I recently came to the conclusion that I am a parent. Considering that I have a three-year-old son and a three-month-old daughter, that seems like an odd statement. I feel like I had been an imposter parent or a full-time babysitter before my daughter was born, but now that I have “children” and not “a child”, it has become real. I am a mother and I have two children. And when we recently went to a restaurant and the server asked my husband and I if we needed a table for four—she was talking to us, and not the competent-appearing parents standing behind us.
When we just had one child, it seemed surreal that I was a mother. I would read parenting blogs and magazine articles in the same way that I would read National Geographic or Runners magazine—interesting article, will never happen to me. My son was my sidekick and partner in crime. Suddenly, I had a reason to go to the Bug Zoo without seeming like a freak. And when Miki was two years old, there were no arguments about bedtime, potty training was a distant future and he ate everything I gave him. But PARENT—never! I also thought that with one child, I was still “edgy and cool” which was odd because I have never been edgy or cool.
But when I was pregnant with my daughter, my son transitioned from a silly, smiling and diaper-wearing baby into a full-blown toddler: tantrums and all. Suddenly, I was discussing “boundaries”, struggling with meal-time and every typical toddler behavior that I had ignored in parenting magazines while scanning the newest fashions in baby wear. And then when Nora was born, I was suddenly overwhelmed with parenting responsibilities. My mother-in-law died two weeks after my daughter was born and this seemed to exacerbate so many of my parenting difficulties. The image I had of serenely breastfeeding my daughter while my son lovingly looked on was replaced with my breast pumping so that the doula would have milk, and my son screaming every time I asked him if he wanted to look at his new sister. I could no longer deny that I was a mother and would have to parent (verb!) my children.
I am not going to lie and state that I have embraced being a “mother of children” with ease and pleasure. Some days, I am completely in control but most days, I struggle to complete simple tasks and would gladly outsource potty training of my son. But I also know that the competent-appearing parents that were standing behind me were probably sharing the same struggles as I was but they just had more caffeine that day.