Friday, August 22, 2014

"...but don't get me wrong, I love my kids."

This morning, I woke up, wrestled my kids out of bed and into clothes, threw them in the car and shuttled them to school. I didn't even have time to say "Good morning", but I have it on good authority that my husband's left for the day. We don't get a lot of time together, with three kids and daily activities; what little family time we do have is fraught with the stress of household duties and policing fights to the death. Our walls echo with battle cries of "Nuh 'uh!" and "Uh' huh!".  We look broken sometimes because we are broken. Children should work for the CIA. They're good at breaking people.

With my two oldest at school, I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief worthy of a dozen good massage coupons. I remember the days when all three were home (we are just coming off of summer break, so I remember them all too well) and I wouldn't go back if you paid me. Having little kids is hard and many times unrelenting. It feels like it's never going to end. It feels so hopeless. You feel lost... like you've stopped breathing and then, one day, you look at yourself and realize that you've forgotten what air was like.

So, when I was scrolling through Facebook, drinking my coffee and I saw this Huffpost ad, I felt compelled to click on it.

Couple's 10-Year Anniversary Photo Captures What Romance Looks Like When You're Parents


I looked at the picture and thought it was a pretty accurate depiction of everyday life with children. I smiled in commiseration. We too are on the verge of 10 years together and have three kids. I can tell you, it's EXACTLY this.

But the comment thread that followed this first, honest, picture compelled the couple in the picture to explain themselves and take a second, staged photo. One that showed that they really were happy  with their lives and loved  their kids. As with any parent who bitches about how parenting is hard, comments from outsiders forced them to clam up and take it all back.

The comments that downplay your misery and cram optimism down your throat:

-"Your kids look healthy and happy, you got a couch to sit on and I bet you both clean up pretty well. Life's ok."
-"I want to see an update in 20 years. The kids will be out of the house. You will be planning your vacation to Tahiti. Life will be good."
-"OK, so your life is different now. Someday you'll look back and say, 'Those were the good days.', At least I hope you do."

You can't feel bad because kids are a blessing. You have been blessed, why aren't you HAPPY? 
The comments that blame you because you chose to have kids: 

-"You did this to yourselves."
-"They look like they ran out of fucks to give."
-"You choose to have them."
-"I love when people who made the decision to have kids act like it's a steaming pile of regret.
Makes me feel warm inside." 

Saying it's hard makes people think you wish that you could go back and NEVER HAVE KIDS.   
So you feel compelled to make it better. Show them that you were just kiddin'. 
And then you hold it all in again. Because maybe you should feel blessed and all of a sudden you feel ungrateful.  

"I love my kids, but..." 

"...but don't get me wrong, I know how lucky I am."

Those are the types of phrases you learn to say to calm people down. To minimize your own feelings and put up that shield. You reframe things so people can't see the cracks. You're fine and parenting is magical sunshine. Unicorns shit rainbows every time you talk about your kids. You aren't allowed to do anything but 100% love your life and all the facets of raising leeches of need precious angels.

And the doubt monster rears it's ugly head. Because it's not supposed to be like THIS, right? Maybe you  are just broken, maybe your kids  are just unhappy and you're failing  and everyone else is nailing it. 

Maybe the reason why it's so hard is YOU. 

But it's NOT YOU!

Let me repeat that. It's not YOU!
It's this hard for all of us, so why can't we just be honest?

Parenting sucks.
Kids suck.
Life's not fair.

This is way, way harder than any of us imagined it was going to be.

It's okay if you're not okay. Tell someone. And if you are that someone, listen. Hang on every word and keep that Mary Fucking Sunshine shit to yourself. And if you feel compelled to tell a parent that they have no right to complain because they chose to be a parent, you deserve to be cunt kicked into tomorrow.

I also just want to say, "Me too."

I'm there. It's hell and back. After all the hard work we do as parents, we owe it to ourselves to admit that it's miserable work. 10 year anniversaries are just another night for us. Just another time someone threw something at someone else, someone's nose is bleeding, kids are tearing at each other's throats, and you and your spouse have to roshambo for whose turn it is to slink into the kitchen and dump some shit onto the stove. 

Rock, paper, scissors, dinosaur nuggets.

Let's just sit in it and be uncomfortable together. I get it.  The best thing we can do is just be there for each other. 

Because misery really does love company.

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