My gut tells me I will be a fine, albeit mostly clueless, mother.
I suspect I will also suck at being a good "parent."
Ish and I were at a gathering recently where we didn't know very many people, and those who we did know, we didn't know well. After a while, I got tired of standing and was fatigued from the whole day, and realized I needed to sit down. I found a quieter back room, and realized I wasn't the only one needing some space. A couple of new parents were hanging out there as well, nursing their 4-month-old. And, as these things happen, eventually all the pregnant women at the party (and there were three or four of us) ended up in the same room. And, as these things also happen, the conversation became entirely about babies and pregnancy.
And the strangest thing happened.
I realized I didn't want to talk about my pregnancy. I didn't want to talk about babies. I didn't want to talk about maternity pants or breastfeeding or weight gain or cravings or birthing plans. I wanted to go back into the other room and resume talking to that woman with the cool new business venture. (And I would have, if I hadn't been so damn exhausted...)
I was surprised at myself, and I left the party feeling a very strange sense of "Huh?" And while it's not a super-huge deal, I've had a hard time figuring out what was going on, what I felt, and why it mattered.
Here's what I've come up with:
First of all, parenting is incredibly personal. I'm glad we all talk about it, I'm glad there is so much open dialogue about it, I'm glad we don't just pretend parenting is easy and shutup about it. But um? I also think parenting is kind of like politics. I'd prefer not to discuss my views in a social setting where I don't really know the other participants. And I'd VERY MUCH prefer not to hear others' views about what is "right" and "wrong," either.
Secondly, I kind of think that pregnant women have as much in common with each other as people who own red cars. Our exteriors have one notable similarity, and it's entirely possible that that's where the similarities end.
Oh, of course I know that at a cocktail party, you mingle with folks for any variety of reason. Hey, you have an email address? I have an email address too! But with this -- with pregnancy, the idea of being a parent -- it's different. My expectations were different. If you're in a room with other people in your professional industry, for example, and everyone's chatting about The Industry, and what they do, and then you leave the party and realize you didn't really see eye-to-eye with anyone in the room, so what?
But there I was, with all these perfectly lovely people talking about babies and I had virtually no interest. I didn't want to hold the other woman's beautiful little girl. I didn't want to talk about my quest to find maternity jeans. I have no theories on baby-raising to offer (I don't know any more about raising a kid now than I did before getting knocked up), and no real desire to engage in any of the conversations on the table. So, so what?
No, not so what. Well, or maybe so what. Or...I don't know what.
Shouldn't I? Shouldn't I want to engage? Jump at the chance to hear what others are doing and share my experiences and hold a gurgling baby? I mean, this isn't me not finding common ground with networking professionals, this is me not being interested in my kid's world, right?
* * * * * *
I am often amazed at how much better I understand my mom as I get older, especially since she's not around to facilitate that process. My mom had all kinds of social anxiety and depression issues, and I have long assumed those afflictions were the reason she didn't do more typical "parent" things. She had always told me the reason she didn't get involved at my school or with PTA or neighbors or most of my friends' parents or really, any mommy groups whatsoever was because she didn't usually like other parents.
And while I still think that's an over-simplified answer, I also think I get it now.
No, no. I am not making a blanket statement saying I don't like other parents. That would be ridiculous on about a million levels.
But I did get a dose of what it's like to be thrown together with a group of people simply because we're in each other's proximity and our kids are or will be about the same age.
And what it's like to feel totally and completely unlike "them."
And what it's like to feel scared and isolated and to wonder, Should I pretend that I'm interested? Is this what we do? Oh, God, am I already messing it up?
Everything my mom must have felt became crystal clear to me in those few minutes.
But, happily, there's more.
I have always understood the never-before-experienced-in-human-existence power of the Internet, how it connects people in the most extraordinary ways. As such, I've peripherally followed the inception and growth of the mommyblogging phenomenon with sadness and relief.
Sadness, because it's possible (likely, even) that my mom did suffer from terrible anxiety and depression, and that it was made worse by the fact that she had no one she felt she could really talk to. I'd like to believe that her life would have gone differently if she'd had a vehicle for finding other people, women, moms, who felt like she did.
Relief, because I have that vehicle. I caught a glimmer of what these next few years may bring and what on earth would I do without this place? This blog and you and Twitter and Google and Facebook and message boards and the hilarious, smart, cussing, drinking, messy awesomeness that is so much of the mom-o-sphere.
I know I won't be alone. I know that no matter what happens out there in for-real life, I will always have the in-here life, too. I can share and be honest and terrified and thrilled and baby-focused and NOT baby-focused (American Idol liveblog!) and not have to worry (as much) about failing. I am the MOST not perfect EVER, but thanks to this here social media thing, I can at least be real.
So we can all be real, horrible parents together. And raise real, horrible, terrific kids.