People love to remind us that parenting is the most important job we’ll ever have. It’s no wonder new parents are freaked out. I felt totally unprepared when I was pregnant with my first. I had no mom schooling, I received no mom degree, and I never even interned as a mom. I did read some books. Lots of books, actually, but so what? If I wanted to be a surgeon, I couldn’t just breeze in to the operating room and be all, “I read some books. Let’s do this.”
I did have some experience babysitting, but I never really liked it, and if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t especially like kids before I had my own. Some women want to be moms from a young age. I always assumed I would get married and have kids, and that I would like it, but it never occurred to me to start training for this job. Even if it had occurred to me, I’m too much of a procrastinator to have done anything about it. My first kid slept in a Pack N Play for four months before we bothered to buy a crib.
Looking back, there are other life experiences that trained me for motherhood. I worked in a clothing store where I folded and put away other people’s messes all day. Just like I do now. I’ve been wiping my own bottom for years,and it’s way bigger than the tiny tush I wiped this morning.
Even my summer job in high school was slowly training me for the biggest gig of them all. I was a lifeguard and while most of my time was spent sunning myself, jamming to Salt-N-Pepa on the hand-me-down boom box, and running away from the older boy lifeguards who thought it was hilarious to hold us down and rub the dirty flyswatter on our faces, my actual job responsibilities were similar to my duties now.
Keeping People Alive Pretty much the #1 job of a parent.
Child Care Parents would drop off their 5-15 year olds for the entire day. To be watched by no one but some high school lifeguards. It was by far the cheapest unofficial child care in town, and it is no small miracle that everyone survived. I settled disputes, sifted through lies, counted to three, and dispersed punishments, all while keeping my eyes trained on the patrons in the pool.
Janitorial Duties This obviously translates into parenting, but the kids at the pool gave us opportunity for special parenting training. On occasion if someone would leave their towel or clothing in the bathroom/changing room, a group of preteen boys would put the belongings in the toilet. It was disgusting, and it gave me lots of experience fishing things out of the can.
Sucking In My Gut I was in a swimsuit all day as a lifeguard, and sucking in is a must for a post-baby belly. I’ve been sucking in my gut almost all my life, but the most focused times were when I was in my swimsuit and when my belly was extra doughy. (Side note: I will never call it a bathing suit. Show me one person that uses those suits for bathing.)
Parenting is a complex job. It’s full of small, seemingly unimportant tasks surrounding big, life shaping events and choices. To all of you soon to be parents: Don’t fret. You’ve been training for this your whole life.