I was a career-focused young woman with strong determination to keep climbing the ladder in a company’s hierarchy. In my work, I was unfaltering and result-oriented. Success and recognition were my fuels, and I worked extremely hard. I never escaped responsibility and my colleagues relied on my trustworthiness.
Then my children were born—they changed me in a lot of ways. Now I would like to share the feelings they brought into my life.
I don’t think that you can prepare for being a parent. Even if you’re already one, you can’t prepare to be the parent of a new child. First, they are so remote, so different, second, the interaction between me and my child creates a different parent of me to both of my kids.
Since there is no preparation phase, I learned by doing. But that involved a lot of doubt and this feeling keeps lingering on even after eight years. In the beginning it was about the kind of diaper to use or the food to give, nowadays my inside questions revolve around what type of school is the best fit for my kids or should I insist on my daughter’s attendance in ballet classes or should I let her drop out. Doubt is present all the time.
As a newborn parent, I was left with my instincts, there were no walls, barriers marking the limits of my behaviour, my actions. I can do anything with this newborn being and the enormity of this feeling toppled me to the floor. This lack of a secure set of rules created a constant insecurity feeling not particularly helped by comments from strangers and relatives alike.
I can sometimes turn this feeling into a game: I can never know what my actions will trigger in my kids, so I turn to them open with curiosity, now it’s your turn, what’s your step? However, new information about another school they could attend or a parenting advice I should adopt can push me out again into the field of insecurity where I quickly lose the balance I gained a minute ago.
The boredom created by unending tasks
Putting kids to bed, cleaning up after their meal and playing the same card game the 528th time needs a different kind of discipline than I was used to at my workplace. If I think of it, these chores will keep on repeating daily for years—a devastating thought for somebody (like me) who enjoyed the diverse tasks of my work. Before I had the opportunity (and the feeling of the mental comfort this gave me) to change jobs, colleagues, now I often feel I’m stuck. There are certainly shifts in these repetitive actions as children grow, but there will be some left for sure even after years pass.
The control freak side of me took its toll in the form of worry during the past years. Well, if you think of it, there are so many things that could happen to a child, and I have a creative imagination. All these vivid images fueled my worry to the point where I yelled at them in the big wheel (the Budapest Eye) not to move at all because we’re going to fall out or at least, the cabin will fall off if they go to the window to look out (which this whole construction was all about, actually).
Handling the responsibility alone
I took parenting seriously as with all of my duties before. But the scope of it puzzled me, I could not embrace it fully, could not even see the end of it. From the decision of the place of the birth to my eating habits during pregnancy, all could impact my baby’s life some way—and the factors, their combinations, and my decisions are endless, way too complex to even think them over.
Finding a place of peace with this huge responsibility I’m still striving for, although I learned to shrug off some factors (like eating) because it took so much effort and care from my side that it wasn’t worth it.
Bearing the lack or too much of feedback
Parenting is a long-term project where feedback is missing for a long time. The baby smiled at me or cried desperately, but many times I had no clue which of my actions triggered this answer. This lack of feedback of my parenting performance is later replaced by the questioning and criticism of older children together with their reflection of yourself in their choice of words and deeds (these reflections many times are not too favourable).
Finally, in the end, I can never be sure whether the end result is success or failure.
Is there an end result anyways?
Writing this piece taught me how limited my vocabulary is in describing all the implications of parenting or the multiple dimensions it includes, and over and over I reach back to the words used in my business life. But words like result, success, failure, rules and certainty are just not suitable or applicable. Parenting is rather an infinite game that we play for the joy (and sometimes the struggle) of playing and not for reaching the end of the game with the help of detailed feedback of performance and a book of rules. And during this game, I learned to live with insecurities, doubts and worry that created a complete person of me over the years.