Toxic Positivity and What I Thought Having Kids Would Be Like (versus what it’s actually like)
Before having kids, I knew a lot about parenting. I’d look at tantruming toddlers in grocery stores and scoff to my husband, “how can they LET their child scream like that? In public?” Now that I have kids, I don’t even notice when other people’s kids are ripping ears of corn off the produce section display like feral raccoons. I’m thankful it’s not my kids and I’m also in solidarity that it could be/has been/will be my children.
We went to the county fair with the kids last week and, at one point, they were both in the grass, squabbling over the (identical) peanut butter sandwiches I’d packed. Nearby, another mom with two toddlers was juggling their demands to both ride in the baby backpack at the same time. We locked eyes and laughed. “Why do we even bother leaving the house?” I joked.
Now that I have kids, I have strategies for ending tantrums and, hey, sometimes they work. Other times? Tantrums gonna tantrum. Particularly if we are in public and/or have guests in our home. Then my strategies DEFINITELY won’t work. Now that’s a solid parenting fact.
Hello. Welcome to my new series about parenting in real life. This is not a place for pastel renderings of idyllic parent-and-child moments. This is a place for the raw, rewarding challenges of parenting. I’m not a parenting expert. Nor do I want to be one. What I want is to share my experiences and hear yours. Please use the comments section with vigor and intention to do just that.
Other Things I Was Wrong About
Before having them, I knew children would complete me. I would be SO freaking fulfilled that I’d burst open, spilling fulfillment onto the pavement. Having kids would transform me into a bouncy person who exercised at 5am daily and cut vegetables into the shape of barnyard animals with the correct number of legs.
People, I would be the COMPLETE package. Also in there: acne would disappear and boobs would retain size they were during pregnancy. Just, you know, while we’re at it.
What I learned after having kids:
1) All of that is false.
2) I am still the same person I was before having kids, but…
3) I am a more expansive thinker, a more focused worker, a more motivated writer, and a more organized person.
4) I get to practice humility on the regular. My empathy grows and deepens daily.
5) I am not a person who can be fulfilled by the presence of other people in my life.
6) I manage my time like a Mother.
I am an awesome mom and I love our kids. My husband is an awesome dad and he loves our kids. Our kids are loved by a lot of awesome people. I improved after having kids, but not in the ways I expected. I still don’t exercise enough and I will never cut vegetables into shapes other than “stick.”
I love my kids and I want them and I would never change my decision to have them, but I am fulfilled by myself. Your life is not over once you have children, but it’s also not magically fixed. Additionally, parenting brings a lot of unknowns and precious few “correct” answers.
There is no universal experience of parenting and there is no one right way to parent.
And that, that ambiguity right there, is the root of what makes parenting infuriating for me. If I KNEW 100% without a doubt how to terminate a tantrum (in a loving, child-centered, skills-developing, intuition-growing, empathy-inducing, parent-in-control, firm-but-warm way), then YEAH, I’d feel a lot better.
But I don’t, no one does, and I need to embrace that what works one day won’t work the next. Mr. FW once said to me, “you know, the kids aren’t machines. You can’t just input a formula and expect the same results every time.” Well there go my plans for the next 18 years.
Motherhood Doesn’t Define Me
Yeah, I’m a mother, but I’m other things too. I don’t have to pretend that all of my fulfillment stems from the fact that I birthed two children and am raising them. Yeah, some of my fulfillment does come from that. But some of my fulfillment comes from other stuff too. Like the fact that I’m an author with a published book. Like the fact that I have friends who I spend time with without our kids. Like the fact that my husband and I have been married for eleven years and still dig each other. Like the fact that we run a homestead (world’s worst homestead, but hey!).
Like the fact that I did thirty-three minutes of yoga on Monday night (timed self in order to later pat self on back). Like the fact that once this summer, I vacuumed the stairs and did laundry in the same day. Restrain your jealousy.
It’s ok to derive all of your fulfillment from your kids, but it’s also ok not to. I want to dismantle the idea that parents, and women-who-give-birth in particular, need to be any certain thing.
Becoming a mother shouldn’t erase everything else you are. It’s ok to not 100% surrender to the identity of “mother.” It’s ok for that to be just one aspect of who you are. Yes, it’s likely to consume 99% of your time and 99.5% of your mental capacity (at the beginning), but there is space for other things. And if there’s not space right now, right here in this awful, dirty moment, there will be space. There’s nothing wrong with looking at your infant and thinking, “you’re not very cool right now, but I have faith you’ll improve with time.”
And Now For Today’s Unhelpful Parenting Cliche
Enjoy every minute.
That Is Toxic Positivity
A Frugalwoods Instagram follower recently told me that for her, the platitude “enjoy every minute,” fits the definition of toxic positivity. I agree. I didn’t understand why I had such a visceral reaction to that phrase until I learned about toxic positivity. That cliche–and others like it–push parents to feel things they’re not necessarily feeling.
I’m sorry, but I’m not “enjoying every minute” when my toddler begs to be carried up the hill to the house after playing in the creek and I already have the baby on my back and the toddler is plastered in mud and creek water and the house is 1,000 miles away.
And I don’t need to be enjoying it. I just need to be experiencing it, surviving it, responding to it in the most loving way I can muster (which, let’s be honest, sometimes is not all that loving). Not enjoying every minute doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy some minutes, some days, some clusters of time.
I don’t have to “enjoy every minute” in order to have profound gratitude for my life and deep love for my kids.
I came across the below in my (admittedly brief) research on toxic positivity:
Research shows that accepting, not rejecting, our negative emotions actually helps us better defuse them and leads to fewer negative emotions over time, leading to better overall psychological health. And a new study backs this up. The study, published in the journal Emotion, found that chasing happiness can cause us to obsess over any not-happy feelings, bringing us more unhappiness overall.
A thousand times yes. Let me highlight that one more time:
“Chasing happiness can cause us to obsess over any not-happy feelings, bringing us more unhappiness overall.”
The implication of toxic positivity is that there’s something wrong with you if your experience doesn’t mirror a conventional trope. But look! Research is telling us to ACCEPT and EMBRACE our negative emotions, not bury them under a facade of “enjoying every minute.”
A Vignette About Taking My Kids Out In Public
I somehow managed to take both kids to church by myself the other week. I was solo because I asked Mr. FW to stay home in order to harvest the garden and get a jump on wood cutting for the day.
Kidwoods normally goes to our church’s toddler nursery program and the baby comes with us into the sanctuary. However. I’d forgotten the crucial fact that my husband is the one who drops Kidwoods off in the nursery room. Parental roles are not interchangeable in the mind of a three-year-old.
The prospect of mama leaving her in the (very fun! has a sand table! plus other kids she’s known HER ENTIRE LIFE) nursery was not tenable. She adhered to my left pant leg (leggings leg, actually) and wiped her nose on my dress.
We were already 25 minutes late for a service that’s only an hour long.
This is how I found myself entering the reverent, hushed sanctuary through the door located to the right of the altar (which, in case you’re wondering, is at THE FRONT of the church) with a baby on my front, a suitcase-sized backpack on my back, and a toddler glued to my leg. We three-legged-raced our way to the back of the church and set up camp in a pew.
Once in our pew, I handed each kid an IDENTICAL container of cheerios because I’m no novice parent. Nope. I know exactly how many containers of cheerios we need because last time I came to church with the kids alone, I packed only ONE container of cheerios. This resulted in Littlewoods screaming so loudly that our pastor paused her sermon and greeted my daughter by name. Not embarrassing at all. Oh I was enjoying every moment of that, let me tell you.
