How to Deal with Self Doubt?

Updated on March 27, 2016
L.B. asks from Carefree, AZ
21 answers

A sibling of mine recently welcomed their first child. For as long as I have had kids there have been subtle references that indicate that this sibling and their spouse look down upon my parenting style. I actually think I have done a pretty good job so far.

While I am trying not to be....truth is....I am hurt. As they are a new parent, I know their ego is ultra inflated at this point.

Parenting is no easy task and we all know that. Sometimes as parents we can barely keep our heads above water. I am embarrassed that my sibling has treated me this way and I wish I had spoken up for myself.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for the replies...but I think I am good now. I understand your points and will consider them.

More Answers


answers from Norfolk on

It's amazing how we give our best parenting advice before we have kids.
Once kids come along - most off that advice goes right out the window.
The baby has nothing to do with this - welcome away!
The new parents are about to have a rude awakening - and are going to have to adjust their views quite a bit.
Try not to laugh too hard or in their faces.

We ALL have different parenting styles - and not everything that works with one kid will work with the next.
If what you're doing is working well for you and your family - you can politely tell critics exactly where they can shove their advice - and you don't feel hurt about it at all.
Parenting also helps us grow thicker skins - you let this stuff slide off you and carry no burden over it.

Sorry it didn't work out.
It's nice to talk things over but some things I think need some professional help in order to come to a resolution.
It can take a very long time to overcome an abusive childhood.
My Mom is 80 - and there are still things that bother her even though her parents and sibling have been dead for a long time.
Some scars you carry with you forever.
Please see a therapist and keep regular sessions until you feel better and much less doubtful about yourself.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Give them a little time as parents. Those without kids always think they know everything about having perfect children. My youngest brother used to ask me why I couldn't control my two very very active little boys. They were not bad just active and into everything. Only 15 months apart The short answer was I was exhausted. The other true answer was I was ok with their questions and active on the go behaviors. Fast forward about 15 years younger brother has 3 kids within 6 years. He called me and said I'm sorry. When I asked for what he said everything I ever said about your kids and how you raised them. I get it now.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I don't understand your SWH -- I skimmed the responses and most of them supported you, essentially saying that most of the uninitiated think they are a great parent until they actually have kids, and then they get a big wake up call and are forced to eat their words.

I'm not sure why you feel that you were not supported, since most responses supported you. Maybe you should read them again.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Edited to reference your brother - sorry!

I can understand where you're coming from, a bit. Let me tell you about my sister and me. I was the first of my siblings to have children and my oldest was 11 when my older sister had her first. She and her husband are both very successful, live a very comfortable life and are able to provide their children with more opportunities than I am able to provide to mine (frequent vacations, private schools, etc.). I'm not jealous of their success because I know it's the result of a lot of hard work, self-discipline and good decision-making. Like with you and your brother, there was a long history of subtle, snarky jabs over the years about how my children behaved, what they ate, whether or not their manners were up to her standards, etc. all delivered with the implication that *she* would do better, and that her children would always have impeccable manners, be gracious guests, would eat anything presented to them, would never need a nap at an inopportune time, wouldn't cry or whine or fuss, etc.

As you can imagine, real life is different and her kids are...normal kids! One has selective hearing and ignores much of what my sister says, the 4 year old has yet to make it through a holiday dinner without needing to leave the table due to getting bored or acting up, they're both picky eaters, one is pouty....I love it! They are normal, adorable, sweet, loving, imperfect kids with quirks and limits like every other kid, mine included. I certainly don't say anything but in my head, I sometimes think "now you know what it's really like" and every now and again, she'll actually come to me for advice or reassurance that something is normal and gets better, or that I saw something similar in one of my kids and thought it worth getting checked out, etc.

I think that you'll find that your brother comes down to earth when dealing with a crying, fussy, poopy baby. What's more humbling than parenthood, right? Even if they can hire an army of help (like my sister did) at the end of the day, they are still parents just like you and has no idea what's coming just like you didn't and will have to figure it out and do their best, just like you. He may not ever acknowledge that he was judging you or apologize for his comments, but my guess is that as he settles into the reality that no child is perfect, he'll treat you with a little more respect and will hold his tongue on the snide comments, which might help you heal your relationship.

Another thing to consider is why their comments bother you. My sister's didn't really bother me because I knew that if she ever had kids, she would realize how unrealistic her expectations were and get off of her high horse. My other siblings and I used to joke about it (and still do). I was confident that I was doing a good job and that while my kids certainly have their challenges, I was confident that I was equipped to help them meet those challenges. Don't let their comments make you feel insecure. If you've been at this for 14 years with no disasters, you're doing more than fine.

