Opinion: You don’t understand what it means to be a parent until you are a parent yourself | Mary Duncan

Photo by The Honest Company on Unsplash

*This is a work of nonfiction and opinion based on actual events as told to me by a friend who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

A few weeks ago my friend confided in me that she is pregnant.

This didn’t come as a surprise, because she and her husband have been actively trying to get pregnant for a while now, but it was exciting to hear news.

I felt immediate delight at the thought of getting to snuggle and sniff at some fresh baby in just a couple of seasons, and this other thought came into my head:

She’ll finally understand.

It’s a thought that I have had every time one of my girlfriends has gotten pregnant.

I was pretty much the first person I knew to have a baby, out of my good friends at the time, anyway.

Fourteen years seems like such a long time, doesn’t it? Over a decade ago, I was twenty-three and pregnant.

I was too young, I wasn’t ready.

At the time I was desperate to have friends who had babies. I was always secretly praying that my friends would get themselves knocked up whether they wanted to or not, I just wanted one of my friends — any of my friends — to understand what I was going through.

I am not one special, you know.

I don’t face any unique hardships that make being a single mom more particularly hard for me than anyone else in my income bracket, and of course, I have the added base level of privilege being American and white.

But despite that, I’ve always thought that parenting is really hard, and I’ve always felt very alone.

Looking out every day into an infinite sea of ​​Alpha Moms while I’ve stood petrified with anxiety against the wall of ‘what am I doing?’ poseur-moms all my life certainly hasn’t helped. And I mean that literally as well as figuratively, for the record.

It’s felt to me for a long time that parenting is a competition, a literal race to be the best, and therefore have the best children, in any way you can imagine.

The stress, the imaginary pressure I put on myself for no reason other than constantly comparing and being compared to others, turns into very real guilt and shame over things I was pretty sure I never cared about.

It’s absurd, really, the pressures we put on ourselves and each other when we’re parents.

Like always questioning every decision we make on their behalf and then second-guessing those decisions to the point of losing sleep.

Insane things, too, like whether you should have rushed out to Target twenty minutes before bedtime because you forgot that tomorrow is Green Shirt Day (really?) and your daughter’s only green tee shirt is crumpled up at the bottom of the dirty hamper and you don’t have a washer and dryer in your apartment, so maybe in the morning you can get it a little damp in the sink and then try to hit it with the hair dryer to try to get the wrinkles out, or should you get up super early to go real quick to buy a shirt before school even though you don’t have the time or money or energy for that, so what the heck is wrong with you, why couldn’t you just remember she needed the green shirt for Green Shirt Day, you horrible mother!?

Finally, she will understand.

The poor thing, she’s so worried right now about all of these things that are totally out of her control. Like, will she miscarry, will the baby have any genetic defects, will she have to have a C-Section…

I know, I get it.

I’ve been there, remember? It was a long time ago, but I’ve been there.

It’s scary finding out you’re pregnant, and unfortunately, I can only imagine the added worry and anxiety over trying to do everything right for a baby that was planned and is desperately wanted…

But this is the easy part.

I want so badly to comfort her while she worries, I hope so sincerely that she knows I love her and I’m not making fun of her or invalidating her feelings when she panics over wild and unpredictable things, and feel like all I can offer right now are nods and smiles.

Because this? This is nothing.

But it’s okay.

She’ll be okay.

If we try harder to hold each other through it, we might all be okay.

She’ll understand soon.

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