Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I Lie About Parenting
I am, apparently, a liar. There is this message board that I am on and someone posted a link to this blog article that a woman wrote over the summer. I seem to recall hearing a lot of hoopla about it when it happened but I was too busy to really pay attention. But I did go and pull it up when it popped up this time. And it took me a few days and several readings to wrap my head around it. Here is a link so you can read the full entry: The Hardest Part of My Job Is That Everyone Lies About Parenting First let me say that there were only a few responses on this message board. A small handful of mommies who agreed. Perhaps there were others who just didn't want to speak up. Perhaps there were some like me who needed some time to figure it out for themselves. A couple of snippets: People are scared to admit that they would rather be at work than with their kids, because work is easier than parenting. If I have to read about how much someone loves their kids one more time, I'm gonna puke. Because we all know that parents love their kids. It's not interesting. It's not helpful. It's not even very relevant. For anyone. What's interesting is the part where parents love their kids but don't love being with them on a daily basis. It's very scary to write. But I'm telling you, if the feeling weren't ubiquitous then there would be no one to be in middle management working 9-5 because they'd all be home with their kids, doing freelance work after bedtime. First, I want to mention her idea about this "mommy porn" thing that she accuses the media of. I disagree. I don't look at any Hollywood anything and figure that they are any kind of example of motherhood. And I think the common sentiment is that I could easily take care of my kids and have a great body and a clean house and gorgeous clothes if I had a nanny, a housekeeper, a personal trainer, a personal chef and a stylist on my payroll, too. So while the paparazzi may be out there snapping these sentimental and sweet and happy moments with these stars and their babies... I don't take it as having anything to do with real life parenting. On to the parts I quoted above... People are scared to admit that they would rather be at work than with their kids, because work is easier than parenting. See, this doesn't match with me, either. Because I would adore staying at home with my children, doing activities and crafts with them, playing with them, watching them play. There is a reason why I love the weekends best of all. I don't hate my job so it isn't just because I don't want to be here... but it's because I want to be there. At home. With my kids. I'd love to be "that mom" who volunteers for school activities. I'd love to be "that mom" who bakes healthy treats and snacks. I'd love to be "that mom" who can chaperone field trips. I'd love to be "that mom" that other moms can rely on to pick up kids and host after school play dates. I'd love to be "that mom" who finds real joy and accomplishment and satisfaction and purpose in raising her children, maintaining a home, and supporting her husband. And I will be the first to step to the front of the line to tell you that there have definitely been days where I was thrilled to take my child and drop her off at Miss Lisa's house and run away from her. I also wonder how her behavior may or may not be different if I was a stay at home mom. I wonder how my patience and reactions might be different if my full time job were to be mothering and disciplining and creating and playing and cleaning and cooking and so on. If I have to read about how much someone loves their kids one more time, I'm gonna puke. Because we all know that parents love their kids. It's not interesting. It's not helpful. It's not even very relevant. For anyone. Gotta disagree on this one, too. I think that one of the most amazing and incredible and miraculous parts of becoming a parent is being introduced to this new level of feeling and experiencing that is so completely indescribable. You have to be part of the club to really get it. I loved kids and worked with kids and had a lot of involvement and investment in kids prior to becoming a mom. I was told often that I had a real gift and talent. My life was strongly impacted by many of the children that I encountered and I know that I left an impact on a few of them as well. But none of that mattered once I became a mommy. It was completely different from the instant I pushed that little girl out of my body. While I had loved her before I'd met her... that love changed once she was born. She came out of my body and this little scream tore through the room. She was laid on my belly and she was wet and red and crying. I was crying, Jeff was crying. And then her little hand shot up in air and clenched onto my finger and my love changed. In that one moment, it deepened and lengthened and widened and stretched and surrounded and encompassed. And