In my experience as a mother, I’ve found myself resenting the hell out of people, questions, attitudes, and total idiots, much more than I ever did in my pre-baby life and I know I’m not the only one. I don’t think resenting your children should go hand-in-hand with parenting. But I do think that childrearing opens the floodgates for judgment and criticism and it is not always easy to shrug off or avoid altogether. If we aren’t armed in the thickest of skins, we can find ourselves feeling like we’re fighting an uphill battle just to live how we see fit.
Pre-baby, we did it freely, marched to our own tune without missing a beat and no one seemed to care. It may be partially because there are few things in life that beg to be judged more than our parenting choices, but also because once you start making them, you become a billboard for everything you believe — it’s written all over the hippie school you choose and your toddler’s Tom’s (yes, I’m speaking personally here). You can’t hide your values or religion or lack thereof unless you try really, really hard. Once you have a kid, everything is on the table, and everything becomes fair game, at least in a lot of people’s minds.
I hate to say it like this, but when it comes to how kids should be brought up, opinions are definitely like ass holes (everyone’s got one). Forceful and invasive criticisms are something any pregnant woman or new mom knows a lot about. We’ve all experienced it at some point. Ex: the lady who walks up to your table while you’re eating to ask your daughter’s name and then promptly tells you she will hate it when she’s older and that “Piper” is in fact, a boy’s name. (Damn, I wish someone had mentioned that sooner!). Blatant and unprecedented opinions practically from the exact moment of conception are about as common as prenatal gas — just another side-effect of baby-making that’s not anticipated if it’s your first rodeo.
Childless people love to tell us what they will do when they have kids. And it’s normal to have a vision of what your perfect family will look like, to think that will never be your kid laying on the floor of Target, red-faced and terrifying everyone in the store. The reality that you are not immune to the ugliest of public tantrums is something we have to believe; otherwise the population of our planet would be pretty much doomed. But those estimations, flawed as they may be, are rampant. As parents, we must learn quickly learn to smile and nod, or at least to pick our battles.
Though I’d like to think I kept my ideas to myself pre-kid, I know I was the epitome of parenting gnorant. I was partying non-stop, clueless to what true real responsibility felt like, thinking once parenthood did maybe, someday strike I’d be the most laid-back, easy-going, best mom in the world with my hands tied behind my back and a toddler on each boob — no worries! But we all have this fantasy on some level. At least I think we do. It takes going through it to realize that everything looks prettier from the outside and for me that was a tough one to take in.
Now, I resent those criticisms and the warped idealistic view that it’s “not that hard” the way I used to resent crying babies disturbing my fifth Sunday afternoon bloody mary-hangover-fixer- badly. Unfortunately, there’s no use trying to explain a thing to that specific childless person throwing opinions at you or telling you what they will do and why that will work. Same as if anyone had tried to explain anything about mothering to me pre-vagina-ripping-open-life-force-being-pulled-out-and-nothing-was-ever-the-same-ever-ever-again.
The older generation often has their own running commentary, too. Many who believed in a “children are not seen or heard” mentality are confused by modern parents who do things differently. “Why are you all such worry-warts? We let our kids roll around in the backseat, sleep on their bellies, watch TV all day and everyone lived! Attachment parenting? Free-rangers? Ya’ll are nuts, just give em a good whack.” I can’t be the only one who’s heard some derivative of these statements.
Yes, you blew smoke in our faces and only some of us got asthma. We ate white bread and didn’t die or even get fat. But following some modern day guidelines doesn’t make us crazy or uptight. Times have changed and parenting has, too. Maybe in 20 years our society won’t be as obese, stressed and overly medicated as it is today. Maybe? While there is undoubtedly more support for parents of our generation than those of the past, having so much information at our disposal creates an immense amount of pressure to do it well, no, flawlessly.
What adds to the pressure is that we often come into parenting with this perceived notion that a child will make us whole or complete. And we perpetuate this notion for fear of not fitting in, of being judged. For many parents, this image we hold in our minds doesn’t come to fruition. Children bring endless love, which is by far the most amazing part about parenting as far as I can see. But love doesn’t always translate to happiness. Sometimes, not talking about how hard the journey is leads to these unrealistic expectations of what parenting should be. When we are left feeling like we aren’t doing it right or feeling what we are supposed to feel, it’s not uncommon to have some bitterness about your life circumstance. “Why am I not the glowing mother I see in every picture of a woman with a new baby on Facebook? Where’s my freaking glow?”
Well, I’m here to tell you that the glow is a myth. I didn’t glow for one single second when I was pregnant and I haven’t glowed one day since. I’ve sweated and puked more than I ever thought possible, but I haven’t yet glowed and my baby isn’t even a baby anymore. She’s almost three. I think glowing is out. I’ve been happy, sad, exhausted and felt more than I probably ever wanted to. And that has both it’s take-backs and it’s perks.
I think of it all differently now. It’s not picture perfect, and even if it is, people will shit on your picture whenever they can. What they don’t tell you in prenatal classes (okay, I skipped mine), is that no matter what kind of parent you are, judgment will follow you. Stay-at-home moms who work their asses off from dusk till their head hits the pillow, till they’re awoken to pee-peed beds and barfed on sheets, yet are still met with the question, “you aren’t working?” (RESENT). Working moms are told they aren’t present enough (RESENT) and work-at-home moms like myself, well, people still think we are eating bon-bons all day, for some reason, too (RESENT RESENT RESENT. Word has lost all meaning).
The good news is, I find that the longer I’m in this game, the more I let my guard down and don’t worry about being judged. There are more moments when you don’t care who’s looking because amidst all the criticism, you’ve come into being the kind of parent you hoped you could be. Enjoying those miraculous moments and going with the flow means not caring when some playground snob makes you feel like a total idiot with one nasty glare because your kid had to go potty and instead of walking four blocks home and risking two soaked outfits (one being yours), you thought squatting behind a tree seemed like a pretty good alternative. And it was, but the stink-eye never feels so understanding.
Though it may not sound like it from the above mentioned bout of rage, at this point in my parental journey, I’m pretty much zenned out on it all. I’ve om-ed my way through rudeness, lack of understanding and complete and totally idiocy. I’ve practiced yoga breaths, bottling up emotions and blogging, lots and lots of blogging. But if you’re pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, I recommend that you come up with no less than 20 witty comebacks. Since mom brain is about to take over, it helps to keep a list. That way you won’t be left sputtering the next time someone tells you your baby name sucks or that your house smells like pee or that you don’t have a real job. If you’re busting out a sweet one-liner, you’ll be able to pick your jaw up off the floor a lot faster, too.