Each with her own (identical) cheerio container, my kids were pacified. Littlewoods laid her head on my chest and chewed cheerios. She then regurgitated them onto the front of my dress and smashed them into the fabric with her hand. Fine by me since it was a silent endeavor. Kidwoods nuzzled next to me and stuffed cheerios into her shoe. Perfection. I was able to hear four consecutive words of the sermon.
Then Kidwoods started to bustle around the pew, creating a game with tissues and a piece of paper. Fine, fine, fine. She was quiet, I was in heaven. I didn’t realize until the end of service that she’d unpacked my long-forgotten sanitary products (leftover from my postpartum recovery) from the backpack and arranged them on the pew. For all to see. And somehow hadn’t unpacked the toys or books I’d brought.
Additionally: Littlewoods laughed hysterically anytime anyone let out the slightest chuckle and Kidwoods parroted our pastor’s words, in particular “GIFTS,” which came up often during that particular sermon.
Then, it being communion Sunday, Kidwoods beelined for the altar when our pastor pulled out the bread (the kid loves bread, what can I say). One of the reasons I go to this church is that our pastor is a mother. A loving, intuitive, brilliant, progressive mother of three children. She saw my oldest daughter advancing up the aisle and invited her to the altar by name. Of course once she was invited, Kidwoods would NOT go alone and lunged into my lap, dragging me up the aisle by the hem of my (cheerio encrusted) dress. So we walked to the front together and the other little kids in church joined us. They clustered around and watched in awe as our pastor explained communion to them, to everyone.
Brief Interlude To Assure You That This Is Not About Religion
Religion might not be part of your week. It might not be part of your life. And that’s ok. I talk about my church not to convert you. Not to convince you to do what I do.
I talk about my (progressive, liberal) church to share how I make it through a week. To share how I’m buoyed by my community. To share how I manage to drag myself out of bed. We all need an anchor. Something to tether us. For me, church provides that.
Plus, I get an hour of free childcare if I can convince Kidwoods to stay in the nursery. I bribed her with a cookie last Sunday, which totally worked.
The Opposite of Toxic Positivity: A Helpful Thing Someone Said To Me
A woman came up to me after this (cheerio-infused) church service and said:
I see you. I acknowledge the hard work you’re doing. It’s relentless and exhausting to raise little children, and you’re doing a good job. You will see the rewards later.
Then she showed me photos of her daughter graduating from college last spring with high honors. Her words resonated with me in a deep, visceral way. Instead of saying “enjoy every minute” or “it goes by so fast,” she took the time to marinate with me on the challenges of trying to contain little children in public.
Acceptance and Acknowledgement
I want to channel that empathy, that acceptance, and that acknowledgment. Because that’s what most of us need: acceptance and acknowledgement of whatever phase of life we happen to be in. THAT was the perfect thing to say to a struggling, tired parent.
She didn’t try to force positivity down my throat. She just sat with me in my present moment. She acknowledged that my day wasn’t going all that well. She made me feel ok. She made me feel like I was understood and seen and not expected to portray an idyllic image of motherhood to make everyone around me feel good about me feeling good as a mother.
This week (hopefully longer, but I feel the need to start small) I’m going to try to accept. Accept myself, accept imperfect situations, accept other people. I’m going to remember how relieved I felt when this woman didn’t scold or patronize me or even say “I know how you feel.” Her acceptance of my struggles was what I needed. I didn’t need advice or solutions, but I did need some solidarity. I am too quick to offer advice and too quick to reassure. I need to dial back my impulse to be right and amplify my ability to accept and acknowledge.
How do you channel empathy and acceptance?
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Wow you are SO right, why did I never saw it that way? They are now almost 16 and 17 and I hear myself say the toxic positivity things to younger mums. I will NOT do that again, cause you are right. When I look back I feel sometimes like a bad mum cause I allways felt tired (older mum and two kids in 18 months) and I was not allways on cloud nine. But then I was just coping and did my best. I loved and love my boys and only that is a important.
Channelling positivity is not so easy for me. But I do try to tell young parents that they are doing a great job and I try to focus on one thing they are doing very well. I sometimes wonder if I shower too much positive reinforcement on my grand baby when I look after her. She is delightful little girl and she is so easy to look after. But she is now two and for theist few months the tantrums have begun. Because she spends two to four days a week with me I try to handle her as her parents do. For young parents they are doing so well. Back to the tanties. Mia is a riot. She lays herself down very carefully and then is very careful to not hurt herself. Everyone comments on her gentle tantrums. It is so difficult to stop myself from laughing. But if I laughed just once it would be a fatal error.
What is so fatal about laughing? You all need to stop worrying so much. You are not perfect and neither are your kids. Go ahead and laugh. Kick this perfection burden out the door.
I think she means laughing would just encourage the behavior, not that she’s trying to be “perfect”!
I THINK Suzan means laughing would only encourage the behavior, not trying to be perfect!
My guess is that hasn’t anything to do with perfection. My guess is Suzan knows that if she laughs, Mia will do that for-freakin-ever and it’s only funny when you don’t have to see it 30 times a day. My child is that way anyway. Ze actively courts attention. If you laugh, ze has won and will do that same thing for laughter and attention a million times, relentlessly.
I try really hard to only laugh out loud at things I can stand to see for days on end or I’ll lose my mind.
Just want to chime in here–not laughing at a misbehaving kid isn’t about perfection, it’s about not encouraging the behavior. If I laugh when my kids misbehave, they learn that the behavior gets a good response (mama laughing) and so they will do it again, and again, and again.
Most of you see my point. Mia is my grandchild. I spent most of my working life working in early intervention. My sense of humour is easily sparked. But there are times when. a little restraint is needed. Right now is is 7.45 Saturday night and Mia’s parents are having a night out. I have bathed Mia, read to her and put her to bed. No drama whatsoever. We would all like to keep that. I strongly believe a sense of humour is a sanity saver.
I can’t help but laugh when my daughter throws a tantrum too. She’s just too dang cute and I can’t take it seriously! I try to hold back the laughs but I just can’t. She’ll probably end up in therapy as an adult talking about her mom always laughing at her when she’d throw a tantrum. Ha!
I hear this. My oldest daughter threw real proper tantrums. My second sticks out her lip and stamps her little foot. I think to myself “you call that a tantrum” and try not to smile because it’s so darn cute (and I’m so grateful).
I always think people who go down the ”enjoy every single millisecond of being a mother OR be seen as deeply ungrateful, a child-hating unnatural, selfish, probably sociopathic ingrate” route are the same ones who are hysterical with self-righteous rage if any child, of any age, puts a toe wrong or even speaks too loudly, anywhere public.
”When my children were young I NEVER ALLOWED THEM TO (insert behaviour)”. This is always followed by ”but I suppose this generation is different, they don’t discipline, kids rule the roost” and then a little simper. My response has got more strident over the years. I have 3 children, boys. They are actually generally pretty well-behaved and I’ve been fortunate in many respects around that sort of thing. Now when a certain type of person tuts or (in one case) takes the opportunity to give me advice, I give them advice too. It involves sex and travel (sotto voce, so only they can hear it), and always with a big smile. The alternative is ”WELL THANK YOU SO, SO MUCH FOR YOUR ADVICE. DEAR LORD WHERE WOULD I HAVE BEEN WITHOUT YOU TO SET ME ON THE RIGHT PATH? NO, REALLY, THANK YOU. DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER ADVICE FOR ME? NOT ON HAIR, OBVIOUSLY, OR CLOTHING, EVIDENTLY, BUT IN ANY OTHER RESPECT?”. This works quite well. Of course, then I get called ”rude and insulting”. My response is ”oh you have no idea.”.
