I sat across the table from my new friend at a bakery. She finished up her lunch while I drank an iced coffee, even though the bitter wind howled outside the window.
We were connected by mutual friends who thought the two of us could help one another professionally, but what we ended up connecting over was being mothers.
I quickly learned that this woman’s baby was born months early. So early that she had to spend the first six months of her life in the NICU. My heart lurched as I listened to her relive that time, watching the pain take a physical hold of her body.
To relate to her, I recounted the two painful parenting experiences I’ve had so far: my two-month-old contracting a bad case of RSV, and the same child, eight months later, having two seizures in 11 days. I told her that I am now obsessive about washing my hands and sanitizing my child’s toys. I said that the cold and flu season has me in a constant state of fear, and that I create unrealistic what-ifs every time my daughter sleeps.
I told her I wish I was a more chill mom.
This woman — this mother who delivered a baby that weighed in at less than a pound — told me, the mom of a perfectly healthy baby, that I am doing exactly what I need to be doing. She said I shouldn’t wish I was more chill.
She could have told me that being worried about my daughter contracting an illness is nothing compared to worrying if your child will make it through the night. But she didn’t. Instead, she gave me the validation that I’d unknowingly been searching for.
As we said our goodbyes, my new friend put her hand on my arm and said, “You’re doing a great job. Keep doing what you’re doing.”
It has been a couple of months since we met, and she probably doesn’t remember telling me I’m doing a good job or that I shouldn’t wish to be something I’m not, and yet I think about her words every day. She did me such a kindness that afternoon in the bakery.
Since that day, I’ve stopped wishing I parented differently. I’ve stopped comparing myself to more laid back parents, because that’s just not the mom I am right now.
I am not a chill mom because being cautious is the lifeboat I need today. Tomorrow might be different, but right now it’s what’s carrying me across the rocky sea of parenthood.
Whatever it is you wish you were more or less of — stop. You parent the way you do because of the experiences that brought you here. It’s what you need to survive, and it’s working.