I’ve been a parent for almost 15 years now, but I still feel like an imposter.
I’ve come a long way. I panicked when I had my first baby. I felt completely inadequate – I knew how to run a weekly magazine and direct a staff of 35, but caring for an infant was terrifying.
I went back to the office less than two months later, leaving my ex to do the hard yards.
Toddlers also scared me. How the hell were you supposed to keep them occupied during those long hours between naps?
Again, totally out of my comfort zone.
I started getting the hang of it when the eldest turned five. We moved to New York briefly and I was suddenly a stay-at-home mum in a tiny apartment in a snow-covered city. It was time to get my shit together and nail the parenting gig.
So I rallied and we muddled along OK.
It’s become a little easier every year since.
I reached another milestone four years ago when my marriage broke up. Strangely, being at my lowest brought out the best in me – I developed new reserves of patience.
Previously, I’d totally lose it with the kids every few months. That doesn’t happen now. I’m a zen mama, even in the face of intense provocation.
Well, I almost crack it about their disaster zone bedrooms every now and then. My voice gets very hard and flinty.
And I still have moments where I wonder when the gravitas of being a 50-year-old mother of two teens will descend upon me in a graceful cloud of wisdom and poise.
For example, I am struggling with the discipline thing. I am waaaaay too soft with the kids. The youngest becomes quite irate about my laisse fairez approach with the eldest. I got chipped on Tuesday night for not noticing they’d nicked off with a can of Diet Coke from the pantry.
When I didn’t have a go about it, the youngest roused instead.
I’ve shushed her so many times with the phrase “Oi, I’m the mother, not you!”
She does so many internal head shakes at my slackness. One night at the dinner table she even muttered grimly “I. Am. Holding. My. Tongue.”
I suspect she will nail the motherhood gravitas thing pretty early in the process.
Yesterday, I took the youngest to the dermatologist to have a couple of moles removed that were causing irritation.
I was totally useless in the doctor’s surgery. I had no idea what to say or do or what support to offer.
Did the youngest want me to hold her hand or stroke her brow or say certain comforting words? I was clueless. I asked her, but she was too anxious about the procedure to answer.
Isn’t a mother supposed to instinctively know? I sat a few metres away from the examination table, feeling completely useless.
The dermatologist hadn’t used quite enough anaesthetic, so getting the mole out from under the youngest’s arm really hurt and she started crying.
I still had absolutely no idea what to do other than try to say assuring things from across the room.
Afterwards, I let the youngest stay home from school because she was so rattled by the procedure. She was fine again an hour later … so I’m not entirely sure whether that was good or bad mothering either …
I don’t recall ever thinking my parents didn’t have everything under control. They were so completely parent-like, filled with such authority and purpose.
I don’t feel parent-like or purposeful. I just love my kids and feed them and hope that’ll do the trick.
Do you ever feel like an imposter in parent guise?
Song of the day: ABBA “Does your mother know”