I recently read an article by a childless lady who made note of the change in how parenting is presented today as opposed to back around the 1950s. Then, parenting, specifically mothering, was done in dresses and pearls, with hair and makeup to boot, and an ever-present smile. The children were just as pristine, not to mention, well-behaved. In addition, all the housework was done, the social calendar was filled, and every moment was a blessed bit of joy sprinkled down from heaven.
And then the Internet explosion happened, and shit got real. Fast.
Parents had a way to stay connected and were given endless social media platforms with which to tell their true stories of life in the trenches. “Mommy Bloggers” (let’s skip how much I hate that term) were finally letting everyone know what it was truly like way over on the other end of the spectrum. And their truth, in a nutshell, was this:
Moms hate their kids! And the men who knocked them up!
Every single part of life after little ones is hard, annoying, and impossible.
No lady with a baby is showered, but they all carry a bottle of wine and a carafe of coffee.
Parenting is terrible and awful, and leaves nothing but a longing for the days of life before children.
At least, that’s what this author had taken away from most of what she was reading online. The message she was trying to convey was that for a non-parent looking into the world of babies, the overwhelming honesty and raw emotion poured into today’s blogs make motherhood seem like a tragic situation that parents are inexplicably grateful for having. She explained that, as much as she hoped one day to have kids of her own, the endless list of blog posts complaining about children from the very people who birthed them makes it seem like a horrible idea to procreate.
It seems the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Parenting isn’t easy, but it’s not endlessly miserable either. So I dedicate this blog post to you, dear childless readers, to let you know that as much as it is sleepless nights and epic tantrums, parenting is a lifelong commitment that will reap rewards to infinity and beyond.
You know where I think the misconception comes from? Babies are HARD, and it’s a shock to most mothers. Why? Because you spend nine months having your belly rubbed, getting a nursery ready, looking at adorable, tiny outfits, and taking endless notes and photos of this growing being inside of you. Well-wishes come often (along with the ever present “better get your sleep in now!”), and everyone is excited to meet the sweetest, little critter ever.
And then BAM! The critter starts shrieking, and you’re a parent. You don’t know sleeplessness like that until you have a newborn. You don’t realize that acne, reflux, cradle cap, and diaper explosions are more present than the smiles and giggles that you were expecting. You don’t believe you can go a whole day and actually forget to eat. You don’t understand that laundry piles up that quickly or dishes take that long to wash (even with a dishwasher!) or bills can stack that high. You don’t comprehend the havoc that hormones can do to your body, mind, and soul. You just don’t know…until you really, really know.
And you feel alone in it. Because why the hell didn’t someone prepare you for this?! So, you blog! To warn the others. Or you read blog posts to commiserate. To feel connected. To see you aren’t the first to think you might have made a big mistake and instantly feel ashamed for even thinking that.
And it really, really helps.
And as the babies grow up, they present new concerns and challenges. And you write and you read some more. Because the good stuff? That shit feels amazing all by itself. You don’t need answers for how to deal with the good stuff. All those awesome firsts the baby has, the gentle snuggles, the softest cheeks ever, the many, pudgy parts, and that clean baby smell put you on the moon! Weightless and above it all! But when you’re dragged down by the worries over that fever, that lisp, that delay, that attitude, that cry, that look in the baby’s eye that means “I am going to rock your world again and again and again and you’d better be on your game for every blessed minute of it,” you need somewhere to turn because it’s not the 1950s, and there is a ready and willing outlet for your frustration and confusion.
But it won’t always be that way. Slowly and quietly, the joy begins to outweigh the stress (very slowly and very quietly). Yes, yes, teenagers present a unique set of challenges themselves (you know what I mean if you’ve ever met one), but it’s not quite the same as a ten pounder literally screaming in your ear for every second of the day and night that he isn’t settled nicely in your arms. The lack of privacy, the obliteration of personal time, their inability to explain anything, and your inexperience all disappear in the same way the minutes on the clock do. Again and again and again.
I didn’t have kids to have babies. Remember, babies are HARD. They can’t help you at all, and you have to help them with everything! But they grow up. You lose the tenderness and innocence, but you gain so much. These tiny babies become your people, your tribe, your home, your world. Forever. You are bound to one another, and in a world as big as ours is, there’s so much beauty in that connectedness. After a while, family dinners don’t require Daniel Tiger singing in the background, mornings don’t involve sitting on the ground putting everyone’s socks, shoes, jackets, hats, and gloves on for them (quickly before they pull them off again!), travel doesn’t have to include a babysitter so you can get a moment alone, discussions don’t occur only in character voices, and relationships are built on mutual, genuine interaction with one another. And with all that going on, the blogging tends to fall to the wayside. Because you can and do engage with each other in meaningful ways. Because you can and do take care of yourself again. Because you can and do spend less of your time teaching them how to be and spend more of your time learning who they are because now they’re ready to tell you.
Parenting is a lifelong journey with a shocking start. No more, no less. Why does it sound so abysmal to someone on the outside? Because the most vocal parents are the ones just starting out, when the going is pretty rough and the need for comfort is the greatest. But as those babes mature, and their parents do the same, the going gets better. It gets pretty damn good. You get the rest of your lives together. Your challenges and theirs will not be faced alone. Your accomplishments and theirs will not go uncelebrated. Your nights on the couch watching television, your holidays gathered in the kitchen, your nerve-wracking hours awaiting lab results, your afternoons doing separate assignments on the dining room table, your hurried phone conversations in the car, your late night “I just got in” text messages, your bottles of champagne poured for toasts, your most memorable and most mundane moments will be shared. They will take up your time, fill up your heart, and write the story of your life, so the blogs don’t have to do it for you anymore.
And what could possibly be a greater reward than that?
So if you’re wanting a baby someday and you’re reading a blog today, don’t think to yourself that these writers are a bunch of crazy ladies posting warning signs. Understand instead that there is a wonderful, virtual community of mothers (and fathers) all at the ready to usher you in as you experience the shock of your life… and then, slowly and quietly, let you go and live that life.