We talk about what a hard job this is, a lot. How we never, ever get to eat a hot meal, pee alone or sleep through the night. We talk about how it’s wreaked havoc on our bodies, turned our brains to mush and caused us to lose ourselves.
Sometimes you need to vent. It’s nice to commiserate with other women who know the horror of a child projectile vomiting all over you at 3 a.m. It’s comforting to know you’re not the only one who thought she was going crazy when she cried at the drop of a bucket for weeks on end after giving birth.
It’s easier to talk about the difficult stuff, because talking too much about the good stuff feels braggadocios. It’s fun to one up each other with war stories from the home front. And we want them to know. We need them to know what we sacrifice, what strife we endure to turn small humans into good people. It is a lot of work.
But then maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when women and men without children talk about how glad they are to not be parents. We shouldn’t find it shocking that young women see motherhood as a dead-end to nowhere. No wonder society thinks parenting is a burden.
Because we spend a lot of time telling them how awful it is.
Yes, I get frustrated often. I can’t eat without feeding someone else first. I can’t win an argument with a four-year-old about why we have to wear pants. I can’t spend all my money on designer clothes, because my kid keeps outgrowing his shoes. I have a college degree, but for the last nine years most of my life has been ordered and arranged by the needs of people who think SpongeBob is quality entertainment and Captain Underpants is classic literature.
And yet it really isn’t so terrible.
Have I told you how many times a day I laugh? Way more than if these little people weren’t in my life. I am sure I receive more than the daily average of hugs, kisses and, “I love yous.” Do you know how good it feels to see your child accomplish something even as small as zipping up his own coat?
If by losing myself you mean losing my freedom, yes, I gave up a lot of that. I can’t leave the house most days without an entourage. I can’t make plans to go somewhere alone without arranging a baby sitter. I am responsible for feeding, clothing, sheltering, socializing and educating two human beings. It’s all requires sacrifice.
Sacrifice, however, has an unexpected benefit. It puts you on a path to self-discovery, even if you weren’t looking.
Instead of losing myself in all the inconveniences of motherhood, I found who I really was.
It forced me to drill down and find my absolute priorities. There is nothing quite as freeing as knowing what is really important to you. When you do you can say no to all the stuff that interferes with your priorities. You learn to make choices that honor your priorities which in turn honors you. You stop trying please other people, because what they think isn’t one of your priorities.
Suddenly you have courage to buck the status quo and stay home and wipe runny noses if you want. But you might also realize you’re brave enough to write that book you always dreamed about. Or maybe after surviving 32 consecutive nights without sleep, you know you have the fortitude to run a fortune 500 company and drive kids to soccer practice.
That brain is a bit befuddled, because it’s actually working overtime. It even learned a new trick, how to trust your instincts and act on them accordingly. Instincts that help you know when to take a sick child to the doctor and when to dump that penny stock.
That misshapen body is strong. Strong to give life, strong to carry a screaming four-year-old out of the store, strong to hold and cradle a crying child. That body is also strong enough to run a marathon.
If we walked around saying motherhood is beautiful and rewarding every single minute of every single day they wouldn’t believe us, because sometimes it isn’t. Some days it stinks. But most days parenting gives back way more than we put into it, way more than we ever thought it would. It’s pretty great most of the time.
So once is a while we should say that being a mom is enjoyable. It’s OK to share our parenting triumphs now and them.
Tell them kids really are that cute and loving. They are fun to hang out and eat pizza with on a Friday night. It’s awesome when they win the spelling bee or make a touch down. And it turns out parenting teaches you a lot about yourself and empowers you in ways you never imagined.
Mention that while Marissa Mayer is Leaning In she’s also raising a child. Tell them that Olympic silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace became a champion while taking her two kids around the world with her. Oh, and let them know that there are thousands of moms like me living a full life that includes reading bedtime stories and cutting up hot dogs into bite size pieces.
Go ahead and tell your stories about vomit and epic tantrums, but share the good stuff about raising kids too. If we don’t, who will?