The Trouble with Milestones


USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, baby girl laying (2-5 months) laying next to measuring tape

Milestones. It’s word I’ve grown accustomed to since giving birth to my daughter, Ilse. According to Webster’s Dictionary, “milestones are actions or events marking a significant change in development.” Pregnancy had milestones; like the day we confirmed that we were having a baby, the beginning of each trimester, or the first craving (incidentally, I craved all dairy products).  Post pregnancy, it’s been the “first solid food,” the “first tooth,” and most recently the “first step.” I could trace my whole life this past year with Ilse’s milestones, my husband’s milestones, and my own. The trouble with milestones is that they can become a gauge for every future milestone.

First, it’s the personal milestones with family and career- No matter what your culture or background is, when a person becomes an adult, (has a job or graduates from college or both) everyone asks “When you will get married?” After you get married, everyone asks “ When will you have kids?” For me, it was “Aren’t you going to have kids soon?” Lately, it’s been “When are you going to have the second one?”

Rather than focus on the next milestone, wouldn’t it be great if we just asked “How are you doing?”

Second, it’s your child’s personal milestones- Earlier, I mentioned the “first solid food” and the “first tooth.” The other day someone asked when we were going to take Ilse to her ”first haircut.” In the first year of life, we gauge every milestone against other children’s milestones. How does my child’s development compare to her cousin’s or her classmate’s development? I am still peeved that we were advised to see a physical therapist if Ilse was not walking by fifteen months; I politely disagreed.

Rather than focus on the “typical” age for development, wouldn’t it be great if we just asked “What is your child learning these days?”

While I am not opposed to having milestones, I think we often put too much emphasis on them when evaluating our own successes in life. When a person marries, do children always come next? Is your child behind on their development because he/she has not hit a certain milestone? Does every milestone lead to another milestone? Let’s balance it out a bit.

Rather than focus on a milestone entirely or compare our own milestones with someone else’s, let’s be present, be an active participant of the event.

For example, tonight, I introduced cranberry sauce and apple pie to my daughter. Rather than take a dozen photos or videos, I just watched her eat and ate along with her. It was a magical moment. I watched Ilse eat these new foods with the same glee and joy as she had with other foods. I savored the flavors of those dishes with her. This year, Thanksgiving will be so much more special, because Ilse will feasting with us. Milestones are here to remind us of the special moments in our lives, but let’s not forget to participate in those moments and not focus too much of our attention on the next one.

To quote one of my favorite movies, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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Jeanne is a married, full-time working mom with an MBA in Marketing from Golden Gate University and BA in Communications from San Francisco State University. She is an Associate Director of Sales for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and loves that her career enables her to promote the city she loves. Jeanne and her husband Daniel live in San Francisco with their two daughters, Ilse and Alice. When Jeanne is not working, writing, or volunteering at Ilse's school, she enjoys traveling, spending time with family, and cooking from her collection of cookbooks (70 and growing) while sipping Hudson Bay Bourbon. Follow her adventures on Instagram.


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