When I was a little girl, I would play with my dolls, dreaming about the day I would have a baby of my own. My friends would come over and we would dress our dolls up, have little tea parties, pretend we were their mothers. We imagined our days as actual mommies would be filled with flowery tea parties, dress up play, dance recitals, and beauty pageants, because of course we were only going to have girls. Our children would be perfect little angels, the epitome of society, with exquisite manners, insane talents, and unparalleled beauty. Fantasy and imagination were encouraged in my childhood, you see.
Boy did reality kick me square in the ass.
Having children is hard. Supah hard. And I am not talking about the giving birth part.....that part was easy compared to the day in and day out challenges that raising a child (or 2, or 3, or more, for you crazy people out there) brings.
I was all set. I mean, I had worked with children of all ages for several years, including infants, I had graduated college, started my career, met my husband and married, and we decided it was time to start a family. I was in my early 30's and we were both financially and emotionally stable.
And then there came reality again.
There were complications with my pregnancy and it was very stressful. It was not the fun and enjoyable type of pregnancy I had envisioned at all. She was premature. I had a reaction to the epidural. My recovery from the c-section (she was breech) was incredibly difficult because of it. She spent some time in the NICU, which was extremely hard, emotionally and physically. I was not prepared for the roller coaster that put me through. Nothing in my life could ready me for the day I had to leave the hospital without her. It was like I left a piece of myself there. We were only gone for a couple of hours, but that was one of the hardest things I have ever done. She came home soon after (and is now very healthy and happy), and I would not wish that experience on anyone. But I was ready to be home with her, to be a mom like I had always dreamed of being, to have that life with a newborn that was perfect, just like the storybooks and pictures.
Reality again punched me in the face.
My husband's job requires him to travel. Well, because she was early, his job schedule was a little tough to work out, and he ended up traveling not too long after we brought her home. I remember sitting on the couch holding her and crying, telling him I couldn't do it. I couldn't take care of her all by myself and keep her safe. His answer? "You kind of have to." Yep, I kinda did. I had taken care of three to four babies at a time working in day care, but this one was MINE, and somehow that changed the game completely. Needless to say, we both survived. And honestly, for the new moms out there.....you really do forget how hard those first few months are.
Baby girl number two was a complete surprise.
At least they were going to be almost five years apart. That would make everything so much better, right? I mean, the oldest would be out of diapers and potty trained. The oldest would be in school most of the time and I would get to have time with the baby. The oldest would be such a great little helper, such a wonderful big sister, this was going to be perfect.
Where, exactly, do I get these insane ideas?
At least number two was born without any issues.....our stay in the hospital was actually really nice. I had a spinal this time, my recovery was remarkably easy, my first born was safe at home with grandma......it was actually relaxing. The nurses were surprised when I didn't want them to take her to the nursery, but I didn't get to have that time with my first, and I was enjoying it. They would come in, and she would be sleeping in my arms, music playing on the computer and I would be snoozing or reading a book. I had several nurses ask me if they could just hang out in my room because it was so peaceful! I really enjoyed my time with her.
Here comes that bitch reality again.
Raising children is extremely, incomparably hard. Not only in the day to day general "taking care of business" sense, but also in the energy-sucking, physically exhausting, emotionally draining and yet incredibly rewarding sense. I read a quote once that having a child was like having your heart walking around outside your body. I agree with that. You do everything you can every single day to keep them healthy, safe, and happy.....all the while trying to keep yourself sane, centered and happy while getting everything done that you need to get done. And at the end of the day, I usually realize my "to do" list still has most of the "to do's" on it. There are always regrets, things I wish I had done more of and things I wish I had done less of (yes, I am addicted to Candy Crush).
Seriously, the moms (and dads) who claim to never yell, discipline with love & logic only, create crafts with their children all day long while simultaneously vacuuming every square inch of the house and cooking a five course meal for dinner must be drinking themselves into a stupor each and every night to rein in the stress of being so perfect all day every day. I just don't buy it. I strive every day to be that kind of mom, but I'm just NOT. I yell. I get frustrated. I have gone into the other room and screamed into a pillow. I yell some more. But you know what? I also apologize. I let my girls know when I crossed the line. We talk about why what they were doing was not ok, but we also talk about why the way mommy reacted was not ok. I try using love & logic, I use time out, I use positive reinforcement, and all of that. But sometimes you've said something enough times and given enough warnings that a swat on the butt is what it takes to get through to them. Don't agree? Fine. You parent the way you want, and I will parent the way I want. My children do not get spanked very often, but they know when they do, that they have pushed all limits.
So right there, I know that the comments will include judgments about spanking. And THAT'S why parenting sucks. Because you are constantly judged. You are judged by the method you choose to give birth. You are judged by the method by which you choose to nourish your child. You are judged by the clothes you choose (my child ONLY wears designer labels), the child care you choose (it must be the most ostentatious, most expensive or it's not good enough), the car seat brand you have (what do you mean you don't have a Britax?), the diaper bag you carry (oh, but I buy a new Petunia Pickle Bottom every couple of months!), the car you drive (if you're not driving the biggest SUV available, you're not doing everything you can to keep your child safe), and so on. You will be judged by your parents (and your in-laws) for your parenting methods. And that's always fun. And you will continue to be judged regarding your children for the rest of your life. People will judge you in public for the things you say, the things you don't say, the things you do and don't do, the way your children behave (even if they're two and not doing anything but acting like a two year old), what your children are wearing, etc. It's a sad, sad commentary on humanity.
But it's reality. See? I told you she was a bitch.
You know what, though? You don't have any reason to care what other people think. You need to be the kind of parent that is best for you, best for your children, and best for your family. It's ok to step away at times and take time for yourself. No one should make you feel guilty for that. It's ok to leave the kids with a babysitter (yes, even an infant) and have a date night with your spouse. You BOTH need that. As long as you are not abusing your children in any way, duct taping them to the wall, taking duck face naked selfies with your toddler in the background, posing them with beers and cigarettes (man am I on Facebook too much), or any other such ridiculous nonsense, then do the best you can, and don't worry about anyone else.
Yes, being a parent sucks sometimes. But you know what? It's also incredible. I have two healthy, beautiful children and I know how lucky I am. I also know that I completely take for granted how lucky I am. I have friends who were unable to have children. I have friends who have children with severe disabilities. I have friends who suffered devastating losses. When I get frustrated with my children I try so hard to remember them and appreciate what I have, and that is difficult. No one's perfect. We're all human, just trying to do the best we can.
I'm going to go and play with my kids now.