Truly. It makes me demented with fury. The nice people, the ones who offer to help or who simply smile sympathetically and aren’t mean, those are my people!
You go girl. I’d. venture to say everyone on this forum has seen/heard this, kids or no kids. People, stones, and glass houses also comes to mind.
Caroline, I want to be your best friend!
Great post! And great job calling BS on the toxic positivity! Your post and photos reminded me of a time when hubby soloed to church with our two little girls as I was out of town on business. He got them dressed in dresses! And tights! Yay for him. Except he put the 2 yo in a sailor dress BACKWARDS. My church friends thought this was hilarious. He said “you told me the dress bow goes in the back”. Yep it does. Most of the time.
Keep your sense of humor! And hold onto that wise woman’s words. This will all pay off exponentially in time. Mine are grown now, and I’m living the rewards.
HAHAHA the backwards sailor dress! Love it.
Love this article and can’t wait to read more of this series. Thank goodness for people who are understanding, honest, and supportive – this parenting thing is so much less doubt-inducing with them around.
Very, very beautiful – thank you! You are such an inspiration for always evolving internally towards values we all strive for – contentment, humility, and acceptance of what is.
I agree with that!
Chiming in with Chelsea above—can’t wait for more of this series! I was thinking when I opened it of your other piece about kids + church, which made me laugh so hard I cried. HILARIOUS!
One big thing I’ve noticed now that I’m a parent: people tend to use other people’s children as an easy means to disapprove of others in a way that they would not allow themselves otherwise. I’ve seen so much racism, sexism, and bigotry disguised as parenting ‘suggestions.’ Makes me cray.
Two other things that popped to mind when I read this were Ali Wong’s second stand-up bit (not Baby Cobra but the one where she’s already got a kid and is pregnant with no. 2). Have you seen it? I had the delight of accidentally being already tipsy on a couple glasses of wine and stumbling across it with my husband. It’s like our generation’s Raising Arizona. Almost died laughing. “I NEED TO BE HERE…TO MISS HER…..” Also, have you ever read Radical Acceptance? Might be right up your alley, it certainly was for me!
Thanks again for the laughs, I’m reading this while baby girl naps for once on her own in her room and not, like, in her stroller or on top of my face, which has been the most popular location of late. She actually humps my head. People do not mention this when they talk about raising children….!
Thank you for the recommendations! I’ll have to check them out! Maybe I should re-title this series “1,000 reasons why taking my kids to church always ends in tears–theirs and mine” 😉 😉
But it also ends in tears of hilarity for the people who hear about it, so it’s win-win? Kind of? 🙂
hahaha so true!
yes, completely. People who are perfect strangers with no skin in your game at all feel quite comfortable making ”suggestions” or comments or even actual insults around babies/ kids / child rearing in a way that they would often never dream of doing in any other context. ”Ooh look, he has a dummy, gosh we were always told to not let kids over 20 minutes old have those because it turns them into serial killers hee hee, but maybe *in your community / culture* it’s different”.
HAH too true! “Don’t you have an X for her?” is another favorite I’ve seen. Like, if the mom had a nice little book for her hysterical child to play with, don’t you think it’d be IN THE CHILD’S HANDS ALREADY?? 🙂
When my first son was born, a well meaning elderly woman told me to enjoy every minute with my precious newborn. In my head I said “why don’t you come enjoy some minutes with my precious newborn so I can get some sleep!” It was a tough time. I just hope that once my kids are all grown, I remember how it felt and can provide support to someone else who needs it.
I’ve had that exact same thought more times than I care to admit: “why don’t you come enjoy some minutes with my precious newborn so I can get some sleep!” 100%
have a third baby. I guarantee you will actually say it in a high, tight voice, while thrusting the baby at whoever is stupid enough to say such a thing. ”I’ll give you my address, shall we say for 3 hours tomorrow between 12-3 you’ll come and savour every precious, nano-second, drink in each split moment and make memories, you’re welcome, no really! We live at…”
This might have happened.
Newborns are freaking HARD. And it’s so okay not to want to stare at them lovingly the twenty hours a day you’re awake with them.
Amen. I love newborns but sleep deprivation is a very tough gig. Early mothering is altogether a messy exhausting business. I felt shattered to my very soul after the birth of my first. He was always that bit harder and as a young adult he was diagnosed as autistic with ADD. HIs childhood was littered with comments lie you are seeing things that are not there, you know too much and so on. Very few babies eat, change, sleep to a routine. If you were blessed with one I am pleased for you.
Oh and also I think empathy and acceptance are so important, especially when we’re feeling judgemental—it reminded me of a few months ago when I was travelling and the woman a few rows behind me was ‘letting’ her kids freak out (eeeeeh I can be so mean in my head sometimes!), only to realize when they got off the plane that both kids were autistic and anxious and upset and she was ALONE. We finished our trip by both crying and hugging each other and saying nice, supportive things to each other. It really made me feel good about the fact that nobody has it together, not at all, but that we’re all in it together.
Georgia, you warm my heart. I grew up with an autistic brother and it’s so hard. My mother had to have a really thick skin. Even family would invite us around so long as my brother was left at home; as a very small child! There was no tolerance at all back 30 years ago, we were simply an awful family. I have grown up a much more understanding person though having seen what my mother went through. Thank you so much for supporting the mother on the plane, it gives me hope that times are changing.
Hi Cath! I hope times are changing, too. I know it’s not easy now, but it must have been so incredibly difficult for your mother. I feel like there’s such a long way to go as far as helping parents in general in this modern world, but at least if attitudes change it can get easier? Wishing you all the best!!
So well put. I can’t wait to send this to my sister. We both have kids who do.not.sleep. Mine are older now and can (mostly) manage not to wake the entire house up but hers are still young. Toxic Positivity is a brilliant way to put it. When your kids don’t sleep ever, the days are long and the years are longer. It doesn’t go so fast. It goes painfully, torturously slowly. All of this doesn’t mean that we don’t love our kids. It means that we are responding appropriately to reality. Keep writing this series! It’s great!
Getting no sleep is the. WORST. Full disclosure-I do not have kids yet. But a few of my friends have used this pediatric sleep consultant and cannot say enough good things about her. She doesn’t do cry it out method, she has affordable online courses, and she has free podcasts and resources on her Instagram. Feel free to completely ignore this if you are not interested. But I just thought I’d mention it in case it helps you in any way.
And she also works with special needs kids!
Many people with special needs kids have tried, read, watched, etc. everything and at some point it’s ok to accept that our kids can’t sleep. I can’t re-create their brain structure! I’m not a failure because of it.
You’re on a roll! Love all the new posts. And I can absolutely relate to this.
I think when they say, ‘enjoy every minute’ it’s because they didn’t and regret it. Let’s face it, babies are gorgeous, and it really would be wonderful to enjoy every moment – it’s just all the hard work, dirt, exhaustion, frustration, fear and anger that prevent it! The older mothers are just reminding the younger ones that in the future when all the suffering has passed, the joy will have passed too. I love my young adult children but I often think how wonderful it would be to have them as baby and toddler again just for a couple of hours. I’m sure it’s nostalgia rather than toxic positivity. But yes, sometimes you just need acknowledgement of the struggle.
