Posted by: workforcookies | April 9, 2009

Earning my stripes

Sometimes I’m afraid of my kids. 

Not in the same shriek-invoking way that I fear spiders. This is more of a slow-burning anxiety that I often try to drown out with the sound of my voice singing silly songs or telling silly stories. 

Of course, I love my children with every fiber of my being. Of course, I think they are without a doubt the most beautiful beings I’ve ever laid eyes on and sometimes I want to just stare at them every second of every day—even while they’re sleeping. But the truth is, I’m not with them every second. In fact, our nanny spends more waking hours with them than I do.

I’ve been working for 12 years, which means I’ve spent 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, for the last 12 years mastering the skills I use at work. That’s 124,800 hours, give or take a few hours for vacation and sick days. I feel like I’m pretty good at what I do and I feel like that’s in large part because I’ve spent so much time doing it. In fact, if you believe Malcolm Gladwell, it takes a mere 10,000 hours to master a skill. (Maybe I should as for a raise?)

But if you believe Gladwell, I’m nowhere near being an expert when it comes to parenting. My nanny is with my kids nine hours a day five days a week, whereas I’m lucky to get eight waking hours with them on Saturday and Sunday (starting this week, it will be Friday too!). Just counting weekends, I’ve racked up a total of 2,496 hours in the three years since my son was born. Factor in the three months of maternity leave I took with him and the five I took with my daughter, and I can add a whopping 1,280 hours to that, giving me a grand total of 3,776 hours in parenting. A far cry from 10,000. No wonder I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing half the time!

And there’s the source of my fear. Sometimes I worry they’ll look at me and realize I don’t know what I’m doing, that I make the wrong decisions all the time and that—gasp!—the nanny is better at parenting them than I am.

At this rate, It’ll take me about six more years to rack up the 10,000 hours needed before can even have a shot at claiming that I know what I’m doing when it comes to parenting!


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