Why Mothers Measure In Months

by Birth Without Fear on February 15, 2014

So often, I see memes like this:

meme

And you know what, they bug me. A LOT. Normally these are posted by people who are not to the point of having children yet, which makes it even more annoying.

Basically any mother will tell you that from one month to the next, our children learn and change drastically. During the first year it is the most drastic, during which time it is still “acceptable” to refer to your child’s age in months. But for some reason after that first birthday people like to make fun of referring to a child’s age in months instead of years or “1/2″ measurements. This especially comes up in reference to full-term breastfeeding.

First I have to ask the masses, why does it bother you if I refer to my toddler as “30 months” instead of “2 and 1/2 years old?” Are your math skills not up to par? Does it take too much brain power? Does my reference to months actually effect your life at all? Some commenters and meme makers like to take it a step further, insisting that referring to our babies in terms of months is just a way to cover up our inability to let go of them being a baby and rationalize our child still breastfeeding/sleeping in our bed/being carried/[insert parenting issue here].

I simply have to assume these cynics have never paid attention to the development of a child, especially when that child is your own. For instance – my son at 12 months could not walk – at 13 months he could. What a difference a month made! At 29 months my son was still breastfeeding, at 30 months he had self-weaned. Again – the difference a month makes! At 18 months he had learned to jump down off the sidewalk at the park without falling. That month he also chose to go down the slide on his own for the fist time. He was 32 months old when his baby brother was born, I will always remember him singing Twinkle Twinkle at their first meeting and his avid interest in the placenta.

stairs

These are all moments after the first year that are in my memory at a specific time and place. To me the month it happened is important. It is a milestone, a special moment. It is something scribbled down in a baby book or documented in a photo. In my mind he was not “2 and 1/2″ or “almost 3″ or “a year old”.

23 months

One day when I am not living in this moment, in this day-to-day rapidly changing world, I will probably tell him “You were 2 and a 1/2 when you weaned,” or “You walked just after your first birthday”. But today, those vague time periods are not specific enough. They are not important enough to describe that exact moment he learned something new, that moment he became his own person a little more than the day before.

32 months

So next time you hear a mother say “He is 22 months old” don’t roll your eyes. Smile and know that this mother is simply relishing in this fleeting time in her life as a mother. She is giving homage to the breakneck pace at which her children are growing and learning.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly February 15, 2014 at 11:01 pm

My first is only 5.5 months, but I totally get it (obviously)– she’s not 5 or 6 months, and at this age, it makes a big difference. At 13 months, I know she won’t be “about a year.” You’re right about the difference a month makes, and for lots of parents that lasts forever. In my dad’s mind, I walked at nine months; my brother was born at 13. He describes it (now more than ever after the birth of his first grandchild) like it was yesterday. For those who don’t want to hear about the exact age, they obviously don’t care about the rest of the story either.

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Cheryl February 16, 2014 at 1:43 am

I get it and all. My question is, when does it stop?! When does a mom or dad begin using years and not months for memories?! I have LITERALLY heard, “my daughter is 98 months old.” (this is seriously a question)

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Marque February 18, 2014 at 8:27 am

Personally, I think I will start referring to my daughters age in years when she hits 3 or 4. There really is no time when moms need to stop. It is just a preference. :)

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Lis February 19, 2014 at 4:58 am

She stops when she feels like it. Or her kid starts consistently answering himself and gives his age in years. I don’t know exactly when,the point is, it’s not up to other people to decide or judge her for it, or assume she just can’t let go or some other reason seen negatively by our culture.

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cait February 16, 2014 at 1:58 pm

amen! thank you for articulating this.

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Bailey February 17, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Very well said! My daughter is only 8 months, almost 9. But I’m sure I will get some interesting looks when I continue referring to her age, as months. I was saying she was X weeks, until I got too confused hahaha

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Brigitte February 19, 2014 at 2:31 am

Interesting how different people interpret intention around this issue! I’ve never thought of it from your point of view before, so thanks for that.

Here’s my point of view: As a mother of two, I do appreciate that every month makes a difference. However, I’ve always seen this issue as one of insider’s lingo, just the same as pregnant women using weeks to say how far along they are. I remember before I was a parent, I struggled to interpret what “31 weeks pregnant” meant, because I didn’t know how long pregnancy was supposed to be and I couldn’t always do the math in my head. However, if someone told me they were 7 months pregnant, I immediately knew that meant they had 2 months left to go. Now that I’ve been through it twice myself, I have a much more intuitive grasp of what “31 weeks” means.

I will give my children’s ages differently depending on who I’m speaking to. It has always struck me as a bit exclusive or at worst even elitist to use months when speaking to someone who won’t have an immediate grasp of what “30 months” means. I only use months with “outsiders” up to 12-15 months or so. However, if I’m speaking to a fellow parent or someone who works with young children, I will tend to use the months up to about 24-30 months. It doesn’t mean the “outsiders” don’t care, it just means they don’t have a good grasp of parenting jargon.

Anyway, that’s the way I’ve always seen it. Thanks for showing me the other side of the coin.

