How Motherhood Made Me A “Real” Adult (Without My Knowledge)

 

I really need to thank whoever coined the term “adulting”. I use it on a consistent basis. As in, “Do I really have to do this ‘adulting’ thing today?” or “How do you manage ‘adulting’ so easily when you have two kids?” But more often than not, I find myself saying, “Adulting is hard!”
 
Ever since becoming a mom a few years ago, I’ve felt like an imposter. Feelings of inadequacy have been swimming around in my brain since the day my son was born. This may be partly because he was a “surprise” pregnancy, and I only had a few months to get used to the idea of motherhood at age 38. But considering I had never envisioned myself as a mother, feelings of inadequacy and unpreparedness probably would have presented themselves anyway.
 
But I am happy to report that I know that I’m not alone.
 
Several weeks ago I was browsing through social media and glanced an article that said something along the lines of “Who actually feels like a real adult anyway?” The author of this post went on to say that despite being an adult, she oftentimes questioned her true abilities to successfully ‘adult’. She went on to say that she didn’t feel like an adult because she didn’t have all the answers! Imagine that! But better yet, should she?? The best part about the article were the comments posted by people stating that they felt the exact same way she did. 
 
So that really got me thinking…
 
Does anyone, even our parents, actually feel like an adult??
 
Until I got married at 38, I had lived on my own with all the responsibilities of maintaining a residence and paying the bills since I was 24. So I know what it means to be “responsible”. Even though life was simpler in my twenties and early thirties, I actually felt like a real adult. So what changed?
 
Kids happened. A husband happened. A house happened! Not necessarily in that order.
 
With a very strong-willed 3-year-old son in preschool doing his best to resist potty training, a 13-year-old stepson almost in high school, and a husband and house to maintain, life can get quite complicated. It’s no longer simple. There are days I say to myself, “What? I have to talk with a contractor about fixing the roof? What questions am I supposed to ask?”  Or, when the mom of one of my son’s classmates greets my son by name, I think to myself, “How does she know my son? I didn’t even know he had “friends” at his preschool. Am I a bad mom?”
 
These thoughts go through my head on a regular basis, especially the fear of being a “bad mom”.  I suppose I’m comparing myself to my own mother who always seemed to have it together. She knew when to comfort us when we were upset, and she knew when to leave us alone. Maybe she didn’t always get it right, but she and my dad still appeared infallible in my eyes. Despite how I may have perceived my parents when I was a kid, I’m sure they had these same feelings of inadequacy at least some of the time. Did they ever question if they were living up to their parents’ standards?
 
My parents must have done a pretty good job because I always saw both of them as responsible and knowledgeable about how parenting should really be done. I never saw them as anything other than adults. Don’t get me wrong. I still considered them human. Like when I would get glimmers of my mom’s more carefree, fun side. 
 
I can still see my five-year-old self dancing with my mom to our beloved collection of records in the living room of our Georgia home. It was Air Supply or Rick Springfield in my younger days, and then on to Michael Jackson’s Thriller after we moved to Virginia when I was a bit older. In my teenage years, it became Guns n’ Roses or any number of those hair metal bands popular in the ‘90s. So, yes, my mom could be silly and fun, but that didn’t make her any less of an adult in my mind. Just a good mom.
 
Seeing my son grow up kind of necessitates this reflection on my own childhood. As parents, we are there to guide our children as they make their journey through life. Hopefully we are equipped with enough knowledge, skills, and wisdom to guide them down the right path. 
 
That’s our job, right? 
 
As a new parent, you aren’t going to have anything to compare unforeseen situations or problems to other than what you may have experienced in your own childhood. But that’s not always helpful, is it? Times change, parenting styles change, and the societal perception of the “right” way to handle any issue may change as well. We have to keep all of this in mind as we try to mold these little humans into functioning members of society. Easier said than done! 
 
Luckily, I think all “adults” are in the same boat, more or less. We are faced with problems, and we deal with them in whatever way we feel is right. We may choose to ignore the problem, table the problem for later, or deal with it head-on. The fact that we must deal with it in some way is all a part of parenting and “adulting”. We may not be well equipped to handle a problem each and every time, but there’s something inside that steers us towards a resolution. Whether or not we have chosen the correct path is determined in time. Either way, we learn from it.
 
No one has all the answers. And even when we think we have the answer, that may not be the case at all. Maybe we’ll never get it right, but at least we tried. Is that good enough?
 
I like to think the beaming grin I see on my son’s face during our living room dance parties is a welcome answer to this question. By no fault of my own (ok, maybe a little), he seems to prefer dancing to hair metal. Observing his little legs pump in time to a rockin’ beat as if he’s about to pounce, his arms extended towards the sky, his body consumed with total happiness, it’s as if he’s saying, “You’re here. That’s all I need.”
 
Whatever he may be saying in moments like these, I’ll take it.