I’ve always wanted to be an expert at something, but I never had the unrelenting drive to earn the title for any one thing in particular. Instead, I’ve spent my life intensely studying lots of different things for short periods of time. (As a result, I have become reasonably good at a wide variety skills: everything from watercolor painting to writing HTML code.)
That is until now…
Now I am a mother. While I am not necessarily an expert at being a mother, I am an expert at being a mother to my children… Also, to clarify, I am not claiming to be doing everything right for them, but just that I have an intimate knowledge of them.
As Anders Ericsson writes in his new book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, becoming an expert is about putting in the time. He claims that practicing a certain activity must be done in a deliberate way–stepping outside your comfort zone and taking on challenges that are beyond your current ability. (Ericsson, 2016)
As a mother of two I am constantly challenged–by questions my children ask, by how to deal with certain behaviors, by how to prioritize what is important, and the list goes on…
And I am constantly out of my comfort zone–when a teething baby is crying at 2AM, when I’m choosing how to prepare my children for the future, or when someone yells “help!” from the bathroom.
And I have put in the time… active or on-call 24/7/365, with little regard for my own health/hunger/rest, without getting paid a cent.
I feel confident that I have finally achieved expert status at something. Somehow it doesn’t feel as empowering as I thought it would (or even useful!), and there are lots of times when I really rather not do what it takes to be an expert on my kids. As Ericsson says “working toward expertise in any area can be a grueling, lonely, and often ugly undertaking” (2016).
But I started down this road when I brought my children into the world and I do not take my responsibility lightly. I am committed to being an expert on them, and for them.
As a result of my dedication to my children, I have also achieved a certain level of expertise on being a parent (to any child) by devouring thousands of books, blogs, and other resources. I’ve honed my skills in time management, planning, and organization, among others.
Now that I know what it takes to truly be an expert, I don’t have any intention of becoming an expert at anything else, at least not for a long time. For now I’ll tackle other projects with interest and enthusiasm, attempting to excel and be challenged, but not to a level so “grueling and ugly.”
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