My friend Darlena over at Parentwin posted this today. It’s basically a response and a plea to a great post by Hands Free Mama about how she learned to stop worrying and love the
bomb time she spends with her kids. Which is great. I mean, great that Hands-Free Mama has worked that out, but, damn that’s a lot of pressure.
In the mommy blogging world (which somehow includes Pinterest, for reasons that mystify me) there’s all this pressure to “keep up with the Joneses.” The Joneses in the year 2013 aren’t just middle class American House Beautiful cover stories any longer, though. Not only do you have to have a well kept house and garden, beautiful clothes, and cook exceptional meals. Now we all have to be the best mom we can be, the best cooks, the best birthday party throwers, the best crafter, the best educational supervisor, the best organizer, the best social justice warriors, the best eco-warriors, the best feminists, the best at everything, really. Not to mention that we either have a career to prove how self fulfilled we are outside the role of parent, or fill up every moment with emotionally satisfying and rewarding activities to prove how fulfilling and worthwhile it is to be a stay at home parent as an equally worthwhile choice also.
It’s too much pressure.
This life thing is not a competition. There’s no awards and no real recognition of the hard work put in.
And another truth is, this job, this parent thing, it sort of sucks sometimes, and it’s sort of joyful sometimes, but mostly it just is. It’s common and everyday and blasé and sometimes even boring, or unpleasant, or, yup, rushing and harried. It’s not that I don’t want to do it. Put that aside. That’s not it. It’s that when one is tired from taking care of a house full of sick people, or just trying to get the daily stuff done, it’s not sustainable to always be worried about if one is enjoying it enough in a am-I-doing-this-right? sort of way.
What is that even? Are you doing what right? Being you? Hell, Boo. You’re doing it just right. You’re being the best you, and frankly, that kicks the pants off of being the best imitation of someone else’s idea of what you should do to be fulfilled and be a great person.
One of the first lessons I ever got in being a parent was in being a failure. See, Pie refused to nurse, and P refused to bottle feed. Unfortunately for P, I never produced more than an ounce or two of milk in a whole day. Ever. We tried everything. We tried the cookies, we tried constant nursing, we tried the medicines, but many combinations of factors put P in the hospital at around 3-4 weeks with a diagnosis of Failure to Thrive (he was far below his birth weight at that point), about to get a g-tube installed so he could actually get some nutrition into his quicky failing body.
We were lucky, and had doctors that were willing to try to do a lot of weird things to avoid that. By the end of 24 hours in the hospital we had found a combination of nipple types that worked for him (fast flow, orthodontic shaped), and a specially made nutrition-dense formula that helped bring him back to birth weight within a full 72 hours of being at the hospital.
Those hours were something of a nightmare of round the clock feedings, changings, reportings to doctors and nurses, and very little sleep. My husband had to work, and no one could take care of Pie, so she came with. Which meant that I was taking care of two newborn babies in a hospital room where only one of them was a patient, about 40 minutes or so away from home. There was no time off for meals or sleep or showers or just about anything. Add that on top of the fear that one of my babies was in such precarious health, and it was nightmare fodder for a new mother. Add in that it was my own fault because my own supposed-to-be-working, not-supposed-to-fail, ready-made feeding system known as my breasts simply didn’t work? Oh lordy. I won’t say I felt guilty, because I didn’t. What I felt like was a failure.
So I built a foundation of parenthood on that. I said to myself, “you know what, self? You’re going to fail. Anything worth doing is going to be a lot of failing. That’s okay. The work of it is to keep going. To keep doing, and to not get down on yourself for what you can’t do, or what you don’t get right every single time.”
Many of us, I’d hazard to say most of us, but I intuit there must be some people out there who felt they had idyllic childhoods, well the rest of us didn’t. Our parents failed us. Now many of us have arrived here in parenthood and we’re scared to death of failing our kids in the same ways.
All I can say to that is: hey, guys, calm down. Cut yourself some slack. Yes, get help if you need it. Don’t abuse your children or neglect your children, sure. But failing to stop and smell the roses every time you are running the morning gauntlet of getting the kids dressed, fed, and out the door on time to get to school when one of them is dawdling over ladybugs on the sidewalk to the car or bus, and frack, you just told them to rush, and crap, isn’t it great that they notice the ladybugs on the sidewalk? Yeah. Totally, but they really are going to be late, and frankly the school does not care one bit about what it was that made the child, your child, late. So. Yes, you told them to stop dawdling, and hurry up.
You’re not a failure for that. Just try to not be an jerk about it, okay? If you were? Buck up, camper. Say sorry, and do better next time.
One of the actual lessons we need to impart to our children is how to fail, and then how to keep trying anyway. How to say sorry. How to be wrong. How to change. How are they supposed to do that when we don’t accept it within ourselves? I repeat, how are we supposed to teach our children that failure is not the end of trying if we don’t accept failure as part of the learning process in ourselves?
We can not actually function at a level of accepting nothing less than an outwardly dictated level of perfection as outlined by someone else in a different set of circumstances than ourselves and simultaneously accept our children as the beautiful messes they are.
You want to stop telling your daughter to hurry, Parentwin? Start by stopping telling yourself to be Hands-Free Mama. I’m pretty sure she’d say the same thing.