My advice to you is to go through the motions of welcoming your niece or nephew - send a gift, visit if they live nearby, and let yourself fall in love with the baby. Be kind to your brother and his wife even if they is still obnoxious and have faith that they'll come around when they realize that parenting is a lot harder than they thought it would be.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

It's easy to criticize another person's parenting before you have kids of your own. My guess is that your sibling is in for a rude awakening.

I do understand. It's not easy to listen to things people say or looks people give you, especially when your child is having a bad day or having a meltdown.

Consider the source, right? Your sibling had never been a parent before and really has absolutely no clue. So anything said really should be taken with a grain of salt.

Hold your head high. You have done your best to be the best parent your children need. But also be happy for them. They are beginning and amazing (and sometimes very difficult) journey. Be happy for them. Smile. Don't offer unsolicited advice, and try really hard not to be a "know it all." Just enjoy the new baby and be happy for them. Chances are, even if they never admit it, they will have a moment when the realize it just isn't as easy or straight forward as they originally thought.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I've always said that I was the perfect parent right up to the point where I actually had kids. At this point your sibling has been parenting in theory and believe me parenting in theory is so much easier than dealing with that 3 yr old face down on the floor in the middle of the cereal section at the grocery store.

Don't worry about not sticking up for yourself. Sometimes our siblings are the hardest people to deal with because of our long history with them. Your parenting style works for your family so continue with what works and let them figure out that they aren't perfect in a year or so.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Well it sounds as if you have a history maybe dating back to your difficult childhood. So if you're bringing feelings of doubt that are just your own, from childhood, those you have to own.

But as far as being critiqued or hearing the odd comment - that's pretty natural. My first 2 were boys and were active. My girlfriends had girls who would sit and play dollies or read. They thought my kids were high on sugar or something because my boys were physical. Later they had boys and they got it. You have to be pretty thick skinned - I'm sure you've run into this before in your 14 years of parenting.

I am the youngest so when I had children, my siblings' kids were much older and they just kept silent only offering advice if I asked. My own self doubt at times made ME take things personally. Did I think they were judging me? Yes. But that was my problem. I took things too personally. My confidence increased as I grew more experienced. Everyone parents their own kids in their way. When we stop comparing and are just confident in our own abilities we let the comments or our insecurities go.

Welcome the baby. They will understand it's tough soon enough and be the bigger person and don't be told you so, just be understanding.

ETA: One thing I do when I feel hurt is to say "Did this person intend to hurt me?" typically the answer is no of course. Your brother I doubt is trying to hurt you. So then you let it go. It could be you're overreacting or he just said something because he's a know it all. But that's helpful to me if I feel slighted.

ETA #2 - Realized why this sounds familiar - my friend is going through something similar. In her case, they all were abused by an alcoholic single parent growing up. So none of them really respect boundaries because they didn't grow up with any. So maybe this is the case here. Maybe your brother pushes yours and crosses the line. It's up to you to enforce boundaries. If you haven't, that would explain your pent up resentment. Just a thought.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Let this go. Truly. Just let it go.

A person without kids passes judgement on your parenting style. It happens every day. But that person doesn't walk in your shoes. They can't know what it's like to be you. So ignore it.

And when they hit a rough spot as parents (and they will, because we all do), smile to yourself and use all your willpower to refrain from reminding them that they were going to have perfect children that resulted from their perfect parenting.

In the meantime, love on the innocent baby who will totally change her parents' lives.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Your sibling is ONLY at the beginning of the parenting process. As you mentioned, he is at the inflated, "I can do no wrong" phase of parenting. His time will come. They always do. Parenting IS challenging. It's supposed to be. There is no reference manual and most of us have our childhood experiences that we use as a reference point.

That being said, the big issue OR most important issue here is how you are interpreting the information from your sibling. Truly, who cares what he and his wife say or think? Before you ride a bike, you can tell people what you think about how others are riding their bikes. Or, how easy you think riding a bike looks. But until you actually ride the bike, you have no idea from personal experience what it's like. Catch what I'm saying?

Find forgiveness in your heart for his judgment. Recognize that EVERYONE will reach challenges in their lives, whether it's now or later on.

Give yourself a hug and know, truly know, that you are an amazing mom. Don't let others define that for you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

This doesn't sound like it has anything to do with raising kids. I suggest you find a therapist to talk to because we are not qualified to bring out the real issues and a mess of people addressing raising kids isn't going to help. Sure you will hear what you want to hear but after it all sinks in you won't feel any better and will be very confused.

I had a less than wonderful childhood where our mom pitted me against my brother when ever possible. I thought the key was doing things better than my brother, nope. In the end, for me, it was what was wrong with me that my mom didn't love me. She did, I know that now, but this cage match childhood made both my brother and I feel like we weren't actually loved. My brother was the "good" child, he didn't feel loved either. I am not in any way saying this is your issue so please don't try to come to terms with being loved by your parents because again, if it isn't your issue you will still not feel whole.

