I tend to romanticize being a parent a lot because I happen to have a kid who’s pretty rad and I like to brag about her varied levels of coolness when I think they’d appeal to a mass audience. And while I [very, very surprisingly] love having a child, there’s a lot of stuff I really really don’t like about being a parent. It’s a painful cliche to hear a bunch of women sitting around comparing war stories about their kids or bitching about the trials of parenting and I refuse to be one of those women who jokingly says to strangers “You want her?” when people say my daughter’s adorable. However, there are a number of things that I feel should be said about being the Average Stay-At-Home Mom. (In fact, I had an idea to do a documentary called “The Grateful/Joyful Prisoner” in which I highlighted the daily life of a neo-feminist SAHM and talked about what it’s like to raise a child in today’s society where it’s definitely not hip to stay at home with a kid all day in your 20′s.)
Anyway, I thought I’d do a Pros and Cons list as a means of creating a sense of reality about the whole situation. Feel free to add your own.
What Sucks About Being the Parent of a Small Child:
It literally feels like a mini-vacation when someone offers to change a diaper for me.
Yes, this deserves its own listing, mostly because poop isn’t always limited to the realm of diapers. And, seriously, while changing diapers is humbling as is, being elbow-deep in poop adds an extra degree of “Really? This is my life?”
~ Having to Talk to Strangers Constantly.
I’m a friendly person. I really am. I’m that person who’ll strike up conversation with the checkout clerk (because I know they get treated like servants) and bums and anyone. Love and camaraderie are what perpetuates humanity. However, there are some days I really just want to get in my car, go to the grocery store, grab milk and bread and leave. And that is a complete impossibility with a small child in tow through no fault of either of us.
If I had a dollar for every middle-aged-to-little-old lady who stopped to fawn over the Bear and tell me how I should “savor every moment” and how “they just grow up so fast” and how their daughters/sons/babies all have “babies of their own” now, I literally wouldn’t have had to pay for gas for the last year.
And the problem with me is that I was raised with manners, so, if someone’s not hurting or offending me, I won’t tell them to leave me alone. If I have nowhere to be I’ll gladly stand around and let Little Old Lady #3,467 ramble on about how big her children have gotten and how she remembers rocking them to sleep every night and all that yackety schmack. And I know they don’t mean any harm and none of them try to tell me how to parent but after a while it all starts to sound the same and I really, truly do not care.
~ Being Literally Screamed at on a Daily Basis
So your boss yelled at you once last week about putting three sugars in his coffee instead of two Splendas. So you have idiot clients who call you and scream at you about stuff that’s out of your control. Guess what? You have the option of hanging up on that client or going home and having a drink and taking a break from all of that.
At least four times a day I have a person literally screaming and crying at me about something completely pointless and inane. (I’ve taken her crayons away because she’s scribbled on the window again. I’m pulling her off the arm of the couch because she’ll slip and land on her head like she has before.) Sometimes there’s kicking and flailing. And no amount of rhetoric (my personal weapon of choice) will fix it. Neither will screaming or yelling in return. And I don’t get to go home to get away from it all.
~ Being “That Woman with the Upset Baby” in Public
My husband tells me not to apologize for it but I know how much I used to hate being in public and listening to kids screaming while the mom just stood by and let it happen. I’d much rather be the mom who is apologetic and seems considerate of everyone’s well-being than the one who just lets her kid do whatever and acts like she’s socially inept, so when my kid is being obnoxious, I make sure everyone knows that I realize how distracting it is.
~ Being Tethered to the House
It’s gotten better now that the Bear is older but we’re still always a slave to the Hallowed Naptime Hour (both a blessing and a curse.) Sure, I can try to take her out all day but it will only end in screaming, fatigue-fueled screaming and drama that’s just more work for me in the end. I can rarely have sit-down lunches with other adults because she rarely wants to sit still in a restaurant in the middle of the day and, even if she does, it only lasts about thirty minutes at most. My playdates are cut short because of Naptime or Bedtime and car rides longer than 30 minutes are a chore because she loathes being strapped in to the car seat. Even loading everything up and running to the grocery store for 10 minutes is such a chore that I’ll let the fridge get to the lowest possible capacity before trekking out to restock. Especially when it’s cold and rainy, it’s just easier to sit at home all day. And that is torturous after a while.
~ Suddenly Becoming High Maintenance by Default
I’m an easygoing person most of the time. When I’m in a situation in which I have absolutely no control I’m good about just sitting back and enjoying the ride, making my own fun of it even if it totally sucks. With a child in tow, that’s not an option.
This especially comes to light when my in-laws are in town. I realize I’m constantly sounding domineering and deliberately difficult but I’m constantly having to repeatedly say, “No, we can’t do that.” because whatever it is they want to do is just going to make the Bear miserable which, in turn, will make everyone else miserable.
This leads me to my next bulleted grievance:
~ Not Being Listened To
I’m so so grateful to have a husband who loves and respects me, first of all. Because if I was a mom today with a husband who took me for granted and acted like my opinion didn’t matter I’d have a huge inferiority complex most of the time.
Here’s the thing. For whatever reason, people seem to assume that new moms are idiots as people instead of just novices to the parenting game. This is especially true for old moms who feel like, because they had children who survived, they’re suddenly the authority on parenting, even if their kids are now the most dysfunctional beings on the planet. And, although I do have a few opinions of my own as to how to parent, I certainly don’t volunteer to share those opinions with people who haven’t asked me for them.
What’s even worse than having other parents do the “you should do this” or “why aren’t you doing this?” or “you do that!? that’s so wrong!” thing is when they just don’t even listen when I try to assert needs for my child. I hate having to argue with people about stupid stupid shit when I’ve already made a clear statement about what I/my child need(s) and when I really, honestly know what the hell I’m talking about. And – believe it or not – I get so frustrated about not being listened to that I don’t even enjoy it when I make a compromise and everyone learns that they should’ve just done it my way to begin with because I was effing right.
Guess what? Being a stay-at-home mom is my full-time job. It’s what I do. All day. Every day. 168 hours every week. I know this child and her habits and her moods and what variables will affect those things better than I know anything else. I wouldn’t march down to anyone else’s job and snatch the reins away from them because I’d have no qualifications in which to do so. So why the hell do people feel like they have the right to do the same with me?
And sure, maybe I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent and I’m just winging it one day at a time but, chances are, so were these other women who were new parents and, if their kids turned out okay then maybe they should be sharing that benefit of the doubt. (At least my generation isn’t taking diet pills while pregnant and indoctrinating guilt into our children as a lifestyle. So I’d venture to say we’ve got a leg up already.)