Exactly what I was thinking. When we say “enjoy every minute” it’s not so much literal as it is general. And right now you don’t think you will ever miss the hard times but, when your 17 year old gets in the car and drives off to work, it (unexpectedly) hits you like a ton of bricks.
Agreed. When they’re older you’d give anything to have some of those moments back, especially the less than ideal ones, so maybe you could handle them a little differently, or at least, feel differently about them. Enjoy them all? Not possible. Appreciate them ALL? Absolutely! Maybe that’s why grandparenting is so AWESOME!!!! Can’t wait, but will have to. I’ve one in college and one just starting his career as a Marine Officer. Proud of them both, love them both, have had my moments [of course! still do in fact!] of wondering why we ever thought being parents was a good idea. After reading this, I’ll never say “enjoy every moment” or “the time goes so fast” again, but maybe I will look around for some parents with youngsters and offer them a few moments to enjoy some rest. Thank you for shedding light on this! See? You can go through parenting firsthand, but when you look back on it, you still only see it through your own eyes, at that very moment, and without fail, 99.99% of parents would go back and appreciate it all more, be more patient during the not-so-fun times. But this article showed how using the right words, empathizing with people rather than using [unintentionally] toxic optimism, provides so much support at just the right time. Thanks Liz, for consistently being the wordsmith that you are! I guess that’s why YOU’RE the author, and I am not! LOL…..
Yes Karen I’m dealing with that now my 17 year old about to go to college and I’m like where did time go and I remember people saying it goes by so fast so enjoy it hard to do when you tripping over toys 🤣
Also it depends on context and the relationship you have with the parent / child in question. If you are frazzled, in a checkout queue, dealing with gnarly baby and say something like ”man will this ever end!” and some simpering person says ”oh enjoy every moment, it goes so fast” or words to that effect, it is… rage-inducing. If you are talking to a friend who is struggling and you are offering to help and then say ”it goes fast and you will look back one day… …” that’s more appropriate. People as a rule feel quite free to pronounce on young parents and pregnant women in ways that they wouldn’t with any other demographic. Ever was it thus.
Yes, I agree 100%!
In reply to Ann, I agree 100%!
My husband was the SAH parent…his mantra was “hey- whatever gets you through the day.” This phrase was especially helpful when we started to “compare” other parents, or he employed unorthodox “Dad” ways of doing things (they are different than Mom ways!!) etc. So remember, if sanitary pads are intriguing….they “got you through the day.” Ours are now teens, and there are days it still applies.
I love it! ‘Whatever gets you through the day’ – words to live by!
I am the godmother of – let me think – 5 or 6 children – the oldest is now 35 and has completed his doctorate. What I always told the mothers of my godchildren: It’s okay to really hate them on some days. Because there are days when it’s just terrible to be a mother. Everything goes wrong, they scream, they fight, they kick you. But you must manage not to let out your anger on them these days, but to ask someone to relieve you. That is the art. Not to believe that you have to make it. You don’t have to be ashamed that you need help. You don’t have to be the supermom. No matter what the media tells you. No matter if someone on Pinterest posts pictures of bentoboxes for the children in which bread can be seen, faces baked in and carrots carved into rabbit shapes. Forget it. It’s nice if this mother can do it. You don’t have to do that. And yes – it’s great when your child while in childcare took a bath in a mud hole and sticks her head in the mud to make mudbubbles. (she loved it an giggled the whole time). Nevertheless, you may shudder at the thought of the dirty clothes (she had sand in places we will not talk about…..). You are allowed not to love every aspect of beeing a mother!
I remember these days well. I’m 52 now and kids are grown, and there are still trying days with them sometimes! I went to a counselor a few years back when kids were teens and other trying things were going on in my life. I finally let it out. “I love my kids, but sometimes I think they are assholes!” And I started crying. The counselor told me it was okay to feel like that sometimes. It felt good that someone understood.
Now my mother is 88 and she needs a lot of care, but I also work full time. I’m feeling a little frazzled and overwhelmed. A cousin keeps posting ” Enjoy every moment with your mom, for some day she will be gone” posts on Facebook because she recently lost her mother. It makes me feel sad and guilty, because some days I dont enjoy. Some days I have to ask siblings to help because I have nothing left to give.
Add to that the fact that my two dogs are elderly and need extra care, and that my oldest (23, is still at home and suffering from depression and anxiety.)
Luckily my workplace offers free counseling. There is nothing th that feels better than someone there to listen to YOU, rather than shaming you.
So we, as women, need to support each other and offer COMPASSION. You just never know what someone else is going through.
Christym I just wanted to send you a hug. You are doing a good job. It is difficult caring for one generation nevermind two. Could your siblings help a bit more regularly so get regular breaks and replenish?
They help a lot. Thank goodness.
+1 Sending you a big hug.
I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this right now. Sending you love!
I hope you get your siblings to step up a LOT more with your (undoubtedly beloved, appreciated) mom. My mom died suddenly, well before needing that kind of care and I miss her more than I can express BUT that is A/ irrelevant and B/ of no use to you at all. Your cousin, who is clearly sad and understandably so, needs someone to explain that her situation is not yours. If she wants you to enjoy more then perhaps she could participate in helping you, either directly running errands for your mom or helping you with all the life juggling you have to do.
If you have siblings, they should be sharing more equitably, practically and emotionally. I’m so sorry you feel so stuck and exhausted, I would feel like that too and I adored my mother.
Christym – here virtually sitting next to you while you can bemoan and emote however you want and feel. When I have been in similar situations and still am -though players and causes have changed- what I most wanted and needed is just that acknowledgement of the negative or the not-amazingly wonderful Kodax moments, and the acceptance of feeling that.
Having been full-time caregiver to MIL with dementia while simultaneously managing/overseeing same for my own mom while dog was sick and dying, my own complex pain dz was worsening, parenting my growing boys, family members long-distance telling me how to manage the moms, etc etc.
So neighbor had a grad party for child. My hubby managed his mom to bed. I finally got out of house ran over to the gig. While standing in line at the pizza truck they had, started chatting with grad senior’s new stepmom who I didn’t really know well. Mentioning why wasn’t there earlier(MIL issues) but glad to finally get chance out of house cuz mil dementia caregiving essentially kept me home most of time eliminating work and social life (caregiving of babies toddlers elderly truly 36 hour days). Well boy I got chastised for being late, leaving the MIL, not appreciating my MIL cuz one day she won’t be there, etc, etc. “Lecture” continued on how her mom recently passed and how she missed her and I would too soon….
I don’t have to imagine that all of us could collectively share lots of similar experiences regarding how we aren’t doing something including savoring sh*** stuff!
I honestly believe that most of us try hard, try to do the best we can with whatever our situation is and ‘tools’ we have. Grace acceptance and acknowledgement sure helps when we can’t or aren’t or someone else’s definition of best/appropriate/ok is different.
Again Christym, we are all here for you.
The siblings suggestions can be equally as frustrating as the toxic advice Liz is talking about (not blaming people doing it here!). It’s just so natural for humans to try to find solutions to problems in order to help people, but each demographic/category has its own “we say it because we want to help but it doesn’t” language.
Siblings – of course that would solve everything and it isn’t as if I’ve begged them 3000 times already.
Miscarriage – “at least you know you can get pregnant”, yes, but zero evidence that I’ll ever be able to carry a child to term.