with it came a slew of other depths of emotion I hadn't anticipated. The vastness and greatness of true responsibility. The darkness and terror of fear. Things I'd felt before but things that weren't a part of the core of my being. But that are now forever entrenched in me. So I think that hearing a parent talk about how much love they have for their child is interesting and helpful and relevant. Because it's a love that only a parent can understand. I hate to be exclusionary... but you have to be part of the club to understand the difference of a parent's love. You have to be a parent- through whatever means- to understand the difference between love and Love. What's interesting is the part where parents love their kids but don't love being with them on a daily basis. It's very scary to write. But I'm telling you, if the feeling weren't ubiquitous then there would be no one to be in middle management working 9-5 because they'd all be home with their kids, doing freelance work after bedtime. And at this point I just figure this woman is completely out of touch. She only recognizes her own reality. Because let me tell you... if there were truly a way that I could just snap my fingers and be doing freelance work after bedtime and still be able to support my family... I'd do it in a heartbeat. And I'll even go so far as to say that Jeff would do the same. If I had to choose between driving to work each morning, doing tasks and putting out "fires" and ordering materials and attending meetings and participating in conference calls, even the fun of getting a cup of hot tea with a friend, hitting the gym at lunch (heck, even just having a lunch hour), and being able to talk about politics and current events... I'd give it up. I'd give it up. I'd trade it all in for Tinkerbell and construction paper and play doh and trucks and dollhouses and applesauce and yogurt and ravioli and juice and Imagination Movers and living room dance parties and trips to the Children's Museum and snuggles and cuddles and time outs and talking back and mouthing off and stubbornness and diaper changes and nap time and Hullaballo and scrapes and bruises and potty training and accidents and sibling rivalry and fighting and loudness and not listening and... Being a parent is the hardest and most rewarding job I've ever had. I take it very seriously and am constantly impressed by the enormity of it. I work to improve myself and educate myself to the best of my ability. I chose to become a mother. I choose to strive to be the best mommy I can. Do I get tired? Hell yes. Do I lose my patience? Hell yes. Do I think that "work life mommy" balance is a fallacy? Hell yes. Finding myself defining who I am with the title of "Mommy" is the greatest honor I've ever lived. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I will fight with all that I have and all that I am to protect and defend my title. Does "Mommy" define me? Absolutely. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
I hear what you and the other blogger are saying.... parenthood and working and/or staying home are BOTH hard to manage. I started blogging becasue I always thought:
"I'd love to be "that mom" who finds real joy and accomplishment and satisfaction and purpose in raising her children, maintaining a home, and supporting her husband."
But, guess what!, that kind of enthusiasm for the "job" just hasn't lasted for me. Maybe if I still had two kids and didn't feel as overwhelmed by the three of them and their needs, I would still feel satisfied and happy. But I don't. Parenting is such a grind and getting one week of vacation a year for 10 years straight (and I know I am lucky to get that week that my parents take the kids) is NOT enough!
So... I love everything you had to say about this, but I think there is no right answer and that every mom and family are different and that is why there a thousands of mommy blogs and we can each find the at least a couple that talk to our personal experience - but hate and disagree with others.
Sorry to go on and on.... but I LOVED your post and the topic!! :)
I hear you, Amy. And I think the most important thing in my response is something I didn't specify in my post. And it's what you said. Each experience of motherhood is unique. And maybe that's why her article got under my skin. Because it felt like a lot of finger pointing and generalizations. I don't like the idea that she presents- that mommyhood can't possibly be satisfying to a working mom because it isn't easy and always fun.
We all have our challenges. We all have different things that push our buttons and stress us out and cause us to lose it. If I ever were to have the opportunity to stay at home with my kids, I'm certain there would be a whole new world of new challenges and stresses to figure out!
I stayed home with my girls for 10 years. Sure, there were days when going out to the mailbox by myself was a real treat, but those years were a gift that I would NEVER return.
