When I was pregnant with my first child, I would tear up when imagining my future return to work, just a couple of months after the birth. I wondered how I’d ever be able to leave my baby at day care each morning.
But after about a month, I hoped for a desperate call from the office, begging me to cut my maternity leave short. As lovable as Baby Ben was, I found staying at home with him isolating and exhausting.
I was sure I was the only mom in the world who wasn’t thoroughly enchanted by feeding, rocking, and diaper-changing—a feeling reinforced by the treacly posts on the parenting blogs I turned to for advice on diaper rash and gas.
I came to regard other parents as devoted hobbyists who had all joined a club to which I didn’t belong. It only got worse when the kids got to school. I was the mom who peeled up to the curb and yelled at my kids like they were paratroopers on a mission—”GO! GO! GO!”—so I could make a morning meeting, while other moms stood chatting with each other and smiling beatifically at all the kids streaming into school.
I was the one quietly seething during the principal’s musical performance in the kids’ variety show. Honestly, lady, do we really need to add another five minutes to the Longest Show on Earth? Everyone else, it seemed, thought it was adorable.
This year, with Ben in baseball and Georgia in softball, I was presented with another opportunity to be the awkward guest at the Grownup Club. But fate changed that dynamic.
Georgia’s team was almost comically lousy, and games were loooong. Misery needs company, so I began to chat with other parents. By the end of the season, I looked forward to seeing them, and we started to help each other out, taking each others’ kids to practice or out for ice cream after the games.
Meanwhile, Ben’s baseball team was barreling toward the league championship. It turns out that elation and pride love company, too. The parents shared a genuine sense of camaraderie. I even watched the games, you guys.
After Ben’s team won the championship, we had a little party at the field. One of the moms had Champagne in a cooler in her trunk, and she and one of the other moms were drinking mimosas from red Solo cups. I asked her what she was drinking, and she told me sheepishly, then timidly offered one—as if she was sure I’d say no.
“Does Rachel want a mimosa?!” my husband laughed. “Like you have to ask!”
As she fetched my mimosa, it dawned on me that she assumed I was going to judge her.
I giggled as I whispered to Greg. “I think she thought I was a Grownup!”
And maybe—just maybe—I am.
Illustration by Kristina Micotti