I’m as guilty as every parenting writer out there vomiting their own true confessions of leaking diapers and finding peanut butter smeared on the walls. I’ve written my fair share of parenting horror stories and tales of how easy life was before I decided to add four other humans into it. Parenting can be hard. It can be exhausting and terrifying and confusing and heartbreaking. It changes your body, your priorities, your financial situation, and your tolerance for hearing the same tinny television theme song over and over again. But no, it’s not as bad as those of us with kids want those of you without kids to believe.
Last week Ruth Graham wrote a piece for Slate entitled “My Life Is a Waking Nightmare” -Why do parents make parenting sound so God-awful? and that headline basically sums up the entire piece, where Ruth asks why those of us who write about parenting insist on making it sound like the very worst thing in the world. Yes, it’s nice to write about all the reasons it sucks ass to step on a Lego piece and have 200 other people chime in and agree with you. Yes, it’s great when your kid is doing something weird and new and to write about this weird and new thing and hear from other parents with kids that also did the same weird and new thing so you feel less alone.
Parenting is one of the only things in life where there are absolutely no easy answers, no simple solutions, and no perfectly guaranteed way to do anything. Everything is up for debate. It’s also a pretty guaranteed way to question everything about yourself, who you are as a parent, and who you have become as a person.
Parenting isn’t as bad as what we are telling you. You change diapers, it takes you three minutes, you get on with it. It isn’t fun of glamorous, but sometimes your baby smiles when you do it and that’s pretty lovely. You feed your baby and no matter if you formula or breastfeed at times there are challenges with each, but your baby grabs your finger or spits out the nipple and gives you a big gummy grin and you get on with it. Babies wake up crying but then you pace your floors, singing Born To Run to them at two a.m, or else you watch your partner do it and that may pretty much be the best thing ever.
Your kids get older. You give them ice cream for the first time, or watch them take their first steps, or they reach their fat little arms up to you and you take them to the garden, and you sit and watch them watch a bird and you stop, because at any moment, your heart with its lurching in your chest and the sun on your faces and you could explode, because this love, this gigantic Godzilla loves that fill you until you could burst, and it’s not just then. It’s a lot, when you are at the market or away from them on your first date night out or when they sleep next to you, their hot little breath on your cheek as you cocoon yourselves in the blanket. And when it does happen, it floors you, the utter monumental task you have decided to embark on, just by not using birth control. Or by adoption. Or by IVF. Or however you have become a parent.