02/07/2014 10:34 am ET Updated Apr 09, 2014

The Unexpected Parent

I was having a conversation recently with a friend regarding the differences between my husband's parenting style and mine. He tends to be much more laid back and go-with-the-flow-she'll-adapt, whereas I am a stickler for a routine, schedule and keeping our daughter in her comfort zone as much as possible. My friend asked if we had discussed these differences before having our first child. That's when it occurred to me that prior to giving birth, I had absolutely no idea what type of parent I would be. I would have never guessed that being out during nap time would be the cause for a panic attack. I had no way of knowing that while having a wifi monitor for some people is a sense of comfort, for me, it would become an obsession. And along those same lines, having my 16-month-old down the hall at the school where I teach seems like a great idea, but the need to check on her several times throughout the day is overwhelmingly hard to ignore. It has come to the point where I have to bargain with myself. "If I only go twice today, I'll allow myself xy or z," or "if I go in the morning, I can't go until lunch or I can only go once tomorrow."

In one of my elementary education courses in college, our professor described teaching as "an apprenticeship of observation." You spend your entire childhood in classrooms, surrounded by teachers. No other profession gives you this type of exposure or experience. By the time I had my first teaching job, I pretty much knew the type of teacher I wanted to become, based on those who had a lasting impact on me (Mrs. Justl, I'm looking at you!). One might think becoming a parent is the same. Again, your entire childhood is spent surrounded by your parents, or parents of other children. Shouldn't I have had some sort of idea of the type of parent I wanted to be? Sure, I knew I would love unconditionally, as my parents had. I would put my children first, as my parents had. But what about the day-to-day decisions that would be made? What about the way I wanted to raise my daughter? Surely, I should have known my anxiety would play a role. Surely, I should have known that by making my daughter a priority, the rest of my life would take a backseat. Surely, I should have known that each day will bring a new challenge and even (gasp!) force me to deviate off course.

But I didn't. I had no clue how it all would play out. I had no clue the "type of parent" I would become.

And you know what? I'm beginning to be OK with that. I'm learning who I am as a parent, and on the heels of my thirtieth birthday, who I am as a full-blown adult. It's scary, as uncertainty has always been a source of weakness for me, but the outcome is well worth the angst. I just have to remind myself that my husband and my opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum approach to parenting means she'll come out a well-balanced, level-headed girl.