Confidence check: Nope. Still don't know what I'm doing.

I walked into the gym for Thalia's preschool class holiday party the other day and I realized, man, I still suck at this.

I can hold my own in a meeting, at a dinner, in a foreign country, in a ballroom of 1000 women at a conference. But stick me with my kid, acting as a mom, in a room with 15 other kids and their moms--I absolutely lose all ability to behave like a someone who's actually been parenting now nearly 3 1/2 years.

Suddenly I'm second-guessing everything I'm doing--and worse, how it might be perceived. And lord, it pains me to admit that.

Hm, Thalia is making her own gingerbread house. Am I suppose to be doing it with her? Am I supposed to be correcting her like that mom? Am I supposed to show her how to make it pretty and symmetrical instead of just sitting here going, "good job honey!" with every Necco wafer that dangles precariously off the frosting roof? And what about the pizza? Every other kid is eating pizza. Thalia won't sit down and eat. Should I make her? Should I just make a show of making her? Should I just resign myself to giving her a few crackers and call it a night? Should I declare really loudly to no one in particular she had a reallllly big, late lunch?

The patron saint of insecurity smiling down upon me.

It's funny, as much time as I spend writing about my children and playing the role of professional mom here in these blog parts, I consistently feel ill-equipped to actually perform that role in front of a room full of people. I mean, I can't even get my stroller through a door. Now I'm supposed to parent in front of other moms? Moms who seem to actually do it pretty well themselves?

Any day now, I'm waiting for someone to rescind my Official Parenting ID Card.

"I wouldn't worry about it," was Nate's advice. "I'm sure they don't really care what you're doing."

Oh, men and their silly truths getting in the way of a good bout of self-flagellation.

I've mentioned before that I may be a type A person but I'm a type B mom. I'm never going to be the mom who bakes the best brownies for the bake sale or remembers that Thalia should be wearing a hat because it's 2 degrees outside with the windchill. (We'll just pull your hood up real tight - yeah, like that, honey!) I'd be great at reading to the class; just don't ask me to be the person who coordinates the calendar of when everyone reads to the class.

You should have heard the silence after the class mom asked me if I wanted to join up with her back in September.

"Um," I stammered. "You do not want me to be the class mom. I will make you look bad. I will be doing everything last minute and even then after you've asked me 16 times. I will be the mom that all the non-class moms are calling going, um, where's that thing you promised you'd do? And I'd beg for forgiveness and I'd give you my list of 100 other things I have going on, and you'd be sympathetic for about a month and after that, you'd just fire me."

"Oh that's fine," she laughed. "I'm not really class mom material either."

But she is.

(She really is.)

I am trying to just recognize and accept that I am laid-back mom, hear me roar. And I have two most excellent children to show for it.

Sometimes that's the only reminder I have that I'm doing something right here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that I'm on my third pre-schooler, I'm finally starting to calm down. I still always forget the raincoats and never remember to bring a snack for the class when I said I would, but I don't care about what the other moms think. When I started at the school with Bea, I was the young mom, and now with India--in the span of a mere five years!!--I am the old mom. I have accepted the frazzle that my life has become.
Now, when I have to go to the elementary school, it's a different story. I get unpleasant flashbacks in the gym and the cafeteria, and those fifth grade moms are scary!

12/14/08, 10:35 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Great post! I am exactly the same way.

12/14/08, 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Liz...

Why oh why could you not be one of the Moms in my kids' class? You'd have so set my mind at ease those first few weeks fumbling through thinking I was an absolute pile of stank parental incompetence!

Once again, your honesty makes me adore you even more. :)

12/14/08, 10:52 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

I am exactly the same way too! I always feel like every other mom is watching me, scrutinizing my every move. In reality, they're probably just thinking the same thing about me.

12/14/08, 10:54 PM  
Blogger Susan Getgood said...

My tactic -- I volunteer to chaperone the field trip every year and I'm on the board of a local non-profit related to the schools. That's it. I do nothing else. No home-school association (they'd kick me out anyway), no recess, library or classroom volunteering. Nothing actually in the school walls. Too much structure, gives me hives.

As to what the other moms (and dads) think of me. Who cares. All that really matters is your kids and your partner.

12/14/08, 11:11 PM  
Blogger Backpacking Dad said...

We took Erin over to Stefania's (CityMama) for a dinner party tonight and she was the only one eating markers or trying to rip ornaments off the tree.

I am a Type C parent. That's C, for "See how many things I can watch my kid do without stopping her".

12/14/08, 11:45 PM  
Blogger Petunia Face said...

I went to dinner the other night with my friend and her 3 year old son. At one point her son stood up in the booth and she quickly said, "sit down!" And he did, and stayed there throughout the whole dinner coloring with his crayons while my daughter stood up in her chair, slid down, crawled under the table and ate her crayons (but not her mac and cheese). I so identify with this post!

