influence on her?
Then: Why do my little ones always fight over toys? How can I help them get along?
Now: Why do my kids criticize each other so much? How can I help them get along?
Then: Am I doing this all wrong? Am I going to somehow fundamentally screw up my kid?
Now: Am I doing this all wrong? Am I going to somehow fundamentally screw up my kid?
The answer to that last parenting worry is “probably not,” but it doesn’t mean I don’t still worry. Parenting is the most grueling job I’ve ever done and, despite putting in ridiculous amounts of work and endless worry, I have learned that I won’t ever do it all perfectly. And that’s okay, because I know I’m doing the best I can and they’re turning out to be pretty great humans.