"Did you change his diaper yet?"
That's the question that startled me into the realization that I was wholly and completely unprepared for motherhood.
Becoming a parent wasn't a natural choice for me. I didn't have that biological clock ticking away and I certainly didn't hear the alarm even as I approached "advanced maternal age." And yet I was pretty sure that if I didn't give the whole motherhood thing a try, I'd regret it until my dying day.
So at the ripe old age of 36, I set about the task of informing my husband that we were going to give it a go. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. No big deal.
Only it was a big deal and we both knew it. We knew that if we gave up our dual income, no kids lifestyle, there was no turning back. No refunds, no "Oh, I changed my mind," no re-homing. If we became parents, it was a lifelong decision. And four months later, we found out we were headed down that one-way road.
I'll be the first to admit that I had no clue about motherhood. I thought I had a clue. I seriously thought having two dogs prepared me for having a baby. But I had nothing else to go on. Most of my friends were too young for children or well past the baby stage and my family was just as clueless as I was.
This was literally a shot in the dark. Or more like a step in the dark ... on to a very oddly shaped, squeaky toy.
I read the books and attended the classes and thought it would all come naturally to me.
(Spoiler alert: It didn't.)
And then on Day 2 of my hospital stay, after giving birth to my son, the nurses came in and asked if we had changed his diaper. My husband and I looked at each other in a state of embarrassed panic: Were we supposed to do that? Nobody told us to do that. Why didn't anyone tell us to do that?
It was in that moment, and in many moments to come, that I realized motherhood is a job and there truly is no experience required.
If only I had the chance to interview for the position of mother, I might have been better equipped. The expectations for the role would have clearly been laid out, along with the necessary prerequisites. And I would have had a chance to ask a few questions of my own.
How flexible are the hours?
What's the company culture like?
Do you offer salary increases based on merit?
What type of benefits do you offer?
What does the retirement plan look like?
Then again, if I had really been interviewing for the position of mother, I'm not sure I would have liked what the answers looked like.
Yes, the hours are very flexible. In fact, there are opportunities to work early in the morning and late at night. And you can take lots of breaks during the day, as long as those breaks are coordinated with naptime AND your child chooses to nap (FYI -- mine didn't).
The company culture is really up to you. It can be stressful and serious with very tight deadlines. Or it can be carefree and full of frivolity. In fact, many of our employees take this as an opportunity to relive their childhood. Oh, and we do offer complimentary snacks, such as goldfish crackers, yogurt puffs, and squeezie packs of applesauce.
The salary? Did we forget to mention this is an unpaid position? However, we like to think the benefits of child rearing far outweigh any monetary gain from other employable positions. And the experience provides you with life skills you never knew you needed.
As for retirement, we are happy to say that you can retire with full benefits after 18 years, unless of course you've raised one of those smart kids, in which case retirement could be delayed an additional four to eight years depending on your child's educational path.
And that's just how it might have looked on paper. The truth is that motherhood is a position for which many of us apply without any prerequisites and most certainly without an interview. And yet I decided to take that job and run with it.
I have one kid and one kid only so I've only got one shot to get things right. After seven years of on-the-job experience, I'm still learning as I go.
Images via Fadra Nally