Today I hated them. I know that hate is a strong word. If I accidentally use that word to describe anything other than murder or mosquitos buzzing in my ear, Little E will remind me, "Mama, hate is a strong word." Yes, I know. But I think, for a moment, I actually might have hated them. The squabbling, the crying, the super irritating defeatism that rears it's ugly head during A's daily homework, the crying, the crying! That fucking crying is just so loud.
It's over, the crying that is, and they're in bed trying very hard not to fall asleep and I no longer hate them.
I once accidentally voiced a sentiment not even as strong as hate on Facebook and I was met with a barrage of mean comments all suggesting that maybe I shouldn't have chosen to be a mother and certainly I had no business being a stay at home mother since clearly I was bitter and angry.
I was too new at being a mama to know that those commenters were idiots. Instead, I believed them. I thought that if this job was kicking my butt, which it was, and that sometimes I didn't love my babies very much, which sometimes I didn't, or if, God forbid, I even hated them a teeny tiny bit for a second, or that sometimes I hated the job itself, that I must be bitter and angry at best, and probably also incompetent. Because I was awash in feelings of shame and embarrassment and self doubt, I didn't have the where with all to process the fact that after a patient vomits in a nurse's face and he mutters on his way out of the room, "This fucking job," no one calls him bitter and angry. No one suggests that he shouldn't be a nurse. People think, "Yep, that is one hard and messy job." When a Nike exec complains about all the after hours work he puts in, no one suggests that maybe he shouldn't have chosen that career. People commiserate. It's a difficult climate and they suggest that Nike should not be expecting its employees to put in so much extra time. And they suggest that they should all go out for a drink and trash Nike for the evening.
There is little of this type of forgiveness in the parenting world. If you have chosen to be a stay at home parent (or any kind of parent) you are supposed to smile and wax sentimental about how fast the time is going. I do that. I do, because, truly the time is flying. Just like all the elders of my community told me that it would. And much of it (some of it) is very sweet time, but let's not pretend that we don't sometimes hate it a little bit. And sometimes, some of us, hate the sweet babies a little bit too. Just a little bit. And just for a second. It's ok. There's nothing wrong with us. This job is really hard and the hours suck. So does the pay. And, don't even get me started on the benefits package.
And we love it too. And, holy shit, do we ever love these babies. This is a love far more fierce than I ever imagined. Sometimes I look at them and I think that I truly might just burst or overflow with how much muchness is now contained in my body. They are filling me up. And I love them. And the job of keeping them safe and happy and fulfilled and in clean clothes and sleeping on clean sheets and eating healthy yummy food and peeing in a clean bathroom is just a really fucking big job that never ever ends and that is exhausting. And, the truth is, parts of it, like the bathroom cleaning and clothes washing are not very fulfilling.
And then this (that wonderful little naked baby on the right) happens and again with the super fullness. We are lucky to have this ridiculously difficult job and when we are done hating it, we'll be grateful.
Cut yourself a break. It's ok.
A lot of my mental energy these days, the parenting of little girl days, is spent on trying to figure out how to help my girls feel strong and confident and beautiful and just right. We (mamas and women who are not mamas) are becoming increasingly aware of how crappy we feel about our bodies and not just our bodies, but also our abilities to do shit. Shit that is daring. Like speaking up about what we really want or saying no to the things we don't want or don't want to do or really don't have time for. And this is good. This noticing.
I would also like to figure out how to abort the paradigm that created this pervasive feeling of shame and incapability in women. I don't want my girls to have to overcome these feelings when they are in their 30s. I want them to never have them. I want them to be able to hold on to the beautiful confidence that they have right now. I want them to never lose this. Right now they know that their bodies are perfection. Their legs are strong; they can run and climb and jump. Their fingers are dextrous and they can make daisy chains. They know that they can do anything that pops into their ridiculous little heads. They know that they don't have to stand for the shit that makes them not feel awesome. They are strong willed and they are so . . . perfect.
I know that part of saving their notion of perfection is about modeling it. Also, when I say perfection, I mean being comfortable just the way they are. I don't mean that there is no need to improve, or no need to work on things. We can always improve; be stronger, kinder, more attentive to our loved ones, healthier. Let's work on those things, but let's be gentle with the people that we are right now. We are perfect. We are humans and part of that means imperfection. And it is lovely.
I will be vocal about what strength looks like, what beauty looks like. I will surround my girls with people that feel like I do. I will consciously avoid those that haven't figured this out yet. Those that will comment on the way my girl looks rather than the phenomenal way she just scaled that wall that she has no business climbing. There is a movement afoot. There are large companies and small companies and bloggers all voicing this, sending messages about "beauty". But what is much more pervasive and BIG, are the images in magazines, on billboards, on TV, in movies, in cartoons, fucking everywhere, telling us what beauty is. And, the truth is, I hate most of it. Even then campaigns with a "positive" message. Because that message is often still about beauty. I want the most important thing to not be beauty. I get that the way we look is the first thing we see. I get it, but I want that to carry a superficial value. I want it to not matter beyond the first impression.
I'm tired of "Stranger Danger". We are raising a bunch of little people that are scared. Scared of all strangers. WTF?! Yes, I know, *gasp*, I am calling into question the notion of "stranger danger". This is not actually revolutionary, I'm just saying it again. Most people are good and kind. To teach our children that they need to be scared of everyone that they don't know is ludicrous! And truly, it's a disservice. Also, if someone is going to "get" our sweet babies in any of the nasty ways that sweet babies can be gotten, it will probably be someone that they know.