Disability – “you’re so brave, I couldnt live like you do”, I didn’t choose this, I haven’t volunteered for the dangerous mission. I’m not brave and that leads to public perception that disabled people aren’t doing enough unless they’re climbing Kilimanjaro. Also, every day I have two choices of whether I live this this or not, you “live with it” because you don’t at that time prefer the only remaining choice.
Sounding a bit ranty, I know, but I wanted to say that this happens with more than just parenting, and I admit I’ve said a lot of things myself at times that weren’t helpful!
I think the absolutely hardest thing about helping someone, especially someone you love, is to be present and silent with that pain and not try to talk it away. Living your own discomfort of being present in the face of grief and fear is horrible, and also one of the best gifts you can give.
I feel you on this. I’m entering my second trimester after spending most of my first trimester exhausted and hanging over the toilet while hearing most people tell me how lucky I am to be sick and that I should be grateful and embrace every moment of this “beautiful time in life” when all I felt was bloated and disgusting and miserable and like I’d lost myself, and all I wanted was for one person to commiserate with me that while pregnancy is amazing it is also pretty disgusting and scary and awful. Finally, a coworker who just had a baby reached out to me and told me, “Hang in there. Also, where’s the weirdest place you’ve grown up?” We laughed over our morning (all day) sickness. I asked her, “Now that your baby is here, was it worth it?” And she laughed and told me, “It’s over.” Thats what I needed to hear! And another friend told me all the gross things that happened to her and told me to eat a sandwich and take a shower when I feel myself going into labor and gave me a hug. We need this kind of realness in our lives if any of us are going to survive birthing and raising kids. Thanks, Liz, for always keeping it real.
I’m in my second trimester too and with you completely! I was nauseous and exhausted my first trimester counting down the days until the “magical” second trimester began only to have insomnia and VIVID nightmares start. I was on the phone with a friend and blurted out “I thought pregnancy would be more fun, when am I going to start glowing dammit!” When she told me how many women she’s known that have had similar challenges, I cried tears of relief. It just felt so good to hear that and know that it’s OK to not be feeling great and not like being pregnant AND be so grateful that you’re having a baby. Until that point I was just bottling up all my “not positive” feelings about pregnancy bc I thought it be negating what a gift it is and lucky we are.
You got it! And your friend is so spot on: take a shower and eat something in early labor!!
I really love the term Toxic Positivity. It sums up one of the many reasons that I had PND/PPD/PNA. There’s the portrayal of motherhood in the media that it just just full of this love and joy that goes on 24/7…yes, the love is unconditional, but there are plenty of unpleasant parenting jobs i.e. non-sleeping toddlers who come out of their rooms 100 times, or the screaming instead of talking- or is that just my afternoon lol. I wonder if mothers say it because they are thinking back to their own time where they feel like they have yelled too much/not been their best version (don’t we uphold ourselves to ridiculously high standards!) and see the early parenting days as way less taxing than what they actually are, totally rose tinted glasses. I sometimes think the ones that say this need to come over and be my shadow for the day, and watch how there’s not a moment to be sitting and having a coffee. I hate when people have said to me ‘oh when the kids are little they were the best days of my lives’. I get that. I get how they can be so cute. I also get how needed you are in this stage, but does this mean that I’m at the peak and it’s all down hill from here? That I have reached some kind of Utopia because I have little kids? I sincerely love this post and am deeply grateful that you write about motherhood honestly. So few mothers do.
I always said I’d never say the cliche things. Now I am a mother of 8. My oldest is almost 15 and the baby is 18 months old. I often catch myself saying “they grow up so fast” with tears in my eyes as I glance from my teen to my baby. I don’t mean to be discouraging…after all, I’m still very much in the thick of the all consuming “little years”. But it’s true and the farther I get in this journey called parenting, the more I do enjoy every moment. I laugh more and cry less because I know that it will seem like only a moment until I’m sitting beside that self same toddler and choosing high school classes and talking about the really hard, really important stuff. So if you see me in public and I say something dumb like “enjoy them while they’re little” (maybe not quite the same as “enjoy every minute”?) please forgive me because when I see your ornery little ones, I see the passage of time and something precious that you don’t even know you have until it’s gone.
Yes! To everything in this post. One piece of parenting advice I have *tried* adhere to is, “don’t avoid the tantrum” – with the knowledge that tantrums are a generally healthy and normal way for children to deal with excess emotion. But, man, some days I will do almost anything to avoid that tantrum and I’ve learned that that’s ok too.
Pre-kids I was totally one of those people who said (mostly to myself…), “I will NEVER do that when I have children”. Now I realize that fate has a sense of humour because I totally do all of those things.
People often say that the time you have with your kids when they are small is fleeting, which is true but also unhelpful when the baby is wailing, the toddle has peed on the floor and the other one wants you to dress him up like a pirate for the 683rd time that day (not speaking from experience or anything). The motto that I have found to be most helpful is, “This too shall pass” which is applicable to the hard days and a dose of sanity on the days when you feel like super-amazing-Pinterest Mom (why is no one ever watching on those days???)
Looking forward to more in this series!
I love reading your parenting posts…..I can so relate to all of it!!! Thank you for drawing attention to toxic positivity. I never thought about it but now that you’ve pointed it out, it makes total sense. And helps me realize I’m not a bad parent if I’m not feeling like sunshine and roses every second. Thank you for writing so honestly!!
Love your post. I never understood why you should enjoy every minute of anything. You can love being a wife and not love every single minute, or love your work and not every single minute. Why should parenting be any different? On the church thing it sounds like you have a lovely inclusive community that nutures your whole family which is really precious. Keep the posts coming.
“Days like this should entitle you to have a tantrum, too!”, said to a stressed mum in a supermarket, earned me the biggest,most heartfelt “YES!” ever!
I have to remember that one. Brilliant and sums it up so well.
I’ll some times say to the screaming child, “Yeah, I kind of feel that way, too!” If I’m lucky it turns off the tantrum (for a second of confusion) and the mom gets a chuckle.
Having fostered teens for 33 years and adopted five children, I am so happy to read this. I have gone so far as to lock myself in my bedroom to keep myself from losing it. I have accepted things that, previous to parenthood, would have never occurred to me as possible parenting issues. One foster daughter let go with four letter words during a church service and our pastor never missed a beat. God bless him….and all of those wonderful people who supported us, loved us and made our lives richer throughout the whole experience.
Yes indeed. My grandson (on the spectrum) LOUDLY let loose with the F-bomb during my mother-in-law’s memorial service, and the minister didn’t miss a beat, either. I’m a minister, too, and we often say to each other “You can’t make this stuff up!” or “They didn’t teach us this in seminary.”
“Additionally, parenting brings a lot of unknowns and precious few “correct” answers.
There is no universal experience of parenting and there is no one right way to parent.
And that, that ambiguity right there, is the root of what makes parenting infuriating for me. If I KNEW 100% without a doubt how to terminate a tantrum (in a loving, child-centered, skills-developing, intuition-growing, empathy-inducing, parent-in-control, firm-but-warm way), then YEAH, I’d feel a lot better.“
100% that!!! My kids are 6 & 8 now, and I have felt this way since day 1. I still feel this way today. It’s so uplifting to read about your experience and perspectives on parenting. I love these posts-I usually laugh and cry all at once. You are an amazing mom and amazing person! Thank you for this openness and honesty.
Thank you!!! I find that crying + laughing at the same time is pretty much how we roll 😉 🙂
Suggestion: Hire a regular sitter to watch your kids (at home) during church services. They’re too young to enjoy the experience of church and community right now. You and Hubby go yourselves. This way, the entire congregation won’t have to deal with disinterested kids who can’t behave (yet). Just a suggestion.