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Jamie February 25, 2014 at 5:07 pm

I agree with all of this! I was the same way before I had my son: when a pregnant friend would tell me she was “25 weeks” I had no idea what that meant. When I was pregnant I would refer to time in weeks to other preggos and mamas, and in months to anyone else. It actually IS hard to do the math quickly in your head when you’re not familiar with it and in the middle of an on-going conversation. My son is almost 7 months old and I stopped using weeks to measure his age when he was around 12 weeks old. There’s no way I could tell you how old he is in weeks right now lol. I will probably stop using months exclusively after 1 year, and will do the conversion after that (i.e. 18 months to “insiders”, 1.5 years to “outsiders”). As others have said, it’s just a personal preference.

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Ashleigh February 20, 2014 at 12:12 am

aww…I love this! I will admit that my fiancé & I have always wondered why some mothers tell age by months, but you made it so beautiful I am glad be be a mommy who calls my baby girl 15 months. 😀

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Ana November 3, 2014 at 1:24 pm

First, let me say that I totally get where you’re coming from. They grow so fast, it’s ridiculous. Sometimes, look at my sweet girl and think “My god, this little girl has learned and grown so much in just the last few days!” However, when someone asks how old my daughter is, I say she’s almost a year and a half.

Why? Well, first of all, I’m not often talking to people who have recently had children, so I gear what I say toward my audience. In addition to consideration for who I am speaking to, I personally dislike counting the months. You can brush me off as lazy, but I just don’t want to do the math in my head. Also, I can observe and appreciate my daughter’s astounding development and growth without marking the exact month each new change happened. I suppose I could track down the date from time-stamps on videos or photographs, but I really don’t care. I’m much more interested in what she’s doing than when she’s doing it.

So, while I can see your point, I do have to disagree with your implied thesis that remember the exact month is an important part of a mother’s observation of her child’s development.

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charlotte July 13, 2015 at 1:35 am

I don’t have any children, but I’m 34 years old, so this isn’t coming from a 19 year old. I don’t want children, never did, and I’m not going to have children. Just not something I want for my life.

At any rate, I just want you all to know how pretentious this sounds to non-parents. Seriously, we know how much you all love little 23 month Timothy or 30 month Emily. We know your entire world revolves around them. And you know what? That’s great. There is nothing wrong with that. But here’s the thing… OUR world does not revolve around them, and to us, it seems really ridiculous to tell us that your son is 23 months (instead of nearly 2 years old) or 30 months (instead of 2 and a half years old). No, I have no problem with the math. I just think it’s pretentious and stupid. I get that you can keep track of milestones in your child’s development easier by keeping up with his or her age by months… Kudos! But why do you tell ME your kid’s age in months? Do you think I really care that your kid is 31 months? If you told me “Timothy is 2 and a half years old”, I won’t realize hey, he’s ONE MONTH older than that!!! Or is it, as you accused us of, that you don’t know how to do the math?

So, here’s the main deal. I know that you love your child, a LOT, and that is really great and I am very, very happy for you. But let’s get real. Every mother thinks their child is AMAZING and special. and you know what? That is really great. And heartwarming. But just because you want to measure your baby’s life in months doesn’t mean the rest of the world gives a damn.
Because it doesn’t.
And to everyone that isn’t a parent, it comes off as really smug and pretentious to tell someone that your child is 30 months old.

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Mrs. BWF July 15, 2015 at 11:35 am

How do you think YOU come off as not a mother being so judgmental and rude to parent? That is the question. We normally wouldn’t publish your comment, but think it should be seen to remind us all why we do the work we do and how NOT to be.

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Cassandra August 12, 2015 at 1:17 pm

While Charlotte was a little harsh with what she said, she’s not entirely wrong. I think that as mothers we have a tendency to rush to protect against perceived threats, because that’s how we’re wired and it’s what we do, but I sincerely think that she didn’t mean harm with what she said.

I’ve found myself falling prey to the “You’re not a parent, you don’t get it, and just can’t.” mindset, and when it comes to a lot of things, it’s true. If she was here trying to tell us that the way in which we decide to raise our children is wrong, I could get behind that, because she doesn’t know anything about that. But, she is offering (perhaps a little too harshly) another viewpoint. She isn’t judging us for having children, like a lot of childfree people like to do, she isn’t spewing vitriol and saying that kids are evil or annoying or nuisances and have no place in the world. She just thinks we sound silly when we use months over a year, and you know what? I feel the same way, as a parent. Sure, to my Mommy-friends, I’ll use months, because they get it, they have their own experience to use in comparison, they can remember where their child was at that time, or look forward to seeing how their child evolves in that time, depending on ages- it’s a measurement that has more meaning to us, because we actually have something tangible to measure against.

Non-parents don’t know how development works, and most of the time, I’m not going to presume that they want to, so I use years after 11 months, for non-parents. That’s just my personal take on the topic though, and I don’t judge either way. I think that we should maybe keep in mind that what has meaning to us, might not have meaning to others not in our situation. 18 months means a lot to us, and it’s loaded with developmental milestones and mothers *get* it, but to a non-parent, it’s just a silly way of saying “a year and a half” and it doesn’t give them the information that they’re seeking during our interaction.

Just my two cents.

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