It occurs to you a few months in, when your newborn is sick and you can barely afford diapers, or formula for that matter – without giving up your favorite brand of wine, that motherhood may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Face it, you have heard the stories of unconditional love and the expressive smiles, and eye twinkles from mama’s talking about how they felt when they saw their baby for the first time out of the womb. You have also been brainwashed by the millions of visions of ‘commercial parenting’ that appear on television, magazines and virtually everywhere else; showing loving couples who seem to be more connected than ever as they voyage to Disney World with a car full of offspring. Yeah right! Any parent, who has ever taken a trip anywhere, in a mini-van- with children, knows in that moment that they have been duped!
For every parental complaint, there is a perceived light at the end of the tunnel. You know, “it is worth it in the end,” type of thing. The problem is that when you are raising a family, there is no end. Ever! The end comes when you pass on, and even then – you cannot feel comfortable claiming yourself a place in Heaven because you are worried about your grown children and grandchildren. Have you left them enough money? Will they ever grow up? Will they be okay without you?
You aren’t the first mom or dad to sit back in the easy chair, now stained with Kool-Aid and wonder what the heck you signed up for when you accidentally let that sperm and egg meet. Certainly, you didn’t sign up for this!
Perhaps you are reading this before you have children. If so, then consider yourself one of the lucky ones. You are being warned by a source that is neither non-biased, nor partisan to all the cute and adorable things that children are and has no real concern about whether or not you provide grandchildren. So here’s the scoop, for real! No censorship.
Parenting is hard. It is a 24-hour a day, 7 days a week job – which has no concern for Friday nights or lazy Saturday mornings. In fact, time means nothing – even at 3am, once you become a parent. It is about not getting enough sleep and being cranky enough to do the right thing for your child without resentment. Not only do you lose your desire to look good, smell good, or wear clothes that actually fit – but you also realize that there is little room for your own passions in life. You will be in awe that one little life can wreak so much havoc and invoke changes so big that there is no longer time for a round of golf or a good work out at the gym. Of course, you could get a babysitter, but that means once again digging into your always empty and over stretched pocket book. Plus, you are still deluded that you will get some extra time to sleep if you just stay home long enough for your child to take a nap. This too shall end.
Parenthood is also about being so overly self critical of your abilities to raise a child that you are often paralyzed with fear. If you point a finger, say a harsh word, or raise your voice – you, like most parents before you, will wonder what sort of psychological condition you are handing to your toddler on a silver platter tainted with expensive anti-depression drugs. You know…the kind of marked handicap that will have them running to therapy until they are 45, and then spending their entire adult life trying to be everything that YOU weren’t. (Sound familiar?) They will show up at your house on Christmas as adults, clinging tight to their own children, fearful you will give them the same poison that infected them when they were young. All those years, you were just worried about doing the right thing, and it turns out you are labeled as some sort of crazy. Don’t feel bad, it is part of your parental job.
Parenting is also running a clothing store, being a pro on organization, spending more time and money in a grocery store than you ever through possible, becoming a short order cook of foods you swore you would never eat, and the mediator between the harsh world and the one (or 2 or 3) people that feel compelled to protect. Your children. Parent hood is about being broke, being completely exhausted, feeling constant pressure to do, give and love more with very little in return. Truth be told, there will days when you look at your flesh and blood child, wondering once again – who they are and why they feel so determined to be such ungrateful, inconsiderate brats.
It is about seeing your life partner from across the room and hoping that you will have sex sometime in the next month (or two). It is watching each other grow older with the sort of attention that you give a bird flying overhead. It is questioning what sort of hormone was raging through your body when you decided to marry this other person in your life and how in the world you missed seeing the ‘oh so obvious’ traits that they know behold.
Another huge part of parenting is worry. You will worry about everything. In fact, you will worry yourself about such stupid things like picking out the perfect car seat, or the type of bottles you use. You will worry about germs as if they are elephants hiding in every room and you will become so ultra focused on your child, that you become uninteresting and quite ridiculous. You will worry about your child making friends, doing okay in school. You will worry that someone might be mean to your child. You will worry about their hair, clothes and every single calorie they do or don’t eat. You will hear them sniffle and be convinced they have some sort of mystery illness that will ruin their life. You will worry about the wearing a coat, pulling the covers up at night while they sleep and whether they will ever conform to wearing socks with their tennis shoes. Then, they get older and you worry some more. You wonder if they will take the risks that you did. Will they smoke, drink, try drugs? You will wonder where they are, if they are telling the truth. Are they having sex? You will suddenly become a private investigator and stress yourself out trying to figure them out. Worst part, is they have long gotten over the fluffy feelings of hugs and kisses and pretty much think you are a dork.
Parenting also makes most quite narcissistic. Honestly, do you really care to see other people’s children on Facebook? Do you really think that the entire world wants pictures of your child instead of gift cards for Christmas? DO you really believe that every one who says your child is adorable, cute, sweet, and perfect – really means it? If you are a parent, you do, because parents end up seeing the world through the rose-colored glasses of their very own perfect child, and honestly believe and feel in their hearts that there isn’t a human in the entire world who comes close to being so divine. To be blunt and honest…no one truly cares. And if they have children of their own, they are secretly laughing and criticizing your child in order to life up their own.
There’s more too! When you decide to become a parent, you decide quite suddenly that certain things in life are no longer gross. Poop, pee, vomit, spit, and boogers are wiped on your shirt without a thought or cringe from you. In fact, you become a human napkin or tissue, which apparently seems to match your mom jeans and dad tennis shoes (you know the white ones with black socks that have a fake Nike swish). Oh, admit it mom and dad – you WEAR THEM! At any rate, it’s all pretty gross and disgusting. The things parents will do for love.
Okay, so you got a laugh or two. Perhaps you saw yourself in these tormented paragraphs. Or better yet, for those without children – just maybe you have decided that birth control and abstinence really might be the thing for you! And even so, you are still focused on that tunnel of light waiting for you at the end. You are still curious and emotional about the natural urge to conceive and hold a baby while he or she falls asleep in your arms. The commercial parenting has been impressive and strong and you have been exposed to it for so long now that you cannot see another way. Plus, how else do you bring your relationship to the next level? Yeah, yeah.
Parenting isn’t all bad. Some days, your kid does do or say something so incredibly cute and adorable that you feel like you are on top of the world. Other days, when they hold your hand because they always want to be touching you, despite the fact that you are shower-less and less than rested, it is like sunshine breathing on snow. Watching them see the stars, take a first step, try a lemon, or lick frosting off a cake for the first time are pretty wonderful experiences. Seeing them grow up, up and away – laughing, smiling, and knowing that there is one person in this world where your love makes a difference are awesome feelings only available to a parent. Yep, parenting can be pretty great. And sweet, and provide the offering of a different kind of love not available anywhere else. But before you sign up, before you take the dive and before you even begin to believe that it will be perfect, just realize that what you sign up for and what you get – are two totally different things. Amazing, nonetheless. But different indeed.