“Shouldn’t we sign them up for a sport or something?”
Picture my husband and me: parenting a preschooler and a toddler, still fighting sleepless nights, living in a new state and completely clueless of the culture of our new home. My husband grew up playing sports. No one in my large family did, so it really wasn’t on my radar. If I am being honest, the idea of adding something to my plate at that point in time was overwhelming, but I realized that, yes, most of their friends were already enrolled in something. So, we did too.
As they’ve gotten older, I’ve felt the pressure creep in many areas of parenting and my own life. We hit elementary age and were suddenly thrust into a whole new world of doubting ourselves. There were so many choices! We had both grown up next to the elementary school we went to. The concept of stressing out about where our kids would go to school and the worry about if we were making the right choice was so foreign to me. Ultimately, living across the street from schools has made our choices easy.
But peer pressure lurks in the background.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that occasionally I feel that worry creep up that I should have fought to get them into the “new” school like some of their friends, or pushed them more to go to the outdoor school that neither of them expressed interest in. This I have come to recognize is, deep down, more about me. All the moms I talk to worrying about school choices when I don’t feel the same. But should I? For now, I am content with no. My kids love walking across the street to their school, they love their friends, and that should be enough. I’m going to let it be and just say no to the stress.
“What are you going to do now?”
This is the question asked of stay at home moms dropping off their last babies off to kindergarten, and it is loaded with pressure. Pressure to have an answer to that question, to be doing something “more” with their life. The answer I left unsaid was that I needed some time to grieve the era we were closing the door on. The answers I gave went more along with what I assumed people expected to hear: I hope to find part time work, I’m thinking of going back to school, I’m excited to catch up on home projects.
Peer pressure is something we associate with adolescence and those difficult teen years. My oldest is in middle school now and I spend a good part of my time worrying about her. How will she do facing the pressure of peers with increasing influence and varying levels of freedom. Are we doing the right thing not letting her have a phone or social media even as “everyone” around her is getting one? Ironically, to make myself feel better I seek out others making the same choice.
That sneaky peer pressure!
Ultimately, I want to make parenting choices for myself and my family. It shouldn’t matter what everyone else is doing. I have become painfully aware over my years of parenting that the pressure doesn’t go away. As moms, we are constantly comparing ourselves to our peers and family and friends, and we feel the pressure to do and be things because of its invisible effect. It is hard both to recognize that we are falling victim to peer pressure and to break away from it. Lately, I have been feeling an internal desire to model for my kids how to fight it.
Parenting in a pandemic has really hammered this home for me.
Everyone had to make so many hard choices about school and life. When and how to return to the lives we led before the world shut down. It is hard to stick to choices when those around us are making different ones. We are still adjusting and readjusting as we go. Make your choices. Trust your gut. Don’t let doubt steal your confidence.