Public Service Announcement: Yes I am stealing the naming convention of the episodes of Friends. Eventually it will get old to me and I’ll move on. For now I find it entertaining so I will continue to torture the internet with it. Now on with your regularly scheduled rambling.
I had a bit of a strange day today. A new co-op started at my work today. Basically she’s working in our group for 6 months as a part of her undergraduate work. I did this while I was an undergraduate at Drexel and it ended up being a great way for me to figure out what kind of job I eventually wanted to have. Enough about boring things though. The reason this chick starting was interesting is because of how she reacted to finding out I had a kid.
Co-op and I were having lunch and she was asking some questions about my son. After chatting about him for a bit she said to me something along the lines of “I can’t wait to be a mom. You must be so happy.” I faltered for a second. I mean I was confused about how to respond to that. This woman was all of 21 years old and I just wasn’t expecting that to come out of her mouth. I wasn’t just confused because a much younger person was expressing this to me, I was also confused about how to respond.
I feel like when parents are presented with a blanket statement about how awesome being a parent must be from someone without children we have two courses of action. One, we can give them the answer they are expecting which goes something like “Oh yeah it’s amazing. I love my son and being a mom is the most wonderful thing in the world.” The second option is to be honest. Honesty entails telling people that parenting isn’t all unicorns who poop rainbows. Parenting involves real poop! Poop from a butt! A butt that is not yours! There’s also the anxiety and worry about this little person who depends on you, the idea that you are doing everything wrong, the bickering with your spouse, the changes to your relationship with your spouse, the exhaustion, the judgement, the illnesses, and all the second guessing you do.
Yes being a parent is an amazing thing and I love my son so much I can’t describe it with the appropriate words. The issue is that we’ve some how perpetuated that idea that because you love your kid everything else will come easily. As parents we always tell the positive but never the negatives and never the hardships. People don’t want to hear that it’s hard. There’s an expectation that parenting comes naturally and things fall into place and others don’t want that dream shattered.
I find myself wishing in moments like the one I was presented today that all of us parents would tell the good and some of the bad. I want people to have a more complete picture of what having kids is like. This isn’t just so I can fight against a stereotype it’s so people (women especially) will be better prepared. We put all of these expectations on ourselves because of what we hear other people tell us and that is just setting ourselves to feel like we’ve failed. I remember spending months feeling like I failed my son because I wasn’t able to continue breastfeeding him. I was led to believe it was a natural and easy thing to do. I thought if that’s true and I can’t do it what kind of mother am I? I don’t want women to feel like they’ve failed at raising children. It’s a shitty feeling. I know from experience.
I feel like we need to start telling the truth sometimes. Maybe if we can find a way to mix the hardships in with the happy moments we can better prepare others for the difficulties. I told this co-op a little bit of the truth because I want her to know that its’ not easy and just because things are rocky doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. I’m hoping in 5 years (or more) when she has her own kids maybe some of my words will come back. If they don’t she’ll be checking for happy rainbow poops and being really disappointed with the actual contents of a diaper.