I remember someone making the“suggestion” to hire a sitter to me when my kids were very little, my husband was deployed, and I was exhausted. Not helpful. A sitter in my area cost $10 per hour. So, just to get two hours to myself it cost $20, and to go anywhere in the town we lived in at the time had a thirty minute commute, too. If I hired a sitter, I’d rush to do everything I could and get back so I wouldn’t pay a fortune. Hire a sitter is just not the most practical or financial advice for a family.I felt it entirely and just stopped going to church during the young child days.
I know this was well intentioned, but it made me sad. I feel lucky that my church makes a concentrated effort to make families with young children feel welcome by accepting children as they are. I’ve never felt like the congregation was having to “deal” with my kid, even when she is being difficult- everyone is understanding and there are lots of little ones running around! I don’t think anyone sees them as disinterested or unable to behave, just people who God loves that are designed to be just the way they are at that particular point in time. The welcoming attitude is probably why we have such a vibrant congregation with lots of families. Even as babies and young children, the kids in my church love the experience of church and community- as soon as she could talk my daughter talked about wanting to go to church. And I think the whole congregation benefits from children’s energy and perspective. It sounds like the FWs church has a similar family-friendly vibe!
I don’t mind listening to kids during the service–without children, a church (or any other institution) will grow old and die. I mean, I do my best to keep my kids quiet, but there is always some noise. That said, I LOVE the days that our church has Sunday school for the kids during the service.
As long as one has the financial wherewithal for this and it’s practical. Usually it’s not, or at least not weekly or on a very regular basis.
Wow, to me that seems like a surefire way to make sure your kids never learn to enjoy church and never learn to behave there. We have a toddler and bribe him with special mini apple rice cakes that only appear during church for the entire service, plus his dummy, plus his bunny. Still get whingeing and wiggling! But by and large he IS looking and listening and paying attention.
It is totally unreasonable to expect a four year old to sit still and silent in church if they’d never practiced…so I guess you’d have a sitter until they spontaneously announce they want to go to church and pay attention for the whole service??
We make our boy sit through a whole hour-long proper formal Catholic mass, and hope for incremental improvement and attention over time. And we regularly get comments about how nice it is to have parents actually bringing their toddler to mass instead of leaving them at home or (more likely!) not coming at all.
If you don’t take your little ones to church, then when are you going to start? There’s never a good time.
So I have a daughter who is about a year and a half old and she still wakes up at night because she’s teething at night. Once a tooth is piercing, she will have a bad two weeks of waking us up during the night. I can promise you that 1.5 years of not sleeping well gets difficult. So when I asked my colleagues (who have much older kids) when it would start getting better, they just laughed and said: “never”.
I mean, yes, what a great and helpful way to show your exhausted co-worker some support. Especially since they are the ones getting sleep at night. 🤓🤓🤓
This is right on! The comment that get me is “it goes so fast”. When people said this to me when I had a one month old who never seemed to sleep, I (in my sleep deprived, zombie like state) honestly want to strangle them. A lot of times, especially in the beginning, it goes painfully slowly, especially when you’re lacking sleep.
So. very. slowly. 😉
The best advice I got as a new mom was from my godmother. She told me, “remember, this too shall pass. Both the good parts and the bad. Soak up the good, and try not to dwell on the bad.” I was in the middle of the sleepless newborn phase with colicky baby #1 when she told me that. At the time, I mostly saw the bad (thank you to lack of sleep in the middle of depressing winter weather). But she was right. Eventually baby started to smile, but those precious gummy smiles were replaced by teeth filled ones. He started to get a personality, unfortunately the toddler years are still full of screaming. And so on. Each season has brought good and bad, and I try to remember what she said.
Now we’re in a brand new season with baby #2. The return of the sleepless nights (yay for sunshine to help with the mood), but full of gummy smiles. And big brother is fantastic. Except when he’s jealous that be doesn’t get all the attention anymore. But this phase will soon pass, so I have to go enjoy some newborn snuggles before they’re all gone. 😉
I’ve been following you since the beginning , when you lived in Boston, and I still love to read your writing. I had not heard of the phrase “toxic positivity” before but it perfectly encapsulates some of the frustrations I’ve had with family members recently – it’s ok if life isn’t alway happy! Thank you for this post – I have 1 and 4 year old girls and following your parenting journey is so relatable for me. Thank you!
V excited about this new series!!
This reminds me of something Brene Brown wrote in one of her books (Gifts of Imperfection? Daring Greatly? I don’t remember for sure). Basically, we try to dull negative feelings, believing we’ll be happier. But you can’t selectively dull emotions. If you try to ignore or numb out the hard ones, you will also lower your ability to experience joy, gratitude, happiness, satisfaction, etc. By allowing yourself to fully embrace the negative feelings, you are free to fully enjoy the positive ones too.
Toxic positivity is such a good description. I’m pretty sure it had a LOT to do with me getting PND. While I was pregnant with my daughter I became permanently disabled but didn’t realise what was going on until about 18 months later. All the unwanted advice and toxic positivity from people coupled with all the Pinterest perfect things you see on social media were awful. I couldn’t understand why I was struggling so much and felt an awful mother. I had no idea I was sick. I assumed it was what all mothers went through with sleepless nights etc. except that the other mothers (appeared to) have it all together. The ‘You can have it all’ brigade finished me. I was working full time, up all night and unknowingly sick. I wondered what was wrong with me but at the same time didn’t feel able to admit how truly awful it was for fear of being branded a bad mother. I was lonely for far too many years. We need a lot more honesty about real parenting challenges and posts like this are truly amazing. I wish I had read something similar back then. Please keep posting them.
I was also a single parent for several years so I had to wing it most days. At bedtime I would ask my daughter if she was still alive. She would say, yes. I would say, that’s a job well done. Then we would high five. We became a team. We are now into the teenage years and they bring a whole new set of challenges but I’m fine with it because I learnt (the hard way) that you simply have to do what you need to do to get through the day alive, and we are both still alive! My daughter still high fives me in solidarity when she recognises the challenges. I’m pretty sure I’ll do it for her when she has kids as well. It’s become our code for doing things our way.
Toxic positivity is a bigger problem for me with regards to my health. It hides in so many places. Often people are well meaning (which I have to remind myself) but it can be very passive aggressive. Things like, ‘the only disability is a bad attitude’ or ‘but you look great’ or ‘it could be worse’. You get the point. It’s in many walks of life sadly. I’m not sure why as a society we can’t be more supporting of each other (in all things) and acknowledge that sometimes things are just rubbish. I make a point of smiling at struggling mums (and dads) and often say ‘Hang in there, it’ll be worth it’. I already miss my daughter as a youngster but I have no desire to do it over again!
Yes! Wrote something like that further up before reaching your message. “You don’t look sick, have you tried (insert name of whatever ridiculous thing they read about last week)?”
Yes! My father in law told me to wear magnets in my shoes to cure my arthritis! I was speechless. I eventually told him to try it and let me know if it works.
I’ve never commented before though I love your blog. This post struck such a note of truth with me I had to. Thank you so much for choosing to write with honesty and humor about parenthood. We had our baby in June after years of horrible luck. We consider her our miracle baby. So sometimes I had a tough time admitting how hard or just plain awful it felt at times, because I should be nothing but grateful for this baby we thought we’d never have. But it’s not always wonderful or Instagrammable; in fact most often it isn’t. But what I’ve started to accept is that I can admit how much there are parts of taking care of a baby that really just stink. It doesn’t mean I love her less or am not fully grateful for this amazing new life we have. Reading your hilarious childrearing tales is entertaining and normalizes this more honest, and healthier, take on being a mom. Thank you!
