Friday, March 11, 2011

The things they don't tell you about parenting

I could write a freaking book, y'all. It would have chapter headings like:

Moving When You Have a Baby, or: How Paying a Babysitter Will Save Your Sanity
Human Gestation takes 10 months, Not 9 (Joke's On You, Preggo)
Teething: A Primer in Losing Your Sanity and Sleep Simultaneously
Who Needs a Lover When You Can Have Coffee

I just wish there had been some book or something that could have prepared me for this. Why do we have so many parenting taboos? Where was my parenting sensei? I wanted to be a grasshopper, dammit. I wanted to know what it was really going to be like! Lots of moms say "but you can never really be prepared for what it's going to be like the first time, you just have to do it." Maybe I wouldn't have been able to fully understand the implications of any information thrown my way, but it sure as shit would have been helpful to have it. Like after I got pregnant my mom decided to say "Oh, yeah, all the women in our family are extremely fertile." THIS IS INFORMATION THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HELPFUL TO ME YEARS AGO.

This begs greater questions: why is there a culture of silence surrounding parenthood and especially motherhood? Why do we feel the need to show an outward face of perfection to even those closest to us? We have these conventions, and then we get online or with a group of other parents and we vent about all the awful parts of parenthood because we have no other outlet. We talk to childless people like our lives are perfect, and talk to other parents like we're on the verge of alcoholism or baby shaking.

These issues are connected to other problems: our parenting culture has started presenting a face of fear mongering and unfair judgment. We scare the shit out of each other, and appraise others' value as parents based on how seriously they take these imaginary or bizarrely perceived threats. Amongst the more offbeat parenting community, there is sometimes an "eco-machismo" attitude. "Your parenting choices are killing the earth, and mine aren't;" "how can you let your kid play with plastic branded crap?"

We are so afraid to honestly and openly talk with each other about our experiences, we're afraid we're doing it all wrong. And that fear won't allow us to seek knowledge to help us on this path; instead, we lash out at others' in judgment to hide our own insecurities. We join parenting sites and forums to dish out our advice to others and quietly compare ourselves to them to feel better about our choices. We have a great lip service: "you make the choices that are best for your family," "if it works for you, that's great." But, secretly, we're thinking how lucky our children are to have us are parents and some of these other yahoos that are procreating without a clue about what to do. Here's the best kept parenting secret: none of us know what we're doing. We just wake up everyday and love our kids and try to make it through. We're doing our best. Our choices are informed by our parenting philosophy, previous experience, and our own needs. I, for one, don't think those choices should be informed by fear of mortification or appraisal by other people - parents or not.

Parenting is a mixed bag, and that's ok - so is life. Some days are great, and you never want them to end. Some moments make up for the bad days. And sometimes it's all you can do to get the baby in bed and have a glass of wine and force yourself to let it all go. The challenges of parenting are nothing compared to the challenge of making hard choices and standing confident in those decisions in our current parenting culture. Go ahead, y'all. Open up. Tell me the bad and the good and let's brainstorm creative solutions to your parenting problems. Let's help each other through this. We're all lost in the woods here - there's no sense in us wandering alone.

1 comment:

  1. 1) "Mack truck of love." I love that. Haha.

    2) Thank you for speaking openly and frankly about your experiences, I value your blog so much. Keep it coming.