Friday, January 17, 2014

A Parent

Last weekend, Peter shoveled away some snow, pulled out the smoker, and shredded a serious piece of pork into carnitas for dinner. I made the fixings, Peter opened up the beer cellar, and we welcomed first and second generation friends into our house for a winter-in-Chicago-kind-of-sucks gathering.
After dinner, we were sitting around, half of us with babies suctioned to our chests, and my friend Greg turned to me and said, 'isn't this crazy, we're parents.'

Looking around the room it was. Five years ago we were at Corby's drinking too many beers, eating one more chili cheese dog, and making arguably bad decisions. Now little lives and bed times (namely mine) depended on us.

I don't know if hadn't registered to me or if in actuality no one had said it to me in the ten months that Mary has been around, but the positioning of Greg's comment threw me off. I didn't just have a baby, I was a parent. A parent. And in that there was something that made me hold Mary a little closer. The statement was weightier; filled with more responsibility; and way more stressful.

After you get married, the world expects you to have a baby. So you do. And we did. But having a baby is easy. It means decorating a nursery, taking cute pregnancy photos, picking out miniature outfits, planning first birthday parties, bath time, play time, and nap time. Sure you complain about sleeplessness, but somehow never feel that tired. Babies are hugs, squeezes, cuddles, smiles, coos, crawling, cruising and milestone after documented milestone recorded in a perfectly organized scrapbook.

This week, Greg's comment resonated more than ever. I did not just have a baby. I was a parent. And for the first time ever, I forgot to eat. (Just the M&Ms that I had stashed in my glove compartment, but in my world that says something.)

Being a parent means poo and diaper rash and potty training. It means saying no. Meaning no. And enforcing no. It means car safety and passive driving, ear infections and antibiotics, wanting to be there for baby, but knowing you have a job to do so Day Care it is. It means your mouth comes second; and on an airplane, despite what the stewardess might tell me, it means my air mask can wait. It means asking for help, accepting help, and realizing defeat. It means planning for the future, monitoring the budget, and denying yourself the shoes, bags, and clothes that deep down you really want.
It means no time.
It means worry and anxiety.
And it means good enough is the passing grade.

The problem for me and many in my generation is that we all want babies - the chubby little cherubs pasted all over Pinterest. But we also want careers, not just jobs. We want to mothers, not just moms. And we want to remain these unique, celebrated individuals that we've spent decades cultivating. We don't just think it's all possible, we think it will all be easy. And when it's not, we (or maybe it's just me) panic a little bit.

Being a parent is realizing that life isn't easy and it's not perfect and there's never just one solution. It's exhausting, emotional, and sometimes painful. But with that said, I wouldn't trade in my role for anything. Because the laughter after an ear infection, the moment of pride and relief after a heavily anticipated meeting, and the group hug at the end of a tough day are some of the sweetest notes in life.

Big hug, to me.


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