Find a therapist, it really is the only way to get to the heart of the problem.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I'm going to go (not too far) out on a limb here and suggest there is older stuff complicating this new situation. In your last question, just a day ago, you asked about 'social media shaming' in a situation wherein shaming wasn't really what was going on.

The reason I bring this up is that sometimes people tend to fall into a habit of looking for an insult or a negative in situations which are ambiguous at best. You seemed to take offense at the actions of your young daughter's friend and felt they had an upsetting impact on your child. Evidence of which, however, you did not give. I would suggest that, instead, you were projecting your own feelings of being offended and called out onto your daughter, who was already emotionally disengaged from the friend.

A counselor or therapist can help you separate the old stuff from the new and see how you came to the beliefs you have. I can understand about the horrible childhood thing. Believe me, you get a lot of weird messages from our very flawed and sometimes inadequate parents. Talking to a counselor helped me see what was my old stuff, what to do with it,and to recognize what was the other person's 'stuff'. Realizing that, while we might interpret another person's troubling comments or behavior as being about us-- that it's really about *them*-- it's liberating. You can let things go and feel like "wow, that person is having a bad day", that it's NOT about you-- very freeing.

Love on that baby as you can and try to remember, we are all born innocent. That child may have parents who you feel have hurt you (perhaps deliberately, perhaps not), but the child has done nothing wrong. Think about the dynamic you want your children to experience when it comes to extended family. It may be best to go explore with a counselor those old feelings and how to manage them going forward, instead of letting them manage you.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I'm really sorry you're going through this. Parenting is hard enough without other people telling us we're doing it wrong, especially those we are closest too.

My recommendation is not to bring it up out of the blue, but to wait until the next time he and his wife say something that makes you feel bad. At that time, I would say something like "Now that you are parents too, I think you'll see that there a lot of different ways to raise kids. I know you don't always agree with my choices and I'm sure you will find that there are people who don't agree with yours. I know you mean well, but it really hurts my feelings when you put down my parenting choices."

Hopefully they will get the message. If not, leave it alone and in a couple of years, they'll get it because they will have had times that they're on the other end of it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

I am not sure how to respond. I know that my son has had an effect on my daughter growing up with comments that were said out of earshot and some in earshot. If your brother was like my son, he wanted or had to be "top dog" and he would say things to erode self-esteem.

Well, now he wants sister to be near him and sister has not to say or do with him. In fact they are about 800 miles apart in large states. She loves him dearly and always will but she does not feel the need to be near because he still wants to be "the protector" and it is not going to happen.

Do what you have been doing with your family and don't let your brother's words take up any more space in your head. If you need to, seek therapy as to why this still bothers you and get it resolved.

My best to you this year. Happy Easter.

the other S.

PS It does get frustrating that he won't let things go and keeps hanging on like a dog on a bone. But then again that is him and he has to live with the results of his sister not being near.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

How sad that after 14 years of successful parenting you still feel such self doubt! I really think this is less about your brother and more about YOU. I mean after all most of us are a bit insecure and unsure when we are new, young parents, especially those of us who had a hard childhood, but you've been a mom for 14 YEARS.
I think if an experienced, mature woman such as yourself can made to be feel so badly by a younger sibling with absolutely zero parenting experience then maybe you have some deeper issues you need to work on. Maybe seeking therapy would help (?)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I didn't read the other responses yet. I have a similar issue with a sibling. He decided to meet with me in what I thought was going to be a calm discussion over coffee. I was blindsided by his angry confrontation and our relationship to me hasn't been the same since. I would suggest dealing with it as it happens calmly with a neutral sentence or two to the effect of "that's not how we do it. We parent differently and that's okay". Don't let it build up until you get wound into a giant anger ball.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

This doesn't sound at all to me like it is about different parenting styles. Sounds like it's more about you and your brother and your childhood.

" It saddens me that I have to deal with this within my own family....especially after a horrible childhood. Somehow I would think that my sibling would know better but I guess not." and "I am sure that my sibling and his wife were abhorred at times when we were visiting; even though my kids were well behaved."

I'm struggling to bring to mind a situation where I'd be abhorred by visiting relatives with well behaved children. That's a very strong word: abhorred.
It sounds like you have a ton of baggage from your own childhood that you haven't yet dealt with.

I'm with Julie S. Please seek out a good therapist or counselor.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Two separate issues here:

1) Your childhood. You carry the scars from this horrible life, whatever the circumstances were. Your mission has been, I assume, to make sure that your children never experience anything like that, and that they be protected from the feelings of worthlessness and the hurt you went through. Your brother may have had a terrible childhood, or may have escaped it entirely - if the first, he has wounds and scars (and it may make him hyper-critical); if the 2nd, he has an entirely different frame of reference.

