Ahh, children. They’re…weird.
Our society is also pretty weird when it comes to children, so you end up with exponential weirdness. It’s a shame that parenting is such a lightning rod issue, and that we all take ourselves so seriously. It makes camaraderie and support so much more elusive.
So, I thought I’d share a little of my limited parenting experience, in hopes that you might feel better about your current situation as a parent. Or, if you’re someone who has been crippled by parentanoia, (I just made that up right now. I know.) maybe you’ll feel a little better about the prospect of having kids. Assuming that you want kids. Which you don’t have to want to have kids. I mean, eh…well, we’ll talk about that later.
This is just part one, so don’t get all frazzled if you feel like this is one-sided or wrong or evil or whatever. Read the other parts when they’re published, then get all frazzled. Here we go…
Having Kids Is Not The Best Thing Ever
Some people will tell you all kinds of unbelievably gooey stories about how great kids are, and how they didn’t know the meaning of life until they had kids, and how everything else pales in comparison, et cetera. People say, “I can’t even remember what life was like before we had children!” Oh, really? I do. It was awesome.
Before kids, I could (and did) sleep in until 10:30. Before kids, no one had ever (never!) vomited directly on my person. I did not have to repeat the same, exact request 78 times a day. I never googled “light-colored bowel movements.” I did not have to wedge my personal interests into an hour and a half nap window twice a day. Really, I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. The world was my freaking oyster, and I didn’t even know it. Sigh.
Having kids is crazy hard, and there is no amount of cuteness that will un-exhaust you. Having been on both sides of the fence, I can tell you that being a parent is 2.8 times harder than having a job. Or a billion times harder. Something in there. What do you do at a job? Put on pants and go have adult conversations? Oh, geeze, make sure you take a break from that!* Your co-workers do not use crying as their primary mode of communication. They talk. Nicely, most of the time. Even better, they email. You don’t even have to look at them! Even the most insane customer is insane at a distance. Children are insane in your home. I would easily liken being a parent to working in customer service, that is, if the customer then followed you home, crapped his pants, and cried until you cleaned it up. With your hands, I tell you! Your hands!
*Some jobs are actually super hard and could give parenting a run for its money. Like being a cop. Or a solider. Stuff like that. Stuff that basically involves a very real risk of death. Anything short of a brush with death can’t even hold a candle to parenting.
As a parent, the entirety of your sanity is utterly dependent on whether or not your child takes a nap. (What in God’s name happens when children stop napping!? I don’t even know!) There is a button, deep inside every parent’s brain that, when pressed, makes it seem like all the good things of the world have grown fangs and are coming to bite you in the ass, and all the bad things have taken residence in your very soul. That button is magically pressed when a wee sob creeps its way through the closed door at the end of the hall at 1:30PM (instead of 2 freaking 15, dangit! 2:15!)
And if the naps don’t get you, the constant, incessant second-guessing of every single thing you do, have done, or will do in the future, will. This is not only because parenting is harder than anything short of ninja-ry, but because everyone thinks they can do your job. Everyone has an opinion. For some people, that’s because they have kids—they’ve been there. And because the human brain is wired to justify everything we do, they think what they did was the best choice ever. Some people don’t have kids, but if they did have a kid, he certainly wouldn’t be throwing a fit. Or pouring milk down his pants. Or eating 17 gummy bears off the grass. They would never, in their sweetest voices, tell little Frankie that they’re going to sell him in Mexico if he doesn’t stop putting sand in Mama’s purse. (It was a JOKE, people. A joke. Was it a dark joke? Yes. But still a joke. Calm down.)
And the passing opinion isn’t even the tip of the iceberg in terms of the criticism you face as a parent. Why? Because of the damn internet. Every criticism, small or large, can be justified and magnified through the holy powers of the internet. Vaccinate your kid? Well, the internet will tell you how that’s turning her brain to mush. Didn’t vaccinate? The internet says your kid has 12.6 hours to live. Spanking? The internet says your Hitler’s BFF. Don’t spank? You’re a crazy hippie. Trying to decide if you’re a terrible parent by referencing the internet is like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon starting with Demi Moore—there’s only one degree of separation, so it’s easy to see the connection. But in this case, you’re Demi Moore, and Kevin Bacon is embarrassing, mortifying, damaging failure. Thank you, oh wondrous internet.
So, you’ve lost your freedom. You’re exhausted, covered in poop and your left eye is twitching a little. You’re begging God (and Superman? President Obama? It doesn’t even matter!) to help your kid sleep through this nap and the internet is telling you that your poop-encrusted insanity is largely your fault. Magical, no? With that description, I’m sure you’re wondering if I did actually try to sell my kid in Mexico. Well, I didn’t, because I love my kid like crazy. Why? Because having kids is not the worst thing ever. So be sure to stay tuned for the next installment, when we see what’s lurking on the other side of the coin.