Allow me to confess: nearly four years into being a full-time mom, I still feel like a novice.
Before I put my career on hold to stay home with my kids, I felt confident and competent in every job I held. Even when I was first trying to master school nutrition reimbursement structures, Web development jargon or nuclear power technology (seriously), I always felt fairly on top of things.
That changed when I became a mom. I’m still waiting for the day to come when I feel like I know what I’m doing.
But for a full-time parent, does that day ever come?
We’ve all had that feeling: the dizzy uneasiness that comes with being new at something. You wonder just how long you can get away with saying those lovely words that instantly excuse you from judgment: Sorry, I’m new here.
In the workplace, you eventually stop saying those words. And little by little, you stop feeling like you need to. You get used to the rhythm of the office and the demands of your job and you learn what’s expected of you. You go home at the end of the day feeling like you’ve done your best.
In parenting? Hardly.
At some point of nearly every day I want to shout, “I’m new here! I have no idea what I’m doing!” And the funny thing is, it’s true. As the mom to two small children, I wake up every day to an entirely new job.
What they happily devoured last week they refuse to eat this week. What launched them into hysterics yesterday elicits blank stares today. And as for the strategies I employ to help them get along? Those have to change by the hour.
I’m constantly asking myself, when will this get easier? When will I feel like I know what I’m doing? But, secretly, I know the answer.
It never gets easier. I’ll never feel like I have all the answers. I’ll never truly master the art of parenting, because it’s not something that’s supposed to be mastered. Like many things in life, it’s a journey.
Too often, I compare myself to other moms and allow little seeds of self-doubt to take root. I find myself tallying other mothers’ kids and thinking, how does she make it look so easy? I look for any sign that this vocation is as relentlessly challenging for other parents as it is for me.
At some point in nearly every day, I let myself feel inadequate. It’s such a pointless exercise. And yet, I do it regularly.
Maybe you do too.
What I know is this: tomorrow, my little ones will be a little older. What’s moving quickly today will only move faster as time goes on. I can embrace the chaos and enjoy these moments or I can spend my time thinking about what I should be doing better.
It’s my life. I get to choose.
I can see the dirty dishes as proof of my insufficient housekeeping skills or evidence of kids well fed.
I can hear the blood-curdling screams they let out as they chase each other through the house as nerve-jangling noise or the music of happy kids who are comfortable and wild and free.
I can look around my house and see perpetually sticky floors, clutter on every surface and a fine layer of dog hair over everything in the room.
Or, I can see the house where my family lives.
I just came back from an annual girls’ trip I take with my 10 college roommates, some of whom I’ve known now for 20 years. After all these years, I’m proud to say we can still commandeer a dance floor and make our party bus driver blush.
We do our fair share of vacation activities, but most of our time is spent simply enjoying each other’s company, reminiscing about the embarrassing things we did in our college days and talking about our families.
This year, I realized what is so special about our group. While we fondly remember the silly college girls we used to be, we’re able to see each other as someone new, as more than we were back then. We’ve matured into career women, wives, mothers and daughters of aging parents. We’ve come a long way from the class-skipping, day-drinking, I-won’t-mention-what-else kids we were when we first met each other.
If I can see what capable and competent women my friends have grown into, I certainly ought to be able to do the same for myself.
Tomorrow will bring a crop of new challenges. My kids will amaze and confound me anew and something will undoubtedly knock me off balance. But I believe in my ability to handle whatever it is like a boss.
And if not, well, give me a break. I’m new here.