We needed IVF treatment for our second child and in the process of reading about IVF I found out that it can make you more likely to experience PND because of the sorts of this has you mention – the feeling of not being able to say how tough parenting is because it was so difficult to have that baby. But how you become a parent doesn’t change the fact that it’s a difficult, challenging, exhausting and yes rewarding job (and the balance of those can change on any single day). So it can be wonderful and amazing and hideous all at the same time!
you can be grateful and also have very bad days. You can look at a baby after having had zero sleep in 2 weeks and think ”please someone, take this child before I start screaming into the abyss”, and still be ready to lay down your life for them. These things can both be true! It’s drudgery, baby care, lots and lots of drudgery in a world not 100% designed for this very thing, so you’re exhausted, probably hormonal, your life has done a 180 and now you have to be super-happy all the time too?
Nope! Sometimes is good enough, with moments of real happiness and joy here and there, and plenty that’s … okay, and still plenty more that’s really just bleuurrrgghh… yes it passes. No it doesn’t feel like it ever will. Occasional hysterics is very freeing!
THANK YOU for posting on this topic. As I’ve commented before here, I DESPISE the “enjoy every minute/they grow so fast” crowd. It’s a deliberate amnesia about the sometimes-bad, sometimes-awful parts of parenting, and it seems that the older people get, the more the amnesia sinks in. It’s a lie to say that every minute is beautiful and worthy of enjoying…because it’s not, just like nothing in life is. Life is a wonderful, glorious mixed bag. Just this morning, I had to physically pull my 8-year-old son out of the car in front of the principal at school drop-off because he refused to get out, and I refused to give in (yep, not my finest parenting moment, and it was witnessed by many). He was as boneless as a wailing toddler and I left him on the grass and drove off. So yeah. Parenting is full of lows. But hey! I didn’t scream. I’ve never hit my kids. It could have actually been a LOT worse, especially considering how *I* was parented. So there’s that. And that’s not nothing.
I had one woman (a stranger in the library parking lot) tell me something similar to what your church friend told you, and it was such a precious gift; I’ve promised myself I’ll pass her words along someday to other mothers with little ones. But I will never, ever tell anyone to “enjoy every minute.” Nope. No way.
THIS! So many amazing things in this article that resonated with me- particularly “It’s ok to derive all of your fulfillment from your kids, but it’s also ok not to. I want to dismantle the idea that parents, and women-who-give-birth in particular, need to be any certain thing.Becoming a mother shouldn’t erase everything else you are.”
I a new mom of a 7 month old. While I have always envisioned having children, I never felt “called” to be mother like some women do. I am loving being a mommy so far but I am still me. I love my pets, my husband, my family and friends. I read novels and love a good British tv show. I drink wine and TRY to look fashionable. I am me, who also happens to be a mom.
Thank you for showing the reality of parenting- both sides- the amazing and the discouraging- and doing it in a thoughtful and humble way.
Best.Post.Ever. I needed to hear this today. I am a woman who put off having a kid till I was 43, which in some part of my mind made me think I would be this relaxed, cool, skillful parent who had it all together. HA. I thought it would complete me. HA. I am still the same lady, but now with a crazy bizzaro world toddler. Thank you for this post. No one needs to chase that happiness bone like a rabid dog!
Worst things friends, mom and acquaintances said when we had a sleepless newborn who, as it turned out later, had developmental issues that affected his ability to self-soothe: “You just need to get him in a schedule. It shouldn’t be this hard.”
Best words from someone? So good I wrote them down and taped them to the fridge: “HEAD DOWN, PLOW THROUGH.”
Annie, I soo get you. My daughter didn’t sleep through the night for 9 years, really. No wonder she’s an only child! What I didn’t know was that she had an underlying pain condition that is aggravated by gluten in her diet. She’s a lot better at managing her condition since it’s out of her diet. But really, how are we supposed to know these things in a small child? Compassion and understanding would have been so much better. People often forget that children can’t communicate these things to us any other way than by crying. Even when they can talk, they often don’t have the words or understanding. Crying is their only communication at a small age.
Love your fridge message. The words I used to sing to myself were, ‘I did it m-y way’.
I’m going to write this down somewhere in my house too, this is brilliant.
Oh yes. I really believe people whose children are “good sleepers” think they did something and really they got lucky. Our 4 yo didn’t sleep through the night for 2 years. We coslept (which I swore I would never do) bc otherwise nobody slept, and when we briefly tried sleep training she got more and more anxious and cried louder and louder. Sleep deprivation is so hard.
What I always say to people during those sleep-deprived days: Sleep deprivation is SPARTA!!! Seriously exactly how I feel about it- uphill, relentless battle with impossible odds and you’re an absolute Spartan for making it through. Tough as nails with a guaranteed trail of blood, sweat, and tears left in your wake.
I have not laughed this hard in a long while! Where have you been during the the long dark times of perfect mothers? The generation of the baby boomers’ with their blaze approach to parenting created a super mothers that were going to show everybody how it’s done. And enjoy every sec of it. So I cheer you on! You are blazing the trail for the rest of millennial moms who live their children but are not afraid to stay an individual person!
Thank you for this! I had a baby in March and I am very blessed to be able to stay home with her on maternity leave for her first year. I love her more than I could ever imagine, but I also miss going to work and the mental stimulation and fulfilment that it provides. We parents are multifaceted human beings. I really appreciate your encouraging words 🙂
This was such a great article, thank you for sharing.
I always tell people, “I am NOT enjoying this!” and second the thought that if everyone likes my kids so much, why don’t they watch them for me once in a while? Or drop off a meal? I’m determined to be genuinely helpful to others once my kids are less dependant.
I am in this exact same phase of motherhood (boys who will be 1 & 4 in November) and man. I feel you, mama. I always tell my husband that the worst part is just how UNRELENTING parenting is. How you can power through 23.5 hours of madness before you snap, but that’s all it takes for you to feel like a terrible, angry mother.
Not sure if the format will let me share it, but I read this article on NYT this week and it hit me to my core. Something tells me it may strike yours, too: https://parenting.nytimes.com/parent-life/mother-rage?module=ptg-onsite-share&type=link
I never wanted children, and one reason was because they made me so angry even when they weren’t mine. I don’t do well with irrational, provoking behavior even when it is developmentally warranted. People (probably the same ones who tell mothers to savor every second) told me I’d regret it. I’m 52 and still sure I made the right choice to remain child free.
I had the same reaction to “enjoy every minute” people. When I had PPD and was not sleeping, that platitude was incredibly unhelpful and almost cruel. Now that my PPD is treated and we sleep trained, I feel the time going by so quickly, especially now that he is in daycare. I’m not still not enjoying every minute, but I am enjoying him as a baby as much as I can. I know I will miss this time. I get all sentimental when I think about him growing up.
Elizabeth, I have been enjoying your blog and book for the past couple years. It’s one of my very favorites. This post really spoke to me. I had three kids in 4 years, currently ages 5, 7 and 9 years old. It was very challenging to have multiple young children (babies and toddlers). I’ve had many women (usually older, grandmother age) say to me to enjoy every moment and other unhelpful platitudes. I too had a negative reaction to those, because it was just.so. hard. I didn’t have help from my family or even my husband. It was extremely challenging and more about just doing what I could with the situation. It does get easier as they get older. I applaud you for what you’re doing. I love that you’re raising your girls on a homestead and working from home. That is really awesome. Thanks for sharing your stories and photos.