12/15/08, 12:32 AM  
Blogger Brooke said...

I feel like you wrote exactly how I feel everyday. Around every corner, I'm waiting for someone to take my Parenting ID Card away from me!

12/15/08, 12:44 AM  
Blogger Lady M said...

At the preschool open house, I watched Q to see if he liked the place and smiled at the other moms. After I left, I wondered - was I supposed to make friends with those other women? Will he have no friends because I didn't? Should I have . . . .

Yeah, I'm with you.

12/15/08, 1:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I so understand this. I feel like I'm the only one at MeLaddos nursery who's not a grown up yet. How do these other Parents do being a grown up so convincingly?

12/15/08, 6:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes...this sounds so familiar. I live in the deep South--Georgia to be exact. (pronounced "Jaw-jah") Here, there's this whole ideal of the perfect Southern woman to live up to, and that extends to being the perfect mother too. The well-mannered, smiling, cookie-baking, room-mom, mommy. And all the mommies seem to be watching to see if you meet the standard. I draw the line at putting a matching bow in my girls' hair every day. We're just too laid back for that. Some moms tell their girls, "No bow, no go," before they leave the house. Sheesh. I have one daughter still in preschool and the other in K'garten.
Ocassionally I'll see these moms at school events who are just so-- I don't know--themselves. Just enjoying the time with their child and not concerned about what others are thinking. Not worried about whether they're doing or saying the right thing or trying to network with the other mommies. That must be what our kids really need. For us to just be ourselves. My goal is to do that too. Be less "in my head" the whole time and more in the moment with my kids.

12/15/08, 8:50 AM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

You know, Liz, those moms who are telling their children how to decorate a gingerbread house are not doing them any favors. They'll probably be the same ones doing their science experiments and writing their college entrance exams. And, you don't want to be one of those.

Whenever I start to get a bit tweaked about all I don't do, I think about how my mom would just open up the front door, point outside and say, "GO PLAY!". Although, she was a pain in the ass when it came to me doing any crafts which is probably why I loathe doing them so.

12/15/08, 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we can all relate -- even the type AAA moms. I sometimes believe they do everything as a front to cover their own insecurities -- maybe not as many as I might have, but the energy they use to make those homemade brownies might be a good way to deal with feeling like a "failure" in other areas.

Or they're just fucking perfect and I'm doomed.

12/15/08, 9:44 AM  
Blogger Me said...

Thank you!!! Thank You!!! Thank You!!!!
For the peace of mind I"m not alone.
Whenever I take my toddler to the library play area these other mothers ask their child to "find the cow", and "what does the cow say", "where does a cow live", etc.
When Elenore comes up to me and says "Moooo". I smile and say, "Yes, a cow!"
Who are these women? Robots?

12/15/08, 9:52 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I tried to be that Type A mom when Cordy was little, and quickly realized I was too lazy for that.

Of course, in our day-to-day life I think I'm happier than many of those Type A moms. I only have to stress out at special functions - they're stressing out all the time.

12/15/08, 10:59 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

we are twins.

i recently went to my daughter's holiday play that started at 2. i showed up at 1:20 (dear god, just so i could get a spot in the lot) and didn't get the memo that the REAL moms show up at 12:30...to get a good seat.

great. parent fail.

12/15/08, 11:01 AM  
Blogger Wicked Step Mom said...

I hate those bouts of insecurity. I am new at the mom thing. And I don't have a clue if what I am doing it right or wrong. And because you are who you are (I know because I am that way too), you stress about it. You sit there and try to tackle parenting the way you tackle everything else, with enthusiasm and perfectionism. But, no matter what you do, being a mom isn't about being perfect. So, you will never be perfect. And really, you judge yourself more harshly than anyone else ever will. Now, if I could find a way to take my own advice, I would be a lot less crazy!

12/15/08, 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

16 years and 5 kids later, and I still feel the same as you. I had to laugh at the hat issue. I'm terrible with that. My kids have to remind ME to put my hat on. :) I'm always insecure around other moms. Don't think that will ever change...

12/15/08, 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you have one more, you won't even give a crap anymore...AT ALL, and you'll just laugh at the moms who do behind their backs. It's very liberating.

12/15/08, 12:56 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

The other moms are wondering the same things as you.

12/15/08, 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See, I think I'm going to be doubly screwed. Not only am I new to this mom thing (Lily is only 16 months) but I don't even KNOW any other mom's. Sure, we do the occasional play time with the local ECFE, but I'm really winging this, I've got no friends or siblings or cousins with kids yet. So I've got no one to compare to.

