It’s been a rough few days. Two of my three children are sick and my eldest is behaving like an asshole. I seem to be suffering from terrible insomnia and my cats have fleas. While these are fairly ordinary problems, they are still problems and ones you don’t necessarily want to deal with.
After my daughter vomited on me for the 5th time today, I was thinking, “wow, parenting really blows sometimes.” I’ve got crap hair and clothes. I can’t seem to organise my thoughts. I need some time to myself, but I have far too many things to do and my two-year old actually asked me to breast feed him. His older brother thought that was hilarious and gross, which meant my younger son kept asking.
I’m not one of those people who thinks “I didn’t think it would be this hard” when it comes to parenting. I don’t think parenting is really that difficult if you don’t have children with special needs. (I’ll get to this in another post.) Parenting is however, emotionally and mentally draining. It’s taxing physically and can leave you feeling pretty damned lonely.
You are not supposed to say that it sucks. You are not supposed to feel like crawling through the cat flap to escape from a toddler who is crying because his biscuit is sleeping. (This actually happened the other day.) You are to smile gracefully and go “these things happen” when your baby throws up in your dinner. (This actually happened to me a couple of years ago.)
You are not supposed to think about how your life was before children. You are absolutely forbidden to miss it. If you ever think about the things that you could have done or wanted to do before kids came along and put the kibosh on them, you are a horrible person that does not love nor deserve your children.
If you say, I just want to close the curtains and cry all day, some well-meaning asshole will say something like , “oh well, maybe you should have thought of that before you had kids.”
Do you know why you never thought of it before you had kids? Because the assholes that criticise you for feeling like stir-fried crap never mentioned these feelings to you. In fact, no one does. People endlessly talk up the virtues of parenting. They talk about how they loved every minute of it, it was a complete joy and fit in as many superlatives as they possibly can when it comes to rearing children. The super-duper assholes may even drop in a gem about how lucky you are because you can have children/have healthy children.
It’s hard to explain, but I can’t really think of another relationship that requires as much as an emotional investment as parenting. If your partner lets you down or screws up, no one but the extremely judgmental or unhinged would begin to blame you for it. You can drop your friend, you can not speak to family members. You really can’t do that with your children. (For the sake of argument, I’m not really talking about adult children.) If your child is a screw-up, people will blame you endlessly. There will be something you did or didn’t do that made them screw up. The worst part is that you will blame and judge yourself more harshly than anyone else will.
Parenting can be incredibly lonely as well. A baby, a toddler or a school-aged child is not a companion and shouldn’t be one. You can have a lot of fun with them, and I often have a ball with my kids. However, they simply cannot give you as much as you give them and besides, it’s not their job to do that. I’m currently on maternity leave and outside of exchanging pleasantries with local shopkeeper or my neighbours, I can easily go without speaking to another adult until my husband comes home. As he often works overnights, that can be a day or two.
These well-meaning assholes seem to forget that you are dealing with selfish, demanding, not socialised people who whose needs come before yours. If you have a baby that screams abuse at you should you want to do something as indulgent as going to the toilet because that means you have to put him down, it can take the shine of parenthood.
I can remember the feeling I felt when I said “this really sucks at times” and someone said, “yep, it sure does.” I probably cried. If parenting hadn’t become some stupid-ass competitive sport, maybe we could be honest about how we feel. Instead we are in some absurd contest where we have to try to out-parent the next parent and if we deign to show any perceived weakness, we are unfit. That’s really fucked up.
I’m not whining or lamenting my lot in life; I’m just being honest. Knowing what I know about parenting would not have made me not have children. My kids rock harder than Gibraltar and I let them know this often, despite their demanding and at times, frankly assholish behaviour.
I expect my children to grow up and leave home. They need to make their own ways in the world and they won’t do that if I use them for emotional fulfillment. You also can’t drink and swear with a 9-year-old, a 2-year-old and 4 month old baby. Okay so you can but you definitely shouldn’t.