2) Your adulthood, and your brother's adulthood. As everyone else has said, parenting looks so easy until someone actually does it. Give your brother and sister-in-law a chance to experience the frustration, the exhaustion, the self-doubts, the "nothing-I-do-works" dilemma. I really feel that anyone who thinks parenting is easy needs to just spend 10 hours with a 3 kids, including an infant who is teething, a toddler with an ear infection who can't sleep, and a 2nd grader who needs help with math and a signed permission slip covered with juice and cookie crumbs at the bottom of her backpack. There should be at least one call from the school nurse, and at least one item thrown into the toilet. Just saying, you know?

So my advice to you is NOT to penalize this baby, and NOT to show your children anything but the best possible welcoming behavior. You celebrate the joy of this baby, with all the happiness and hope your sibling and his wife have. You engage your children in selecting and wrapping a gift. My personal preference is to not buy a newborn gift, but to buy something for an older child (toddler, etc.) - when your brother has gone through the pile of baby stuff 6-9 months from now, he will actually appreciate that there's something there for an older child. If you are close enough to visit, you ooh and aah and smile, and you teach your children to do the same. You offer no advice at all, you just smile and say, "Yes, it's challenging" if they say something is difficult. That's all. No other advice unless and until they very specifically ask.

Either your brother and sister will come around and see that you have something to offer, or they won't. Either way, you will have taken the high road.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

Chin up! More than likely their "perfect parenting" will be shot to heck sooner rather than later. Most parents I know will tell you that they don't come even close to parenting the way that they thought they would. As soon as baby refuses to follow the Ferber method, practices writing his ABCs with a marker or the couch, prys the keys off the keyboard with a fork, or vomits on the couch they may find that their parenting is not what they thought it would be. I now cringe at some of the things I said about some people's parenting skills before I became a parent. Kids have a way of making sure we stay humble. It's hard, but try to brush it off. Every family is different. You know what works for your family.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

Don't judge their parenting, and tell them where they can shove it when they try to judge yours. These "mommy wars" as they call them are so ridiculous and honesty their judgment says more about their insecurities then your skills as a parent. Some people are so afraid that giving validity to other parenting styles will mean that what they are doing it not the very very best and so they feel the need to put others down in order to make themselves feel better. And remember, it is really easy to judge when one has no children, a few years and a couple kids down the way and your brother may be singing a different tune. Either way don't let his judgements get to you because they are more about him then they will ever be about you, and do start standing up for yourself and your children when he says ignorant things.

I rest easy knowing I am sending kind, caring, tolerant, openminded, and accepting young men out into this world :) We all just have to do our best in the end and try not to let the naysayers weigh us down.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I think we all feel this to some degree. Now that they have kids they will learn. If they are lucky enough to have more they'll continue to learn.

My sister was 11 and my brother 15 when I was born. We had the same parents, I was just a surprise. I was raised in the 60s and 70s when massive changes were going on socially and women went from wanting to make a good marriage, be a great home maker, have a career if you really want one but for goodness sake, don't "have" to work...that's why the "good" marriage. She was raised where she was told different things.

We had abusive angry parents that hit and screamed all the time. My brother shielded my sister a lot and took her beatings. She grew up to be a mom that wouldn't yell, wouldn't lose her temper, would never say an unkind thing to her children.

She raised an exemplary daughter. My niece graduated high school with nice grades, married very well, is the president of a bank by working her way up through the ranks from the age of 16, has a couple of model children and is also an exceptional mom.

My sister has always "given me advice" on how I should parent. She's good, I have been pretty bad at it. I'm doing much better with the grand kids I am raising but overall I'm much better.

My point is, I can take what my sister says with a grain of salt and do what I do the best I can. I didn't do well with my daughter, I had zero skills and didn't even know what parenting was. She grew up even though she had a horrible childhood.

Parents make the choices we make. Sometimes we do well and sometimes we screw up big time. The big thing we need to do is learn from our mistakes and forgive ourselves.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Well, I don't know what your parenting style is, but I do know that they have just begun and are in for a whole different world with each passing year as their child grows and so they really don't have a clue as to what goes into the day to day affairs of raising children. Their baby is new and as such they are in a different state of being, and so simply let them enjoy that in their way, and let yourself enjoy this new little life too. Forgive them and move forward.

Just keep doing the best you can and give as much love as you can. I don't know what kind of horrors you endured as a child, but you are free to change and know that you have love in you. Know that God loves you no matter what you feel, say or do, it's unconditional. Try to just be yourself and be happy for them.

1 mom found this helpful
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