So I have a feeling that once we hit preschool I'm just going to get torpedoed. Because right now? Right now I feel like we're doing pretty good. She talks, she signs, she makes more sense than I'd have guessed from a kid her age. But I'm sure I'll find out I'm wrong once I get around the ubermommies.

I already feel like a total boob at playtime when I just kind of putter along behind her, putting discarded toys back as she moves on to the next thing, and keeping a good enough distance. (She'll move on faster if I try to play with her in public. I thought that stuff didn't start until they hit the pre-teens???)

12/15/08, 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kristen hit the nail on the head. Super-perfect moms who loudly proclaim how they LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT BEING A MOM, BAKING, CRAFTS, VOLUNTEERING, ETC. are really, really, really good at... sublimating.

Everyone doubts themselves sometimes. I'll never believe otherwise.

12/15/08, 1:34 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Is she healthy? Is she happy? Is she turning out to be the kind of person you'd want to hang out with? Yes to all of those? Then fuck insecurity and the people who make you feel insecure. You're doing a great job. Who's to say they're not doing everything wrong and making their kids into little automoton sheeple? You're a rock star, and you're kid will be one too.

12/15/08, 2:00 PM  
Blogger Issa said...

I am so judging you right now. :)

Except that my four year old is currently living off of Goldfish and dry Apple Jacks cereal, which I'm pretty sure isn't a complete diet. Also, yesterday after they'd been snowboarding for two hours, I realized that my seven year old wasn't wearing socks. It was about -10 at the time. Also the bear suit I shoved my son in yesterday is way too small for him. I just sorta squished his rolls into it.

I figure if they are alive at the end of a day, I've done okay. It's the big picture that I care about. Raising responsible, caring, giving, independent (this one, easier said than done), intelligent people. Every phase, like the non-eating one, eventually goes away, to be replaced by some other weird thing. Next time look around the room, I'll bet you can spot someone else who doesn't look like they fully have it together either.

A type A personality, but a type B mom...this is a perfect description.

12/15/08, 3:41 PM  
Blogger Issa said...

Can I just add, even though I wrote a novel...Kristen (MU) had a tweet the other day about doing salt dough ornaments with Q and Drew and I thought to myself, if I have to be able to do that, I might should send Harrison to daycare now. The girls went by 8 weeks. I'm not sure I'm cut out for the stay at home gig.

And I adore Kristen and I so know she's not crazy like that. But I did freak for a second.

12/15/08, 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are always going to be those moms who spend their time planning (and executing) impossible crafts projects, cooking experiments and making homeade frames for their kids' artwork. What I have learned in the 1 year since I decided to be an SAHM is that the kids don't care as much as the moms do. Which makes me very happy since the best crafts project I can come up with is a bunch of scribble on paper. Hope you're well!

12/15/08, 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha, Liz. I've been doing this almost 17 years - my God, how has it been that long? - and I'm finally at the point that I just flippin don't care. I'm the type L parent - lazy and overwhelmed, who knows she can't do it as well as the other moms, and who really couldn't care less.

12/15/08, 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

laid back moms are the best mom... hands down... puh-lease, anyone that says anything else is making up for something...

12/15/08, 7:04 PM  
Blogger erin said...

Oh my gosh...that is exactly what is going through my mind at all of the preschool/daycare events...then add the insecurity about what the teacher thinks of how I'm parenting at that moment because, well, Sam has been known to have some problems at school here and there and I have been talked to by the teacher and director. And, while we've been working together with them to curb some of his outbursts, I have also told them that I do what I can at home, but I'm not there to see what he's doing at school and they are going to have to figure out what works in the classroom so they can address the behavior at that moment then I will back them up at home in the evening. So when I am there, I'm completely on edge. I'm just praying that maybe some of these other parents are just as insecure and I'm not the only one who feels like 45 minutes at a daycare party could be enough to send me to an institution...thanks for reassuring me :)

12/15/08, 9:28 PM  
Blogger Professor Elaine Lewinnek said...

My own mother tells me that in the 1970s, a Harvard researcher named Byron White actually did a study arguing that laid-back parenting is best. He called it C-minus parenting. Really. I posted about it on my own blog a while back (http://elewinnek.wordpress.com/2008/10/03/the-c-parenting-philosophy/) but not as well as you do here.

12/15/08, 10:20 PM  
Blogger Jessie said...

I'm pretty sure every mom is that mom, some are just better at fooling the rest of us.

12/16/08, 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Issas Crazy World... If they're alive at the end of the day, I'm guessing I'm doing okay.
Especially if the (hypothetical) ginger bread house ends up smashed into a sibling... It's just not a complete day if at least one of them hasn't completely lost it.

12/16/08, 11:18 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Is there a Type Z parent? As in, Damn this parenting thing makes me tired. Zzzzzz.

