They say there's no instruction manual about how to be a mom, but that's a lie because there are actually thousands of instruction manuals. Unfortunately, a lot of them are either crappy, not universal, or woefully incomplete. And even the good books about parenting can't encapsulate everything. Sometimes, you just have to jump in and do the damn thing, regardless of whether or not you know what you're doing at all. So, yes, there have been times when I've had to pretend I knew how to mom... and I doubt those times are completely behind me, either.
Honestly, I'm pretty amazed humans have lasted as long as we have given our collective approach to child-rearing. Relying on amateurs for the continuation of the species seems like a pretty poor evolutionary strategy, right? But somehow, like every theater production I've ever been involved in, miracles emerge from the chaos and we all manage to pull off something that is, if not wonderful, at the very least cohesive.
Part of the problem is that the rules are always changing, so the "I have no idea WTF is going on" feeling doesn't go away after, say, the infant stage. Because as soon as you kind of get a handle on one thing, your kid changes the rules on you and you have to learn something entirely new.
I'm always going to be learning on the job, so-to-speak, and I think part of that process is stopping every once in a while and taking stock of the lessons I've already bumbled my way through. So with that in mind, here are a few times when I've had to fake it until I made it:
When I Left The Hospital
They just let you walk out of the hospital with a baby, people! Like, they actually watch you go! They don't check your credentials, or insist on inspecting your home prior to taking your child there to live. They don't care if you've never had a baby before, either! They're just A-OK with you giving it the old college try. Yikes.
When I Was Breastfeeding
Some breastfeeding advocates would have us believe that nursing a baby is the most natural thing in the world. And they're not wrong, but bear in mind that "natural" is not always a synonym for "easy." I mean, birds can naturally fly but that doesn't mean they're not putting their wings to work. And some baby birdies attempting to leave the nest? Well, let's just say "The Circle of Life" is natural too.
Nothing will sufficiently prepare you for breastfeeding. If you've chosen to give it a go, then the only thing that's going to really prepare you is doing it. And when I was just starting you better believe I was pretending my ass off.
When I Changed My First Diaper
I'd worked in daycares in the past, so I did know a thing or two about changing diapers. But at the same time I was at a bit of a loss when it came to things like knowing when they might be wet (it's hard to tell sometimes, unless you have one of those diapers with the color-changing line), when they were actually done pooping (I can't tell you how many times I'd rush to change a diaper only to get a new one on and realize that kid still had some work to do). Even figuring out the perfect positioning to avoid blowouts was tricky at first. But you just go for it with some confidence and, somehow, you get through it... albeit with a few diaper stains on your clothes.
When I Was Finding My New Normal
I seriously had no idea about so many things my baby was doing, but I'd generally just kind of roll with it. I'd be like "this is fine" and then go home and Google whatever "this" was for hours upon hours, freaking myself out thoroughly in the process. Because there's a lot of contradictory information out there, to say nothing of weird stuff that's really not in any books. Like, for a while my son just had these weird little baby shakes and I was (not unreasonably) convinced he was having regular petit mal seizures but, no, it's just a weird thing babies sometimes do because they don't have much control over their bodies yet.
But it's not just the little weird things. It's figuring out that, yeah, sleeping in two hour increments is very normal for babies. Eating every hour is often normal when they're very small. The swathe of "normal" for most milestones is enormous (some babies walk at 8 months others at 18 months). It's so different from the way we are used to structuring our lives that it's difficult to internalize the idea that, yeah, this is OK.
When I Was Trying To Sleep
Seriously, I don't care how experienced you are: good luck with the whole "getting some sleep" thing. Surviving on little-to-no sleep will always suck and no one knows what they're doing when they're a zombie.
When The Baby Started Eating Solids
This was my Everest. I'm really glad the American Academy of Pediatrics pushed back starting solids to 6 months old, because before then I definitely wasn't ready. Even at 6 months I wasn't ready. They say babies can basically eat whatever and probably be fine but, like, how small do I cut things up? Are they really OK to eat anything? What about allergies? Or are they going to get allergies if I don't introduce foods sooner rather than later? I had a ton of anxiety about this, you guys, but I put on a brave front and just started feeding my kids because you sort of have to.
When My Kids Threw Public Tantrums
My kids are 7 and 4 and while public tantrums have mostly abated, they still pop up from time to time and I still really just kind of wing it when I'm in the thick of it. I act extremely confident, as though I believe in myself as an authority figure, but the fact of the matter is I feel like an incompetent teenage babysitter most of the time.
When My Kids Started School
Finding the right school. Waiting lists. Registration. Medical forms. Childhood friend politics. School buses. Drills of any stripe. Fundraisers. Snow days.
How. Does. Any. Of. This. Work. And. Do. They. Just. Expect. Me. To. Know. All. Of It. And. How?
When My Kids Got Any Injury Above A Scraped Knee
If I had a dollar for every time I have asked if I should take my kids to the nearest hospital, I wouldn't have to worry about the fact that I do not have a college savings account for my kids.
There's a ton of self-doubt with any childhood injury, especially when you're talking about very small babies. But in the moment, you swoop into action, soothe, and treat whatever injury has befallen your child, and your kid always think you know WTF is going on, what you're doing, and are confident that everything will be just fine. But internally, of course, you're panicking and at a complete loss.
When I Realize I've Made A Mistake
This happens all the time as kids get older. You realize the initial thing you said "no" about or wanted them to do that they're not happy about or whatever isn't at all a big deal, but now the disagreement is a big deal. At this point you can't go back because it'll send a message that you don't mean what you say... but oh man does it suck to dig in your heels about something you don't actually care about.
Any time this happens I'm basically faking my mom authority.
When I Had To Settle A Dispute Between Children
OMG, how the hell should I know who should get the toy? You had it first... but it's your toy... but you only put it down for a second... but you say it was more like five minutes... but are you lying... I seriously don't care, fight it out yourselves.
But you can't always do that. Sometimes you have to mediate, and you have absolutely no mediation training. Good luck.
When I'm Talking To Another Mom
Look at her, all confident and great with her kids. She must never know my terrible secret. She cannot.
But here's the thing, my friend: we're all faking it. No one really knows what they're doing all the time. In the end, we're just doing our best and, spoilers, our best will always be enough for our kids.