Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Public Parenting

When Oscar was born, Nelson took three weeks off from work to be with us. Then he went back, and left us all alone. On that first day, by 11AM I was in tears and on the phone with my husband begging him to come home. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and felt completely unqualified and inadequate as a parent. He did come home, by the way.

Oscar was a marathon nurser and would not nap unless I was holding him, or he was in the swing. This made it nearly impossible to get out and about his first few months. And I was fine with that. It was sweltering hot. And, truth be told, I still felt really self-conscious and inadequate. I felt that way for a long time.

Eventually, I screwed up my courage and we began venturing out when he was five or six weeks old, mostly to visit with the other new moms I knew from our childbirth preparation class. We visited with Susanne and Danny in DC; a walk by the river with Diana and Aiden in Alexandria; a stroll with Katya and Kira at the arboretum.

I grew more confident. We joined a Mommy and Me yoga class that met once a week. We made trips to Babies r Us and Target and the local bookstore. I went everywhere with Oscar. And everywhere I went, people watched me.

There are many things no one ever tells you about becoming a parent. One thing no one told me about is the tremendous pressure of parenting in public. All those eyes, trained on you, studying your every move, how your baby is dressed, how you interact with him, how alert he is. This is especially difficult for a new parent who already feels she doesn't know what she's doing. It's enough to keep you house bound for days, weeks even.

These days, I still notice the watchers, but I feel more confident. Most days, I'd even say I know what I'm doing.

And then, there are days like today. Oscar and I had run some errands - bank, bookstore, pharmacy. He was a model baby. He was cute, babbling playing with his toys, interacting with me and with other patrons. I am such an awesome mom and have raised such a smart, well adjusted kid. Look at me. LOOK AT ME!

Then, I took him out of the stroller to load him into the car and BAM! the stroller tips over backwards because of the weight of my diaper bag on the handles, spilling my packages into the parking lot. Frazzled, I turn to load Oscar in the car and WACK! I hit his head on the window of the car and the THUMP! I bump his head again on the door frame. Not hard, he didn't even cry. He was fine, totally fine.

But tell that to the nosey grandma shaking her head at me a few cars over. And POOF! I felt like an inadequate idiot of a parent all over again.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

It's times like that which brings us back down to earth and makes us realize that no matter how good we think we are, there is always something to learn.