Because that's totally me. I'm just impressed you didn't try to eat the gingerbread house before it was finished. If I had my way it would have been gone, even the icky licorice flavored Necco wafers.

12/16/08, 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's okay to be a Type B mom. Life is definitely more relaxed. And hey...imagine how much life would suck if all us moms were Type A? Gackkkk! I can't even let my mind go there.

12/16/08, 12:13 PM  
Blogger Magpie said...

You and me both. Slacker moms, unite!

12/16/08, 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahaha - confidence! i know! i attend a once weekly mommy "playgroup" - we are all first time moms with a 5 or 6 months old... so yeah, maybe at this stage confidence missing is a given. BUT - there i sit, not listening to what they are saying but silently praying that my baby boy doesn't start to cry, start to whine, start to poop, spit up, need to nurse? because when any of those things happen out in public, i'm a mess. i'm clumsy. oh we get it all done at home just fine, just not very gracefully. i leave each week in awe of how that mom just nursed her little girl so discreetly, how that other mom just changed her little boy so easily....

12/16/08, 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think type B is actually best. I had to learn to restrain myself when the kids did little projects like that gingerbread house. I'd be itching to "guide" them, when what I would be really doing was a) controlling them b) not allowing them to express/ figure it out for themselves c) sending the message that their "work" wasn't up to my standards.

It's hard not giving in to my inner control freak, but it's a lot less stressful.

Oh, and that "no bow, no go" business.... Mercy! That's not a child, it's a poodle.

12/16/08, 3:35 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Thank you all for making me feel like it's cool to be me.
Either that, or I just have a lot of freaking insecure readers!

But I have to ask Lisse:

What is "No bow, no go?"

12/16/08, 3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See Carmen's comment ;)

12/16/08, 3:43 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...


My girls don't even own bows.

I guess it's a good thing I live up North?

12/16/08, 3:46 PM  
Blogger Mayberry said...

Parenting in Public takes things up a completely scary notch. I hate it. I have a friend who goes to the same church as I do. She won't let her kids color, read, snack, etc. during the service, whereas I come armed with a big-ass bag full of distractions, and then feel like a loser who can't get her kids to behave in public. AND YET: I once witnessed her husband clip their child's toenail in the middle of Mass. So.

12/16/08, 10:30 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Wow, Mayberry. And I thought it was bad that I let Sage run around barefoot at our building's holiday party tonight because she refused to wear shoes.

At least I didn't clip her nails (although I certainly had the opportunity)

12/16/08, 10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My youngest, insisted on wearing socks, on her hands, anytime we went anywhere for two long months the summer she was three. She's a normal 23 year old now and laughs at the pictures of her wearing them.

12/17/08, 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But of course we are judging you! For something. Every mom has her own little zone of sanctimony, no matter how we protest. Mine is punctuation. How I scorn those room mommies for their excessive and unintentionally ironic quotation marks. Now I feel better about the fact that my 10-year-old knows how to use eyeliner...

12/17/08, 1:56 PM  
Blogger schneids said...

I always feel like i have to be perfect as a mom or else everyone will judge us a family. As a same-sex family...i feel as if I have to "represent" that it is okay for us to raise kids. It puts a whole lot more weight on me when i feel that way.

But, otherwise,..i am all for saying "screw it" and just being me around my kid and not giving a crap what others say.

12/17/08, 11:12 PM  
Blogger Kari said...

Oh, I so hear you! My daughters' preschool recently asked me to serve as the Treasurer on the Board of Directors. They asked me because I work in Finance, and they are under the mistaken impression that I'd be good at keeping the preschool's books, even though I don't even have anything to do with our own family's finances.

Still...I can't help but feel guilty turning them down. Like I'm not a good Mom not to jump at the chance to be that involved in my kid's preschool.

12/18/08, 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first time I hosted a playgroup, I had a mild panic attack. What was I supposed to do? Was there playgroup etiquette? Was my son going to bop one of the other kids over the head? Well, my son did bop one of the other kids, and I went overboard with unnecessary snacks, but we all survived.

I keep trying to be Type A, but I think I'm more of a Type A minus.

12/18/08, 3:44 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

You know what I think the real problem is? "Parent" doesn't really work as a verb. Not the way I do it, anyway. I am, and will always be, a noun. I'll be in the backround ... with the furniture.

12/18/08, 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for saying what I'm thinking so well! I feel the exact same way...totally confident in other areas of my life and then, when I suddenly find myself someplace where I need to demonstrate some parenting skills in front of others...I fall apart and feel like a moron. And worse, I'm sure that EVERYONE is watching and judging me!

don't know what to DO about it...but it sure is nice to know others feel the same way...!

12/29/08, 2:33 PM  

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