By Amy Howard
Let me start off by saying I don’t begrudge anybody their opinions or issues. If you are posting, writing about, and living your truth, then amen. No matter what you’re going through, you shouldn’t compare it to anyone else’s. Your shit is your shit. I’m no hater. Peace be with you.
I know you don’t know what you know until you know. And granted, I’m not a “new” mom, so I might be a little more piss and vinegar than I am sugar and spice. But I have to say that lately, so much of what I read regarding parenting is teetering on the edge of being the written version of stock photography. It’s all cookie cutter subjects, white-washed to capture a large readership. Maybe I’m reading the wrong headlines (point me to better blogs!) but there seems to be a craze around grabbing a trending topic and writing about it. Like: What I Learned At Mom’s Night Out. Tantrums and Fussy Eaters and Potty Training…Oh My! Yoga Moms vs Running Moms: Who’s Winning The Race? How To Raise A Vegan-ager. What Nobody Tells You About Having A Three-Year-Old.
Friends, I have a spoiler alert for you: It’s not a race. Everybody wins. Also, I made the Vegan-ager thing up. And when you’re pregnant for the first time, nobody who already has a three-year-old tells you anything relevant about having a three-year-old because they already know what you will soon learn: Your darling cherub will be a different breed of asshole than everyone else’s. This shouldn’t come as a shock to you. Children are small people. We teach them to always do and want more. Crawling? Super, stand up. Standing? Nice, now put one foot in front of the other, kid. You got a B? Great, next time shoot for an A. We encourage them to push limits and ask questions and then when they do we’re like, Wow my kid is all too much, I need a break.
I’m not saying parenting isn’t hard work, because I know first hand that it is. I’m all for a spa day, drinks with the girls, and date night. But is this news article-worthy or is it preaching to the choir? Maybe complaining about how hard it is is just part of our parenting shtick. Maybe some parents use the complaints as a lead-in to complimenting oneself in public, as in, “Driving little Gladstone to advanced equestrian school every day is SO exhausting.” (i.e. Everyone behold my tiny Olympian, my Olympic-sized devotion, and my bulging wallet!) Or, “I was so tired when Astrid was first born, but after two weeks we were both sleeping through the night!” (To which I, and all of us, should say: “Dear Astrid’s Mommy: Your infant never actually slept through the night, you just slept through her crying. And if she did sleep, keep it to yourself. People who are parenting little vampires don’t want to hear it.”)
I get that the common threads resonate and parents are all exhausted humans. And we have an average of 50 things on our minds and to-do lists at all times. But these themes aren’t unique. Every day is the same unless we make it different. We clutch our coffee in the morning, yawn through the park/playdate/homework session in the afternoon, and have Pavlovian responses to hearing the cork pop at 5pm. That’s low-hanging fruit. (And let’s be serious…if that’s our biggest complaint on any given day, we are so lucky.) Let’s just assume going forward that we’re all on the same caffeine + sleep-deprivation + wine page.
I don’t sit at my computer tugging at my mom jeans, yearning to read another story about how you overcame your parenting challenges in just three easy steps to find yourself #blessed. Because here’s the truth: Nobody overcomes parenting challenges. You have a baby, it’s hard, the end. That song is on repeat for all of us forever.
I want to read about the good stuff in between…the stuff that is unique. Where are the real stories? Real is funny. Authentic gives me chills. I want less “Aw, shucks” and more “Ohhh fuck.”
I guess what I really want to know is that I won’t appear on the cover of Bad Parent Magazine solo. I want it to be me plus all of you guys. Prove THAT to me. Tell me the story that gets you invited to the cover shoot for BPM, not for Crock-Pot Daily. (Although if you’re on the cover of that one, congratulations and please send me your recipes, I need dinner ideas.)
Parents, where is the platform where we can dialogue about the really good stuff? Sometimes what makes you sob can give us all a good belly laugh later, so share it. Come on. We are all pretty much on level playing ground, aren’t we? We are trying our best and making mistakes. We are teaching our boys that just because they have a dick doesn’t mean they get to be one and we are teaching our girls to love their vaginas first. It’s TERRIFYING. We are adoring the hell out of our kids and we all fear there’s only a 50/50 chance of it actually working.
If you’re a parent and your situation is truly difficult in ways not everyone can fathom (you know who you are), whine it up and use the universe as your sounding board. The rest of us need to stop it. I don’t know about you guys, but my OB/GYN never once said “And after baby comes out, you’ll have one more big push to deliver your night nurse, trainer, and chef! In a couple weeks, you’ll look great and be well-rested.” Again, I understand that you don’t know until you know, but we kind of knew…right?
And anyway, nobody can tell you how hard it will be to have one kid, because it won’t ring true for you until after you already have it, and by then DUH. And you don’t know how easy it is to have one kid until you have two. But you can’t shove them back in after they’ve come out, even when you reeeally want to. This we know. We know already. So can we please stop pretending to give sage advice about How To Organize Baby’s Closet? Because by week two post-delivery you’re going to be dressing baby straight from the dryer and we all know it. Just say that. Quickest editorial piece ever.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if you do have a perfectly appointed nursery or you read “5 Things Every First Time Mom Needs To Know!” – your kid is going to drive you crazy. You’re also going to drive yourself crazy, and possibly others. In fact, I might be driving you crazy right now. We are all hanging by a thread at one point or another, some of us just look better doing it. But let’s remember we all signed up for this shit show. Parenting is funny and particular and includes quiet sex at weird times and there’s nothing easy about any of it. And while it’s scary and makes us cry, it’s also super cool because it spreads us out as people. You do things you never thought you’d do, say things you swore you wouldn’t say, and you look insane half the time. (You feel insane a little more than that even.)
I think if we showed up and let everyone see that side of ourselves, the arguments between the stay at home mom vs the stay at home dad would cease. The tired fight over who has it tougher – work from home mom vs working mom vs mom who doesn’t work outside the home – would finally be put to bed. People would stop judging families with an only child, families with a gaggle of kids, and untraditional families of every kind.
Because in the end, we are all investigating buttholes, secretly reading tween texts, and talking about nipples in public. And it’s all good, because it means we’re in tune with our kids and their needs. It’s okay to put their needs first. It’s okay not to sometimes. It’s all going to be okay. It’s just going to be messy first.
I feel like I should sing you a lullaby now. Maybe I should just contact the editor of Bad Parent Magazine and tell them to budget for a cover that opens up like a centerfold because we are all going to be up there together.
I just know it.
Amy Howard writes for her blog, Trembling Ovaries. (tremblingovaries.blogspot.com). She writes about her Mom, about being a Mom, or about her daughters. Sometimes she rambles and sometimes she just drinks wine and tries to get her foot out from under a 170-lb Bernese Mountain Dog. She loves her man, worries constantly, and is always honest — Especially when you have broccoli in your teeth. She is that friend. Talk about no bullshit.