Among the clichés that infuriate me, “you should know, you are the mother!” has to be in my solid top ten.
Yes, I am a mother. Feng and I created a cute little human being from scratch and this fact never ceases to amaze me—even though I took biology in junior high and I know exactly how it happened (and when, and all but bien sûr, I shall not share this).
This doesn’t make me wonder woman. I have no special powers, I put all my freaking energy into my new job because guess what—parenting is a learning curve. Just because I pushed a baby out of me didn’t turn me into a know-it-all. Mark didn’t come with an instruction manual.
I do believe there is some kind of instinct in play here. I do have a strong bond with Mark, since the beginning, since he was put on my chest, all bloody and still screaming from the shock of entering the outside world. And because I was pregnant for nine months, feeling every kick and every move inside me, I did get a head start in parenting. For Feng—and I assume for most partners—the concept of a baby is more abstract during the baking period, even though towards the end he could play “poke the baby in the belly”.
But instinct isn’t everything.
I take my new job seriously but it doesn’t mean I don’t grope for a magic “happy baby and happy mommy” formula. I usually stay clear from parenting websites and message boards because they invariably make me feel bad (especially when patrolled by sanctimommies). I take advice from friends but all babies are different, plus we all have our own priorities and lifestyles. So most of the time, I resort to common sense.
Sure, I can comfort Mark, feed him, bath him, change him, make him laugh and smile. And yes, his first happy grins were for us, the parents, not for the random curious strangers at the supermarket marveling over his head full or hair. Sure, Mark recognized me very early on, turning to see me when I was walking by or gripping my finger with his tiny hand. He seems to trust us and to like us.
But I still don’t have magic powers. Sometimes, I can’t figure out what’s wrong with him, I can’t make him stop crying on command or I can’t magically sooth any baby booboos he may have. Some days, I’m simply too tired myself to put all my energy into comforting him. Some days I have no patience left and I just want the day to end. Sometime, I hand him to Feng because I need a moment.
Because you know what? I’m a freaking human being who happens to be a mother, among other things. Not some kind of semi-God whose life now entirely revolves around its offspring.
It’s not because you have breast that breastfeeding is easy; it’s not because you have a womb that you can conceive easily; it’s not because you have two copies of the X chromosome that you know everything about babies. Just like it’s not because you have two feet that you are a ballet dancer.
Mothering—and parenting—is an art that takes time to develop and perfect. Just because I briefly played with dolls when I was a kid doesn’t make me a baby expert (I liked Legos best, anyway). I don’t have the answer to every baby-related issue. I make decisions along the way, some good, some bad, who knows.
I want Mark to be a happy baby and an awesome human being.
But stop with the pressure. I’m giving my son love. That’s the best I can do. I’m learning the rest on the way.