I was never one of those girls growing up that just loved babies. I didn't spend my weekends babysitting for extra money, and I can only recall one time in my 20s looking after my friend's 9 month old. Babies are totally sweet, and I've always wanted to be a mother, but I'm actually just not a baby person — not even after having one myself.
When I daydreamed about my future family, it was never filled with visions of swaddling a newborn and rocking them to sleep as I blissfully peered down at them. Instead, I always imagined things like playing outside with school-age children and chatting to my future daughter about books or sports or hair. I've always loved having conversations with kids, too — the way they see the world and the thoughts they come up with are both amusing and enlightening. I've also worked with teenagers for a living (and loved it) for most of my adult life. I used to jokingly tell people, “I'm going to be an expert once my kids are teens, but I'll fumble through the infant and toddler stage.” And even though my baby is the light of my life, that's still kind of true.
Thinking about getting pregnant and having a baby on my hands honestly intimidated me. My natural personality isn't suited to baby-rearing, really. I'm totally a nurturer, but I like my personal space. Being around a baby is pretty consuming, and that's why I never gravitated towards them. I like to talk and reason, and obviously interaction with a baby is often one-sided. So going into biological motherhood, I was concerned I wouldn't absolutely love this first stage of childhood. However, nine months into this gig, I'm happy to say that even without being a baby person, I found the ability to not only cope with a new baby, but to also enjoy her infant stage. And I've learned so much about selflessness, patience, and personal sacrifice too.
I feel like if I were to say it out loud that I'm so happy I became a mother, but I'm not fully digging this baby stage, people would assume I was ungrateful or insecure about the job I was doing as my daughter's mother. But that's not at all what I mean.
All that said, though, that still doesn't mean I'd ever call myself a baby person. I'm certainly a lot more interested in my friends' babies and those in my community now that I have a baby, but right now, my own is enough for me — I still don't have the inclination to hold or cuddle other babies I meet. I still appreciate their presence and the other mothers' joys from a distance, even if that distance has lessened since having my own baby and understanding that experience.
Not being a baby person has also heightened my need to balance my desire for an older child with enjoying where my daughter is now. I'll catch myself saying, “I can't wait for her to be able to [fill in the blank].” I've literally needed to stop myself mid-sentence because I definitely don't want to wish her life away. On the one hand, I'm proud that I don't try to negatively hold on to her babyhood, but on the other hand, I want to be intentional about savoring these moments even if they never stood out to me as the “ideal” stage.
Another older mom once told me, “You are living the best time in your life now, aren't you?” as if my best days are only in this stage of my daughter's life.
Another thing about not being a baby person but being a mother to a baby is being misunderstood. I feel like if I were to say it out loud that I'm so happy I became a mother, but I'm not fully digging this baby stage, people would assume I was ungrateful or insecure about the job I was doing as my daughter's mother. But that's not at all what I mean. I'd likely get slammed with reassuring comments like, “of course you're doing a good job — she's growing so healthy!” and, “this is the best stage — when they're older you'll wish they were young again.” I'm not actually questioning my abilities as a mother or my baby's development, and I'm not determining which phase in her life is better. I'm stating a simple fact that, for me (and I know I'm not the only one), I know I don't have to be a baby person to be a parent. And it's not wrong for me to be excited about a stage yet to come for my daughter. In fact, shouldn't I be looking forward to all of the varied chapters of her life?
A lady in the grocery store recently told me as she admired my daughter, adding, “This is a great time in their life. They're cute and innocent. I have a 16 year old now, and I hate teenagers.” She was probably joking, but I wondered if she realized what she sounds like using a strong word like hate with a stranger. Another older mom once told me, “You are living the best time in your life now, aren't you?” as if my best days are only in this stage of my daughter's life. Maybe it was a harmless statement, but from her tone I couldn't help but feel like I heard sadness in her voice.
I want to live knowing every stage in my own life has been the best and that there's even more to come. And now that I'm a mom, I especially want that for my daughter. Comments like this from strangers and well-meaning peers alike has added an unnecessary pressure (and the feeling like I need to be something I'm not) to indulge and overemphasize this baby stage. The thing is, I don't want to overemphasize any of my child's ages and stages, not even the ones I'm looking forward to the most. I may not be a baby person, but I'm trying to be the best parent I can be anyway, and the pressure to enjoy this stage "while it lasts" just feels inauthentic for both my daughter and me.