Today I had a conversation with someone I didn’t know. An actual conversation. On the telephone. Remember those?
What happened was this: a friend sent me a message on Facebook telling me about a friend of hers who was feeling overwhelmed by parenting her 22 month old child and her 10 week old twins, and would I be willing to talk with her? I said I would be happy to help. Within minutes, my phone rang. I talked to this friend of a friend for over an hour. And after we hung up, this amazing realization hit me like a Mack truck:
Now, before anyone gets on a sanctimonious high horse, let me be clear. I love my children more than anything. They are my greatest blessings, and I am thankful for them every day. My children are old enough to give me those elusive parenting rewards of hugs and saying “I love you” and even, occasionally, saying thank you, unprompted. Don’t you dare mess with my kids or you will face the wrath of my mama grizzly fangs.
My children are also difficult, and demanding, and exhausting, and they drive me crazy. ALL the time.
No one tells you this before you have children. I suppose because no one would reproduce and our species would soon be extinct. When you are expecting the arrival of your first child (whether by birth or adoption), you have visions of a sweet baby asleep in your arms, right? Everyone gets so excited to welcome this precious new life to the world – as they should. But they don’t warn you about the phone calls and emails home from teachers when your child is refusing to complete work that he is totally capable of doing. Or the incessant tantrums that result from you saying no to your much-older-than-a-toddler child. Or the “bewitching” hour that usually begins around the time you need to start dinner and extends through bedtime – and which definitely lasts longer than one hour. Every day. Or that every time you think you will finally have more money because you are done with diapers or formula or daycare or preschool, additional expenses appear to take their place, and you will NEVER have more money, ever, because kids are ridiculously expensive.
I suppose that if we gave these warnings, they wouldn’t be heeded, anyway. “MY child won’t be like that!”
Sure. Please believe that, because you have to.
I am not saying all of this in complaint. I am fully aware that there are many, many people whose arms are achingly empty, and who would do anything to deal with these daily challenges. However, what I would love to happen is this – let’s all admit, openly and freely, that parenting is the hardest thing ever. That we love our kids but we hate the job of raising them. This this period of existence is largely about surviving rather than living. That we, as parents, need to judge each other less and support each other more, because maybe that would make this seemingly impossible task just a little bit easier.
That is why I gave up part of my day to talk to a fellow mom who was clearly drowning. And I was honest. I didn’t perpetuate the myth that it’s “easier after the first year.” I bought into that story and the day my twins turned one, I waited for the miracle “easy” to appear. I am still waiting. They turn seven next month.
What I told this other mom was the truth – the challenges don’t disappear, they just change. It is more physically demanding during the first few years – exponentially so with multiple babies – and then it shifts to more of an emotionally draining experience. But it doesn’t, overall, get easier. And feeling alone in this adventure of parenthood makes it all the more difficult – and yes, you can feel alone even if you are not a single parent. So let’s agree to help each other out, OK? We can start by admitting the truth loudly and proudly:
Parenting sucks. But we’re going to do it anyway.