One of my oldest and dearest friends recently became the mom of a beautiful baby girl… her second in less than 2 years. After playing phone tag for a few days, we finally caught up with each other this week and had a much overdo chat. Of course our conversation was mostly about my insane work schedule these days… and her insane home-with-two-babies schedule these days. This particular friend, who started having babies nearly a decade after I did, is always telling me how lucky I am that I had my kids when I was younger… because it’s so much work and she feels SO old.
This sentiment always make me chuckle a little on the inside. Because, I don’t know how she remembers me 10 or 11 years ago… but I certainly don’t remember being full of extra energy just because I was in my mid-20s versus my mid-30s. I really have NO recollection of that. I think being a new parent, no matter how old you are when it happens, is always exhausting and overwhelming and… well… eye-opening, to say the least.
I try to think back to a decade or so ago, and I can CLEARLY remember whining and moaning to this friend (who was at the time single and childless) about how overwhelming and tiring this whole parenting thing was. I knew at the time that she really had no concept of what I was saying, even when I was saying it. And today I realize that’s because, by nature, we all see what we see. And ONLY what we see. And when it comes to parenting, especially parenting a newborn and/or toddler, there’s so much behind-the-scenes stuff that other people just don’t ever see… and can’t imagine is actually happening.
So many times over the years since I became a mom, I’ve found myself in the middle of a chaotic scene… whether it be up all night with a sick baby or cleaning up after a potty-training hellion or threatening a child having a temper tantrum in the middle of WalMart… or even a less chaotic, more mundane scene… like sitting in the middle of the floor playing Barbies or watching the same Wiggles video for the 453rd time (and singing along to every song)… and I’ve thought to myself, “I just can’t imagine my mom or my grandma DOING these things.” Logic tells me that they must have had similar parenting experiences, but I just can’t see it.
During our conversation the other day, my dear friend said something along the lines of, “I remember when Damon and Avery were babies, and you’d complain about how hard it was to take them to the beach, for instance. But you’d come to visit me at the beach, with two babies, and you made it look so easy. You always had everything so… together.”
I paused for about half a second and let that notion sink in… then my brain immediately starting screaming: “WHAT??? Together?? ME?!?!” What the hell was she talking about??? I had nothing together; I’m quite sure of that!
But visiting a friend at the beach, and even whining incessantly on the phone about how hard it is being a mom, is such a ridiculously tiny glimpse of what it’s really like. She saw me at the beach with two kids… she DIDN’T see the two hours prior to my leaving the house, when I was juggling both kids and packing everything but the kitchen sink and trying to make sure everyone was rested and fed and changed and ready for a visit with a friend. And she didn’t see the several hours after our visit, when I had two overtired, cranky, hungry, dirty children to care for, either. Or when Avery refused to go to sleep that night, so Nick and I spent two hours taking turns sitting by her toddler bed, patting her back and singing the same lullaby over and over and over, praying that the child would finally give up and close her eyes (I’m pretty sure we actually did this almost every night for about two years!!).
There is so much that no one else ever sees. Even now… my kids are half grown, so although none of that “baby stuff” applies anymore, we have a whole host of OTHER, “bigger kid” issues that we deal with on a daily basis… mostly “behind the scenes.”
It really amuses me that my friend, or anyone for that matter, could possibly believe that I have this parenting thing even halfway figured out… that I come even close to “having my shit together.” Just in case there’s any confusion, I can assure you that I have never, not once in the last 11.5 years, had ANYTHING “together.” And I don’t expect that’s going to change any time soon. Maybe what has changed, just a little, is that I’m learning to accept it and be okay with it. And I’m realizing that maybe, just maybe, NO mother (or father) out there really has it all “together.” (It’s amazing that kids ever survive to adulthood!!!!)