I read and rea-read your blog and the other blog you are writing about. I sat on this today, mulled a few things over and know one thing. I don't have any regrets about not staying at home with my kids. I know that for 100% certainty. I wish I could say I did. But I'd be lying. And I really think it has everything to do with how old (young) I was, how unprepared I was, the state of my marriage (a disaster from day one), my immaturity and the reasons for which I decided to have my children. I was 22 when Zack was born. I got pregnant with him because of the pressure from the grandparents and the pressure of all my girlfriends having babies. I wanted to fit in. Cue the immaturity part. Had I been older, more settled, more mature, in a relationship where I actually liked my husband and really desired children for the sake of having children and raising them I think I may have felt and feel differently than I did and do. I stayed home for a year with both of them (that's our mat leave policy in Canada) and, frankly, I couldn't wait to get back to work by that point. I missed the adult interaction, the challenge of the work on a mental and physical basis, getting out of the house on a daily basis and, of course, the financial rewards of my job which were many as I earned a significantly higher salary than my husband (almost double). There's something to be said about a person's worth in terms of what they contribute to their job and the bacon they bring home. But I wish my worth were more defined in how good of a mother I was back then and how I would have chosen to be with my children instead of pursuing personal and financial goals. I guess I do have regrets - regrets that I don't feel differently. Sometimes that makes me feel like a bad person, a bad mother and I probably deserve what I have gotten over the years. But most of all I believe that my kids were much better off with me working because when I was at home I was miserable and lazy and unhappy and not productive or good for them. Is that horrible? Sometimes I think it is. But then sometimes I think it's OK because at least I'm honest about it and I know that many women share my feelings. I wish I could have felt the way you do...those feelings are so foreign to me.
It is what it is, but I just wanted you to know that the things you share about your experiences with motherhood really help me to reconcile the feelings and guilt and remorse I have over alot of my parenting years. Things I have chosen to sweep under the carpet and ignore. They never really go away, so I'm glad to be given an opportunity, through you, to think about them and try to deal with them on some level.
I'm not a mother, but a father. My perspective on this, therefore, would be different from the start.
I have to disagree, like Liz, about what the original blogger was saying. But I think it's more a matter of semantics, maybe, than anything else.
What irked me was the tone. The sentiment that women (moms) are lying if they tell you they'd rather be home.
It's, well, kind of presumptuous and rude. Sweeping generalizations about motherhood (parenthood) are dangerous things to launch upon the public.
I will say, as a father (who now stays at home and no longer works in an office) it's not about whether you love your children. It's about how to strike a balance. Some cannot imagine staying home all day, others cannot imagine staying away from home. I worked to make a living, and resented missing my two oldest children's first walk, and first word, and first solid food, etc. It made me grumpy and that truly affected my relationship with them.
Now that I am home everyday, I see my two youngest and I just can't imagine being away from them.
But I can't sit in judgment of other fathers and say, as the original writer seems to be saying, that those men are liars who say they'd rather do it one way or the other.
And if I read about one more mother say they love their babies ...
I'll smile and know there was something very good about this woman...as uninteresting and unhelpful as that may be
Andrew- So good to have you join us!! I've recently discovered your blog, which is how I assume you found your way here. I agree with you and really appreciate hearing the dad perspective as well!
Lynn- I don't think you have a thing to feel guilty about. Which is so easy to say because we all, especially as parents, immerse ourselves in guilt. But you did what you knew to be best for your family at that time. If you'd had different circumstances, you might have made different choices. You weren't making choices in an effort to be damaging or to exclude anyone or hurt anyone. You were doing the best with what you had available.
Bottom line, for me, is that, like Amy said, each situation is unique. Each perspective on this role as parent is unique. We all have the same goals- to raise positive, productive, loving and loved children. And we all have different ways of getting there.
Wowee! I'm childless by choice, but have always been aware that I'm missing out on some deep stuff. I loved your description of that love; it's probably as close as anyone can get to explaining it. I knew there was some reason kids are so popular! :)
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