You spend nine months getting ready for your baby. You read a few books, sign up for a newsletter or two, maybe even take a parenting class. But let's be honest, nothing really prepares you for the gig. Being a parent is kind of like being asked to fly the space shuttle armed with nothing more than a thick instruction manual. We're all just feeling it out as we go.
Which is why I almost stood up and applauded Eva Mendes for her recent comments on motherhood. The new mom told Women's Health that she's not quite ready to start dispensing parenting advice—yet. "I don't feel like I've really earned the right," she said in the interview (h/t People.com). "I want to respect all the moms out there. They're going to be like, 'You know what? You're a few months in. Just shut up.'"
Well, I wouldn't go that far. I think all of us have earned the right to talk about being a parent no matter how old our child is. But Mendes brings up a good question: When do you start feeling like a bona fide mom or dad, like you've experienced enough knocks and bumps with baby to give you your sea legs? At what point are you less a fish out of water and more a seasoned, diaper-wipes-paci packing pro?
Some mamas don't take long to feel confident—six months in and Chelsea Clinton is already ignoring Grandma Hillary's advice. But making that leap took me ages. Nearly two years, to be precise. Don't get me wrong, my son and I did a lot of living in that time. We traveled all over the country together. We held hands when he caught his first snowflakes on his tongue. We snuggled in the emergency room after his first febrile seizure. We smiled at each other after he first kissed his now best friend Madeline on the playground. But I didn't feel like I was in my motherhood groove until around his second birthday. At that point, I had two years of parenting under my belt, a toddler who could finally sleep through the night and, most importantly, a close-knit group of parent friends who were just as unsure as I was and helped me see that we were all learning on the job. I could breathe a little easier.
It sounds like Mendes is also finding some comfort among other new moms. In November, she confessed that she "finds solace" in the comments section of parenting sites. "Just knowing that I'm not alone out there and that other moms have gone through the same thing can at least get me through the night," she told Violet Grey digital magazine. And my guess is, it won't be long before she considers herself the pro she already is.
I want to hear from you: When did you start feeling like a bona fide parent?
Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+
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Image of Eva Mendes courtesy of Shutterstock