….and then, something incredible happens, and then awful awful awful awful awful.” (Anthony Andersen’s only memorable line in an otherwise forgettable movie – The Back-Up Plan)
Trust me, I never thought I would relate to a line from a Jennifer Lopez movie this much either. But it’s true. Anyone who tells you different is lying, has fantastic live-in help or is on better drugs than I am. (If you are one of those people, tell me where I can get the good drugs, please!)
Before the hate mail begins, both of my kids were meticulously planned and my husband and I have tossed around the idea of having a third more than a few times. If I could afford the live-in help (and a bigger house), I would be a proud mother of 3-4 right now. So don’t get me wrong, I love my children and I love being a mom. (This paragraph is for the stupid people out there who might think that I don’t.)
But I am not one of those moms who runs around telling you how wonderful being a mother is and how much I enjoy every single second, because….well, for one, I am honest…some would say to a fault. And two, that kind of bullshit talk doesn’t do anyone any good.
Parenting is hard and there is no use pretending otherwise. There have been studies in reputable journals that I read about in grad school. Parents are less happy on a day to day basis than non-parents. It’s a fact and one that is easy to believe if you take, I don’t know, half a second to think about it. (I remembered the lesson but promptly forgot the source and the context, so please don’t ask me to prove it.) Moms out there, think of all the things you did today that you didn’t want to do. Count them. Now think about all the things you did today that you really, really wanted to do for you. I would bet you anything the first number is far greater than the second one. (Interesting tidbit, in focus groups if you ask moms what they like to do in their free time, most have a really hard time listing something non-kid-related that they actually get to do regularly.)
On the first list, I have changing diapers…Well, actually today was a pretty good day – I went out to breakfast with friends, threw dinner in the crockpot and took a really long nap. So my numbers would probably be roughly even today, but trust me, that’s an aberration.
Instead I shall think about all the things I could have done today if I didn’t have kids to…um, ignore while I napped, like go to a movie, make a fancy dinner, sit in my jammies with some wine in front of some non-animated television shows. I would have organized my closet or at least thought about it doing it more than I did.
But my point is that telling everyone how wonderful motherhood is can be dangerous, on so many levels:
- Those without kids need to be prepared for the reality of it. They know kids are cute. They don’t know that you pee every 2 seconds while you’re pregnant and sometimes when you sneeze. They don’t know that you are really more tired than you ever thought possible (and not just for the first 3 months – that’s another lie). They don’t know that you don’t get to pee alone. They don’t know that once your kids start talking, they NEVER shut up. They don’t know that only about one millionth of that constant chatter is cute. They don’t know that the house gets dirtier faster, that stepping on LEGOS hurts like a mother—- and you can’t even say that word anymore. They need to know these things. They need to make an informed decision. The world would be better off if people knew how hard it was and acted accordingly.
- Those who have kids know all about the incredible moments (or they should have fallen into the above category). They don’t need someone to tell them how much they should be enjoying every second. They need someone to commiserate with when their kid craps in the tub. Or says “I hate you” for the first time (still waiting on that one over here). They need to know that no one gets everything done. That everyone yells at their kids more than they would like. That myself and some other moms I know admit to eating off of paper plates and living out of the drier. They need to know that they are not supposed to enjoy every second. No one does. That doesn’t make them a bad parent or a bad person. It makes them human. (I am in fact ignoring a sink full of dishes and literally piles of dirty clothes as I type this.)
So my advice to all of the moms out there is – enjoy the good moments and find someone bitchy with a sick sense of humor with whom to share all the other moments. Tell everyone else to go to hell.
FYI – if my honest to a fault approach doesn’t work for you, you can read Glennon Melton say all the same stuff far more eloquently here. I actually started writing this post ages ago and lost steam, but reading her article encouraged me to breathe new life into it.