"So what do you do?"
"I work for the parenting site POPSUGAR Moms."
"That sounds fun! How many kids do you have?"
It's a simple question, right? Just give a number, and the conversation can carry on. But for me, it's not that easy. You see, even though I work for a parenting website, I am not a parent.
For the past four years, I have worked for several mom-related magazines and websites without experiencing the joys of motherhood for myself. Now before you stop reading all my articles, you should know I'm not ignorant when it comes to childcare. In fact, my experience with children is what led me down this career path.
Inspired by The Baby-Sitter's Club, I became a YMCA-certified babysitter when I was 13 and started watching my cousins and the neighbor's children shortly after. I quickly became a master of mixing baby formula, bathing two kids at once, and singing the perfect lullaby. In college, weekly babysitting gigs subsidized my books and trips to the bar (once I completed diaper duties, of course). After graduation, I upgraded to nanny status in one of the most competitive childcare cities in the country — New York City. Let me tell you, working for an NYC family is a quick way to tell if you're cut out for parenting. Some of these kids have more toys, more demands, and more attitude than their suburban counterparts. If you can make it here, you really can make it anywhere. But I digress . . .
Don't get me wrong. I know 24 hours a week of childcare doesn't compare to the 24 hours a day that parents face. I'm reminded of this every day when I sit at my desk. I listen to my colleagues talk about their challenges — staying up all night with a sick child, getting the baby to sleep through the night, balancing work and home life — and I fall silent. I can't relate to their struggles or offer them sage advice. My biggest problem is getting a dirty roommate to wash her dishes — not exactly on the same level. I feel bad that they have to deal with daily parenting problems, and I don't. I guess you could say it's nonmom guilt.
Then there are the times they talk about the amazing aspects of parenthood — first steps, birthday parties, hugs, and kisses. Those are all things I want to experience. I want to be a mom, more than anything. I want to be able to give a child what my mom gave me. But I worry that dream will never be fulfilled, and I'll have to live vicariously through this job.
I know at the end of the day it doesn't matter that I don't have kids. Not every food writer is a trained chef. Not every beauty editor wears makeup. It is our passion for the topic that makes us qualified for these positions. Still, there are some days I leave the office feeling like a total fraud. Especially when a reader comments on an article of mine, saying the person who wrote this clearly doesn't have children of their own.
Yes, readers, you caught me. I'm not a mom. I probably won't be one for a while. But when that day comes — and I hope that it does — I'll be more than prepared to take on the role.