This article, entitled "I Got This! (not)," comes from Pam Tauscher, MomsEveryday blogger from Madison, WI.
I recently interviewed a young first time mom. Even though our chat was weeks ago, her words have resonated with me ever since. I asked her how things were going with this new little person in her world for less than two weeks. She had the typical response, noting how she and her husband were learning to live with less sleep, how they were learning more every day about making baby happy and how they were spending hours gazing at their new bundle of joy marveling at the miracle she is. Then she said this, “At first I felt like I didn’t know anything at all, but now that we’ve had her home awhile I am feeling like--we got this.”
Three words, we got this. I felt like those three little words cut right to my heart. The mom of 16 years in me smiled inwardly at her naïveté. I, like all moms, know the kind of ride she’s in for. And I know how many countless times I have allowed myself to think, even for a moment, “We got this!”
But if there’s one thing parenting has taught me it’s that you can count on feeling exactly the opposite of that most of the time. It feels a little like walking up one of those huge gravel piles at a quarry. The footing continuously slips away under your weight, and you find yourself slipping backward, or fighting just to stay in place.
I suppose there is something about human nature that prompts us to fool ourselves into a sense of confidence that we are on top of the challenge; ahead in the race; full of answers. But my experience time and again has been, just when I think I have things figured out, the rules change and you get a full dose of reality with another lesson in how much you don’t know.
That new moms words resonate with me because I so desperately want to feel that little confident skip in my step, that inward confidence that I’m on top of things. But what I really feel many times is inadequately equipped for the answers that life is demanding of me. I feel unsure that the decisions I’m making are the right ones. I feel, like I did all those years ago, so robbed that there is no instruction manual that came with these little darlings I share my world with.
All I have is my gut. It’s all I’ve ever had to go by at the end of the day. But trusting that instinct sure isn’t easy. Especially when it seems so many times like I’m on an island.
Lately I’ve been asking myself, am I the only mom who says no? It is not the fun answer. It is not the popular answer. It doesn’t make you your child’s friend. But then, I keep telling myself, it’s not my job to be his friend. And so I look right into those hopeful, pleading eyes and say it; no, you can’t go, or do, or buy, or whatever. Two letters that feel like the weight of the world sometimes.
I try to stick to my convictions, even when it means giving up something more fun to remain true to a commitment. I enforce a bed time even when others have long ago given that up. I play the tough cop when it would be much more fun not to. And I keep talking when I know they are begging me in their minds to shut up.
All of this builds up now that we have entered the teenage years. I’m proud to say I’ve taught them to be thinking young men, and they are now quite capable of a good debate, which can make that once rock solid stand you were taking actually feel pretty shaky at times. But, even worse, now they retreat to a familiar silent stare, behind a poker face that gives up nothing when it comes to the meaningful stuff.
The bottom line is that all of the years I have been a parent, I have almost never felt like, “I got this.” And now days, it feels like a cruel hoax that I ever will. My spare time, my awake hours, my conversations with other moms, all of the effort I have left at the end of the day is to find a way to feel certain I’m on the right track. I dream that things could be like a game show and when I get the answer right a bell would ding, ding, ding happily and when I’m getting it wrong there would be a loud buzzer to indicate that too. Instead, what I feel is humbled by the huge responsibility, and so unqualified for the job at hand, that I am at times paralyzed by my own fear and uncertainty, yet so determined to do my best not to mess it up that I keep pushing forward toward that allure that I might once again feel like, I got this, no problem.
I know why I smiled on the inside when that new mom shared her enthusiasm with me, because there must be some universal primal bond we share, no matter the stage of parenting, for celebrating the little victories, because I already know what is just around the corner, and I can appreciate just how precious that little moment really is.