Why We Compare Our Babies (A Theory)

Hayden and I started going to a weekly mommy and me class last month, where babies can crawl around or walk, throw balls, listen to music, and watch their moms and dads get ridiculously excited when they learn a new skill. It’s been really fun for us to get out and spend some time together, just the two of us.

There’s just one thing that happens when you’re around that many other babies. Mommas sometimes start to compare.

Fortunately, everyone’s comments are usually nothing but well-intentioned and really mean no harm — but still, it occasionally makes you pause when you hear some of the things moms tell each other.

At our most recent class, a couple of fellow moms consoled me and assured me not to worry that Hayden, now 14 months old, wasn’t walking yet.

The age range of the mommy and me class is from 10-18 months, with most of the babies being on the younger side. Most of those babies are not only younger than Hayden at this point, but they’re also walking. On more than one occasion though, I’ve had three other moms ask me if he’s walking yet. When I say no, they respond with a sympathetic, “That’s okay, all babies are different.”

After having three of my own, I know full well that all babies are different. All babies roll over, eat, walk, crawl, talk and smile at a different age. Some are picky eaters, some don’t take to breastfeeding, some consider the pacifier their favorite friend, while others would prefer their thumb. My first walked at 15 months, my second walked just after his first birthday. We all seem to know this about babies — yet we all still seem to inherently compare, no matter how hard we try not to. Believe me, I’m guilty of it too. Just this morning I swapped reading progress of our first graders with another mom. I even catch myself comparing my children to one another.

So why the need to continually check in and compare apples to oranges? The only thing I can come up with, is that no matter how many children we have, each stage of development is new. We as mothers want the absolute best for our children, and the unfamiliar is scary sometimes, even for the most seasoned of mothers.

Swapping stories, asking questions, and even comparing children, serves as our sort of mental checklist to try and figure out the unknown. 

How many times as a mother have you caught yourself worrying, and then trying to reconcile that worry with something familiar to you?

For example, I know my baby isn’t walking yet, but I remember my friend Ali, whose baby was a late crawler, turned out to also be a late walker. So phew, I really don’t think I have anything to worry about!

This is what we do as mothers. We worry, and then we try to figure out how to ease our worries.

So the next time a fellow mom asks how well your baby is eating solids, or if he or she has learned any baby signs yet, instead of getting defensive, try to consider where she’s coming from. Perhaps it’s not about bragging rights or to cause worry, but just her way of easing her mind or gathering more knowledge for this journey of motherhood. Because as you know, motherhood is a journey not only filled with joy and happiness, but also worry and anxiety.

I plan to take my own advice the next time another mom in class comments on how shy and clingy my little Hayden is, for the fifth time. I’ll simply reply, “Oh, I’m not worried about my little momma’s boy. All babies are different!”

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