So, funny story. I have twins. It’s great and part of having twins was joining my local multiple birth association just before I welcomed my girls into the world nearly three years ago. Being a part of this group has given me so much support and love and friendship and I have never taken it for granted. I love my fellow multi-mums and they have just always been there for me.
As a parent, and as much as you try not to, you hold yourself up to other parents and compare and contrast. From parenting ability to the developmental milestones of your children. Sometimes it’s done innocently enough, telling your friend what happened in your house over the course of the time since you last caught up. Sometimes it’s a humble (or not so humble) brag about something fabulous your kid/s did or said. But sometimes it’s a conscious assessment of where someone else’s children are compared to yours or vice versa.
I have recently been caught out in the latter. There is another mum who has girls who are about six months older than my two. I look up to her as the one that came before me, who has conquered this mountain of multiples madness before me and who has lived to tell the tale. Funnily enough, my youngest singleton (yes, that’s what a single child pregnancy and subsequent bub is called) is a couple of months older than her youngest singleton – and we both had boys as our third children. But I digress.
Right from the first time I met her and her girls, this woman became a strange combination of role model, warning beacon and reassuring voice of reason. Not for anything in particular that she did, just because there were a lot of similarities between our children – for example, her girls were born at term as mine were, were breastfed as mine were and were on track developmentally as mine were. So when her girls did something, I always thought to myself “look out, that’ll be you in about six months”.
From birthdays to developmental milestones to the clothes sizes and hair styles. It was almost like I was peering into a strange crystal ball that showed me what the future might be like. Our girls personalities and respective backstories are largely very different but sure enough almost six months on from when I saw something her girls were doing and thought “that’ll be me soon”, it was.
But here is where I caught myself up in some weird reverse peer pressure parenting trap. Less than a year ago, her girls came to playgroup with knickers on and I was in awe. I was afraid that it was too soon (remembering that at this stage I was newly pregnant with my third and although toilet training was on my radar, my girls were showing absolutely no signs of being ready). But it must’ve filed into my mind because about six months later I decided that I too would give the ol’ toilet training a whirl.
I tried a little bit before my third was born and then a little bit afterwards and a couple of months after that. Each try was met with some successes and some accidents. “No big deal” I’d think to myself, “we’ll try again soon”. Until eventually maybe a month ago now, one of my girls asked to wear knickers. We’d been casually having nappy-free knickers mornings here and there so it wasn’t entirely out of the blue – but it was the first time that it was driven by one of the girls. So we had a nappy-free knickers morning, nappies for day nap and then back into knickers for the afternoon until bath time.
We did this for a few days and then they started falling asleep for their day naps with knickers on and that was the end of day nappies all together while they were at home with me for four days a week. We did outings with knickers, we had no accident days most days and it was great. Then daycare got onboard and we were even sending them to daycare in knickers and although daycare was reporting more accidents initially, we started to see a real improvement.
So then last week we went to playgroup and my two were in their knickers, but still at that stage in the toilet training journey where if they say they need to go, you take them – no questions (I literally tossed my third at a friend and ran for the toilet door where one of my girls was claiming to need the toilet). My friend was at playgroup with her girls and her newbie too. It was great to see her and see how her girls have grown since the last time I saw them, which was maybe a couple of months ago, just before she had her newbie.
As happens with toilet training toddlers, my girls and I were in the toddler friendly toilet at playgroup and in came my friend with her girls. We got to chatting and it turns out I’d made some crazy assumptions that I’d then held myself accountable to, that were actually incorrect. You see, I’d assumed that her girls were completely toilet trained and ready to roll when I saw them less than a year ago and so going off my usual “in six months’ time, that’ll be you” theory, I’d experimented with my girls and their toilet training. All within their capabilities, no force or undue expectations were placed mind you.
But the actual case is that my friend’s girls were still in the process of toilet training and have only recently celebrated their first nappy free week (except for night nappies). This is a huge achievement for any parent and I’m so excited for her, because let’s face it – two less nappies to change, pay for and dispose of is a great relief when it comes to the parenting burden. I marveled with her in that toddler toilet about how I had incorrectly assumed that her girls were completely toilet trained months ago and how she had inspired me to try with my girls.
As a parent, you definitely hold yourself accountable to other parents and their achievements – whether it’s the anonymous blogger, a friend next door or your best friend. If it wasn’t for my friend, I would never have had the confidence to try toilet training or the confidence that it would work with two or even that I could handle all of the challenges that toilet training brings.
But as a parent you also make assumptions about how everyone else is performing and sometimes that does place unnecessary pressure on you and the job ahead. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have given toilet training a go had I not seen my friend’s girls in knickers that day, or even if I’d heard from her the actual state of play in their household at that stage in the process. But I am saying that the assumptions that I made were wrong and did probably have me assessing myself against an imaginary guideline of what should be happening.
It just so happened that my children were ready for toilet training at that time. I won’t lie though, the thoughts that crossed my mind during the course of the last few months preparing myself mentally for it were “if my friend’s girls can do it, my two should be able to” and “I’m positive my girls are behind my friend’s girls when it comes to toilet training”. Heck, I even held myself up against a YouTuber and her toilet training successes with her boy singleton, which is another ballgame entirely.
So, although I believe that it’s impossible not to most of the time – as a parent, you need to try to be kind to yourself and not judge yourself too harshly when comparing yourself to other parents. I do it all the time and it’s not that I do it in a mean or negative way but I am guilty of doing so. It is natural to compare and contrast all aspects of our lives to others, but ultimately we have to listen to our kids, our guts and our heads when it comes to making the best decisions when it comes to our parenting.
I don’t know when I’ll officially declare “my children are toilet trained” because I think no nappies entirely day or night with 95% success in the accidents arena is probably where I truly see “toilet trained” to be at. But I will say that we are happily experiencing nappy-free knickers days with only nappies at night at the moment and I can only hope that we continue on in this way in the days and weeks to come.