Every time most moms I know, myself included, get ready to launch into a completely valid and necessary tirade about how hard parenting is, we begin with, "Of course I love my kids. I'd die for my kids. I love them more than anything, but..."
What the fuck?
I have never once wondered if a complaining mama really loves her kids. Not once. Because fucking obviously. It's completely undermining and invalidating to need to pad our very human need to vent with statements like that.
When I need to talk to my girls about my marriage, I get straight to the business. I don't begin with, "Please keep in mind that I love my handsome, incredible husband so much. I'm totally aware of how quickly these years of marriage will fly by, I just..." Bullshit. I get right to it, venting and then either coming up with creative solutions or just feeling bloody grateful to have someone to talk to who gets it that marriage is hard.
The same should be true for parenting. We should be able to share our war stories. Instead, we shine them up, telling just enough of our tales of woe to feel like we're "relating" without putting ourselves in danger of being deemed the worst mother at the table.
Living with children is quite like living with wild animals. They shriek at unexpected times, refuse to adhere to reasonable expectations around sleep and personal space, and don't understand the basic tenants of I Am Not The Only Human On The Planet With Needs And Desires. Age appropriate or not, that shit's still hard.
Parenting has become a well-documented judgment minefield. Instead of judging people based solely on whether or not they wear real or fake Danskos or drink fancy enough coffee, we're subversively judging each others worst moments and level-of-love for our kids in the hopes that we win. We're making a mockery of the most pure, deep, and impenetrable form of love - maternal love - with this nonsense.
Let's set a few ground rules:
1). I will always assume that you love your kid so much that you'd throw yourself under a train if it meant that there was even a chance you could save them from harm. This is such a given that it's ridiculous that I'm even typing it. But this is where we are, so there it is. I know you love your kid. Period.
2). I will always assume that no one in the whole big world knows your kid like you do. In conjunction with this, I will also assume that any "problems" I see with your kid - loudness, sleep issues, manners, sharing - you also see, or simply aren't important to you; we all want our kid to be socially acceptable and lovely, and I'll assume you're no different. It's not up to me to coach you. In fact, if I start to do that? Go ahead and call me an asshole. I'll deserve it.
3). I will always assume that there are lots of things going on in your life, and that parenting is just one of them. It's hard to be at the top of our game when we're financially stressed, when our marriage is Gettin' Real, when we haven't slept well in six years, and when there's not enough time to both cook dinner and clean the kitchen and so our kitchen is always kind of gross. You have a lot of shit going on and I know about maybe 3% of it. I will always assume that you're truly doing the best you can.
4). I will assume that you'll extend me these very same courtesies.
I'm not trying to make incessant complaining okay. I don't want to get sucked into that. But we need to be able to safely talk about the hard so we can then talk about the joy. Joy comes after hard, and we need to dig out the hard to reveal its shine.
This isn't a post about the Mommy Wars or about How Much Kids Suck. Because, remember, I love my kids more than anything in the world.
This post is about the fact that we hide because we're scared.
And we're scared because raising our kids to be stellar citizens is, for most of us, the single most important thing we will ever do. We don't want to fuck it up, and anything that even suggests current, imminent, or eventual failure makes us defensive messes. And this, what we're doing, this hiding and ruminating and judging and living in fear of not being enough for them? This is what's going to fuck our kids up more than anything else.
So let's be each other's allies instead of each other's sharp-shooters, 'kay?