“The more things change, the more things stay the same.” – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr
Motherhood is hard. There, I said it. Not only is the actual act of caring for and raising tiny humans difficult on so many levels, but there’s the criticism that comes with it. We deal with enough Mom Guilt (the guilt and criticism we thrust upon ourselves), but even more challenging is the nit-picking from the rest of society. Whether social media, the folks at the grocery store, or our very own relatives, opinions fly from every which direction.
I recently realized that we sometimes unknowingly criticize each other for a particularly ridiculous reason: the size of our broods.
It’s as if a parent with only one child isn’t the same ilk as one with two, and a parent with two has it “easy” compared to a parent of three, and so on and so on. And haven’t we all heard “just you wait!” from a parent with teens when we complain about a tough time with a two-year-old? On the same token, people with multiple kids are called crazy for wanting a wonderfully large family.
We all know that it’s not a competition. No one wants to intentionally make another person feel inadequate or less intelligent. But, it can hurt other parents to their core – and when adding in additional differences like a child with a developmental disability or a family made through adoption or miscarriages/the death of a child or any number of other challenges to face, these comments can be downright devastating.
So, as we greet another new year, I thought I’d point out some of the similarities – the common threads – that we all share as parents (of one or more), and encourage everyone to help hold each other up in 2018.
WE ALL TRY OUR BEST – While I’m sure we’ve raised an eyebrow at someone who makes a decision for their child that we might not agree on, we can all pretty much say that nobody makes a decision with the intent to harm a child. In other words, 99% of parents are doing the best they can for their children, right? Sure, the number of kids you have may change your parenting style or decision making, but just as each child is an individual, we’re all doing our personal best job.
WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES – As much as we all try our best, it’s inevitable that we’ll mess up. Sometimes we’ll admit it to our child and apologize (if we, say, lost our cool or misunderstood or yelled); other times we’ll beat ourselves up and vow not to let it happen again. Regardless of what the mistake is, the fact is that parenting has a steep learning curve – but it’s called a learning curve, nonetheless. It’s like taking classes everyday for 18+ years (okay, a lifetime) without a book or grades but with much greater consequences. We should allow ourselves the fails, as long as no one is seriously hurt, emotionally or physically.
WE ALL GET REPLENISHED BY THE SIMPLE, MAGICAL MOMENTS – For all those mistakes or exhausted mishaps, there are those moments – sometimes once-in-a-lifetime, sometimes common – that help lift us up and fill our hearts. The first step, the first time a child says “mama” or “dada”, the first sentence he read on his own. Even small things, like a new sideways glance that cracks you up or a sweet hug and “I love you, Mama” after a rough day can fill your bucket. And we all so badly need those moments.
WE ALL GET OVERWHELMED – Whether from exhaustion or dealing with temper tantrums and miscommunication, everyday stresses can wear us down and, when repeated day over day seem insurmountable. Googling the heck out of an issue can only make it worse and sometimes it feels like a high wire act without a net. One kid or six kids, the overwhelm is real and valid.
WE ALL GET EMBARRASSED – As adults, we have a general understanding of appropriate public behavior, right! Well, most of us do. Kids are an entirely different animal. Questioning a woman on her upper lip hair. Asking loudly about the tampons in the shopping cart. Or simply having a gigantic, very public meltdown. It’s all embarrassing…and we’ve all been there.
WE ALL END THE DAY TOTALLY WIPED – I’m not sure many of us sit down after the kids are down for the night feeling completely refreshed and ready to attack the to-do list. Sure, we may do some chores or watch a show (okay, fall asleep to a show), but it doesn’t mean we’re not exhausted. It means that we want to feel like we got something, anything done aside from mere survival.
WE ALL CRY – Even the toughest of us has a moment when we feel the tears coming. Maybe it’s hormones, maybe it’s the exhaustion, maybe it’s the piling up of responsibilities…or maybe it’s one of those proud, joy-filled moments mentioned above. No matter the reason, it happens.
WE ALL LAUGH (SOMETIMES IRONICALLY) – Along with the tears, we all get some giggles out of this crazy gig. Kids can be funny as they discover language, appropriateness, and generally the world around them. So, we sometimes laugh along with them…and, at other times, when the craziness has passed the point of anger and headed straight into crazy town.
WE ALL DEAL WITH GROCERY STORE MELTDOWNS – Let me take a moment to specifically give a shout out to the parents at the grocery store. The place itself is a strange microcosm of society, with unspoken rules (and people who unapologetically break them…I’m looking at you, aisle hoggers)…and parents wearing guilt, frustration and exhaustion upon their faces. The necessary stress of keeping the family fed is the only thing that could possibly get us to drag kids – equally unhappy to be there – into this war zone.
WE ARE ALL AMAZING…BUT DON’T RECOGNIZE IT – For all the stresses, tears, and meltdowns, we ROCK. The fact that we’re often on autopilot means that we hardly take the time to pat ourselves on the backs after handling a boo-boo, stirring the sauce before it burns, and diffusing a near-meltdown all at the same time and without a second thought. The kids don’t notice it and we often don’t, either.
There’s no such thing as a perfect child, a perfect parent, or a perfect family – just what works for you and your unique situation. Parenting is parenting, one child or twenty, and at its heart is ultimately love.
We hope that your new year is filled with all the love, grace, laughter, and joy that you need to help keep you going on your parenting journey. All the best to you and your family, no matter its size!