By all means, teach them to be safe. Teach them to trust their intuitions, teach them about friendly interactions from neighbors vs. invitations that are inappropriate, teach them that there should never be a need to keep a secret from you. Teach them that they should be looking out for each other. Teach them that a mama on the playground is usually a good bet if you need help finding your own mama, or if your sister is stuck in a tree, or if some kid you don't know just fell from the monkey bars and is crying.
Today I reprimanded a child that does not live under my roof. Actually 3 or 4 children that do not live under my roof. They were being douchey, as children are wont to do. I also celebrated tree climbing and pogo-ing victories of children that I don't know or have only met in passing. I'm paying attention and I think you should be too. It takes a village, blah blah blah. That's not actually why I'm paying attention. One really good reason is that I'm bossy, but another good reason is this: We can't watch our children all the damn time! We need to be able to rely on each other. We're all on the same kid raising team. We're not soldiers in some fictional "mommy war". I'm relying on you. If my kid is an a-hole to your kid and I don't see it, please, call her out. In the gentle way you would with your own child. You don't need to march over to me to have it out. We don't need a sit down. Just call her out. Talk about it. If my girl has an assist and I miss it because I'm standing on my head while juggling chocolate bunnies in an effort to entertain Little E until soccer is over, please, cheer wildly for her. Also cheer wildly for the scorer of the goal and also for the other team. "Nice effort girls. Way to go!" Pay attention grown ups. Please.
Our children can benefit immeasurably from the involvement of other grown ups. Pay attention. Praise them often. Re-direct them when necessary. But, fucking pay attention! Look at them. Pat them on the shoulder. Ask them questions. Tell them about what you do for a living. How is my kid ever going to learn to be an engineer or a poet unless she gets one for a role model? It's not going to be me and it's not going to be her dad. She needs another grown up. Lots of them. As many as possible.
This article profiles the book "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis" by Robert D. Putnam. I think it's pretty damn spot on.
I'm feeling a lot of pressure lately to "cherish every moment". Yes, I know, "they grow up so fast". Yes, I get it, "this time is precious". Oh. My. Fucking. God. Why are my children crying again?! I mean, "I'm coming my precious little dears who will soon be grown up. How can I help you this time?"
Have I told you about the truly enormous overreactions of my sweet babies? Every scrape, bump, splinter or hurt feeling results in the same wailing and carrying on. Sometimes this wailing and carrying on will last only a few moments and sometimes the sweet baby is inconsolable for hours and hours and hours. Ok, maybe not hours. A long time though. I have no way of knowing whether this wailing is commensurate with the damage done by the fall from the top of the monkey bars because it's the same wailing that happened 7 and a half minutes ago when she stubbed her toe on the peddle of her bike. Yes, I've told them the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. They don't get how it applies to them. Even when I tell the story using their names.
Also, dinner is not ready and I don't have a plan anymore because the potatoes that were going to become delicious mashed potatoes were growing long stems and a little bit of mold. And also, the chicken smells funny. Everyone is hungry and it is my responsibility to solve this problem before we all melt down and wail and carry on for hours and hours and hours.
I'm trying really effing hard to cherish this time. Truly, I am. I get it, it will be gone in a blink. I'm trying to remember that it is a gift to have these beautiful, healthy, wailing children. I know that sooner than I can imagine they will be sullen teenagers who have come to realize the truth about me, which is that I have no idea what I'm doing and that I squandered the precious moments. They will hate me. And I won't have cherished enough. Fuck!
I think maybe, all those old people (I mean the really old ones, like 64 year olds) didn't cherish this shit either. Maybe they cherished the sweet moments but forgot about the 92% of the day that is wailing and carrying on and making breakfast and making lunch and then making dinner and folding laundry and fetching glasses of water . . . again. I wish they would stop telling me to cherish it because that phrase is sneaking into the vernacular of my peers and they are saying it too sometimes. And the truth is, we are all perpetuating this myth that it's all sunshine and roses and if we're not loving it and recognizing it as precious then we're wasting the time and we'll regret it later. Bullshit. This is hard and we'll all be a little bit grateful when our teenagers sleep until noon and then only want a bowl of cereal that they can prepare their own damn selves.
Probably we'll miss this sweet time too because we'll have forgotten the 92% of the day that is actually just kind of a slog and we will remember the sweetness. There is plenty (almost plenty) of sweetness. And some days those moments seem to swell enough to crowd out the 92%. We will tell new mothers to "cherish every sweet thing" and that it will "all be gone in flash". Humph! I guess I get it, but . . . Oh, wait, there's the crying again.
I'm Molly. I'm all in for parenting. I'm all in for good food. All in for big and small outdoor adventures. And really only partly in for homemaking. I want a Martha Stewart home and meal, but the truth is, we mamas just can't do it all. Not really. This shit is tricky!
This is a collection of musings and missives about parenting like you mean it. I mean really mean it. About how you can pull off a really mostly decent meal, keep your house kinda clean, do some of your laundry, and also even remember to usually feed your pets. But mostly about how being a mama is hard and we can totally rock it, but maybe that dream of perfection has got to give a little.