Things continue to ebb and flow around here. Last week we celebrated my birthday and I foolishly thought that the boys would get the memo. You know, that they would be brilliant and adorable and the entire day would be full of sunshine and roses and ice cream and puppies because it was my day. But, as I learned on my first Mother’s Day four years ago, my baby won’t magically start sleeping through the night and my kids won’t stop being kids just because it’s my big day. All in all, they usually seem wholly oblivious to the fact that it’s Mother’s Day or my birthday or our anniversary or whatever. And true to form on my birthday last week, Isaiah book-ended the day with his most memorable (read dreadful) tantrums to date. But equally true to form, the day was also filled with a lot of sweet birthday wishes from both my boys and some memorable moments throughout. Like most days, it was a mixed bag.
After writing my nap time rant last week, I got more of a response than I expected. I heard from a lot of other mamas out there who said something along these lines…
Oh my gosh, I have TOTALLY been there. I’ve always been afraid to admit it, though…
It got me to thinking; why are we all so afraid to admit it? Why was I afraid to write the post in the first place? Why is it so hard to admit that this gig is rough? That our kids can be annoying, frustrating, infuriating and fill in the blank? Here’s what holds us back, I think…
- It might mean we’re bad parents.
- It’s disloyal to our kids to say such things.
- Other people will think we don’t love them.
- Other people will think our kids are just a scosche less than awesome if we complain. And goodness knows our kids are awesome. Everyone else thinks so, too, right? Right?
- We should be grateful for what we’ve got. We have friends who desperately want kids and we don’t want to admit that sometimes it’s really, really hard.
- We’re aware that time passes SO quickly and we need to cherish every moment.
- We have friends who don’t have kids and they don’t get it. If we complain, they might think that we regret our choice to start a family.
- It’s embarrassing to admit that we are at a loss.
- All the judgement and people secretly thinking, “well… if you just did xyz…”
For me, it’s a little bit of all of these things. Especially numbers 1, 2, 4 and 9. It depends on the day and with whom I’m speaking. I feel so torn sometimes. On the one hand, I’m happier than I have ever been. These two boys have turned my entire life upside down in the best possible way. They have cracked open places in my heart that I did not know even existed and when I think that I’m completely filled up with loving them, I find that my heart expands still more.
But on the other hand, this is the hardest thing I have EVER done. It’s unbearably exhausting, completely defeating, and crazy-making at every turn. Just when I think I’ve finally got a leg up, they knock me down yet again. And it’s hard to hold both of these things in tension. How can something be the best thing you’ve ever done AND the hardest thing you’ve ever done? How do we feel both of those things to their fullest at the same time?
I think that’s where things get sticky. I think we’re afraid that if we admit the latter (that this parenting sitch is hard), it will somehow negate the former (that this is completely brilliant). But it’s not true. It doesn’t mean that we are bad parents or that we are disloyal to our children or lacking in love. It doesn’t change their total awesomeness. And it doesn’t mean that we aren’t grateful for them or that we regret having them or that we are somehow flawed in our ability to parent. It just means that it’s hard. And that’s it. It’s hard. Period. It IS possible to admit how hard it is without relinquishing any of our other feelings.
I guess this is just a long-winded way of saying I’m glad I ranted a little. I was scared when I hit ‘publish’ because I didn’t want to look bad and I didn’t want other people to judge me. But so many people emailed or commented with some version of “me too” that in the end I felt relieved. And less alone. It reminds of a quote from Sex God by Rob Bell…
“Some of the most comforting words in the universe are ‘me too.’ That moment when you find out that your struggle is also someone else’s struggle, that you’re not alone, and that others have been down the same road.”
I don’t think we are meant to parent in such isolation. I think we are meant to parent in community, with other people around us. But in our culture, this is extremely hard to do, if not impossible. Most of us are alone all day with our children and I just don’t think that’s how parenting was meant to be. Maybe though, by admitting the truth about the ups AND the downs, we will discover that we aren’t so alone as we think we are. That our struggle is indeed someone else’s struggle and that others have been down this road and lived to tell.
So rant on, dear friends. Tell me about the time you sprayed your kid with pepper spray (what? just me on that one?), locked them in the car (again, me), rolled them down a hill (totally Jason) or just lost your cool during another afternoon gone awry. From this mama, at least, you’ll get a hearty ‘me too!’
Some of the more awesome moments of late…