I always reminded myself when my daughter was little (she’s 19 now) that up until a certain age they can’t control the tantrums. They are literally unable to regulate their emotions and that’s part of growing up so often when my daughter had a tantrum (which wasn’t very often, thankfully) I would use a few coping mechanisms.
If I was at home, I would give her a sort of hug (because of the flailing limbs) and say ‘when you’re feeling better, we’ll do such and such’ and then busy myself with something else (in view) until she ran down. If I was out, I would take her out to the car if possible and wait until she finished there or I would find a spot to the side, put my legs around her and let her run down again, give her a hug and carry on. I totally recognize all of these things were possible as coping mechanisms because I only had the one but one time a guy asked me (accusatorily) if I was sure she was okay and what was I doing (because I had my legs around her in a corner at the mall) and I said simply ‘she’s having a temper tantrum, she can’t help it because she’s only 2 1/2, when she’s done we’ll go on with our day, now please go away because you’re making it worse giving it attention’.
These days whenever I see a mum struggling if she looks like she needs help i.e. there’s a second kid and she’s trying to deal with the first, I’ll offer to help simply by watching the second kid and making sure they don’t get into anything or whatever else I can do to help (keep an eye on their purse, grab the few groceries they need for their cart, etc) OR I’ll simply give them an understanding smile and say “Been there, done that” – I usually get a relieved smile in return.
A little understanding goes a long way and since kids feed on (I believe) their parent’s stress/anxiety in those moments, easing that can help everything.
THANK YOU. Going crazy with a four month old over here and this was just what I needed to hear. I absolutely loathe the enjoy every minute people. I’m like…there’s a lot to not enjoy right now! Like 85% of what’s going on here! I’ve already been spit up on six times this morning! The other thing that makes me crazy is people saying my friendly baby is “flirting” or has a “crush.” He’s a baby! I really want to say “please don’t sexualize my baby” but I’m trying to work on a less aggressive comeback (since I’m guessing my MIL won’t take that well…)
Yes, the comments from strangers about my kid “flirting” really bother me too! Like wow, talk about projecting your issues! My 1 year old is not trying to steal your husband!
J here, I don’t have kids (see my full comment below) but this has always seriously weirded me out as well. Like…think about the words coming out of your mouth, weird stranger.
Thank you for sharing your parenting travails, Liz! These are some of my favorite posts of yours to read because they always make me laugh out loud in solidarity. I have a very headstrong 3 year old and an 18 month old and can 100% relate to these stories/feelings!!! You express it all so well and with such good humor! It helps so much to have people share honestly and not just in perfect social media posts and sound bites. I feel like parenting has lengthened my spectrum of emotions, bringing some of the most loving and poignant times of my life, but also some of the most infuriating and exhausting (the effects of sleep deprivation should not be underestimated!). An article I found some solace in recently addressed a dark side of parenting few people are willing to talk about: https://parenting.nytimes.com/parent-life/mother-rage. I think it is so imperative to have these conversations and know we’re not alone navigating this intense mix of emotions.
Thank you! I read that article the other day and am so grateful to the author for her honesty.
Thank you so much for sharing this article! I absolutely have the grab-your-arm-too-tight mother rage that makes me feel super guilty later. I agree with the assessment that getting to exercise, eat right, sleep enough, wash my hair, etc. are super helpful in combatting it when I can squeeze those things in. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. I love that we’re talking about these things more openly and tearing down the vacuuming-in-pearls conventional portrait of motherhood.
Keep in mind your opening paragraph also. Those of us who have raised or are raising kids understand and don’t pass judgement the way we once did. And those that haven’t or aren’t raising kids, well, they aren’t in your arena and have no idea. Just as you and I once did, they’ll either learn later in life or they’ll live as the perfect non-kid parent their entire life and always be there for us to get advice from when we choose to 🙂
Love this series! I’m coming off a night with little sleep after our 10 month old cried all night (maybe due to constipation, maybe because he’s teething, or maybe he just felt like crying!). Parenthood has been an odd and wonderful and complicated thing for me, partly because my mom was diagnosed with an aggressive form of early onset dementia a few years ago and has declined quickly. Not long after, her father died, I had a miscarriage, and my husband and I got robbed at gunpoint. So our son–our gorgeous, hilarious, son–has been a complete beam of sunshine for us after a long stretch of darkness. Suddenly, we laugh out loud again. I can’t remember the last time I really belly laughed before he was born. And yeah, we have our hard days. I definitely don’t enjoy every minute, but I do enjoy most minutes. Even the hard ones, like when he’s up in the middle of the night and only wants me to snuggle him. I feel desolate and exhausted, but I can’t help but savor the feeling of his head–heavy and sweaty–under my chin.
Parenting has been an incredible reprieve after the hardest and saddest days of my life. Trying to figure out my identity as a parent while mourning my mother isn’t easy–I shed a lot of tears over all of the things she’s missing. And all of the ways I’m missing her. But this kid has lit up my life. And that’s my honest reality. It’s okay if yours is different. We’re fully expecting our second kid to be super hard, and to bring us down off this high. 🙂
A quick story in solidarity with the difficulty of containing kids in public: a few weeks ago, I was a bridesmaid in a wedding. Our kid was the only person under 18 years old invited to the wedding, because I’m still breastfeeding (and since I was required for a full three days of festivities and we had to travel across the country, it didn’t make sense to get a sitter). Their decision to not allow kids was controversial in the family, so we had been warned ahead of time that we should try to keep a low profile. Well, at the rehearsal dinner, the mother of the bride got up to give a speech. Everyone clapped as she got up, and our son, thinking it was all about him, started to beam around the room. She got her first sentence in–something tear jerking about how her oldest daughter was getting married–and paused to wipe her eyes. In the silence of the room, our kid let out this throaty chuckle, “HA HA!” (despite all the food we were trying to cram in his face to keep him quiet). We were absolutely mortified, but thankfully everyone laughed with him.
And at the wedding we attended before that, he sang croakily along with the hymns as the bride walked down the aisle.That, time my husband and I laughed so hard that we cried.
Big hugs–what a difficult time. Your little one sounds like a wonderful little guy. 🙂
Thank you. We feel incredibly lucky.
Add to ‘toxic positivity’ the notion that “everything happens for a reason” and “you’ll look back on this fondly”. Some things are heart-warming, and others you just get through.
Thank you so much for writing this. At 32 weeks pregnant I’m getting loads of toxic positivity thrown my way when I’m actually honestly half thrilled, half terrified. Your posts about parenting (as well as your experience of ppd) are honest and hopeful and reassure me in a way that is realistic without being pessimistic. Thank you again.
Oh, Mrs Frugalwoods, those pictures are so great! I am still chuckling.
Thanks again for a great piece!
PREEEEEEEEEACH!!! So happy to read this. When people say “Enjoy every moment” it is so much more about them than you. That’s why what that woman said to you is so wonderful – she was seeing you, meeting you where YOU were at.
This. All of this. Thanks for sharing your life/experiences with us!
That lady in your church – wow. Way to make me cry today lol. What a beautiful thing to be told. And what a wonderful article to read today! I’m progressing slowly bit by bit accepting all my emotions and acknowledging thoughts but not trying to rid myself of them. What you mentioned is one of the main points of acceptance and commitment therapy, and it is my jam. You accept whatever you are thinking and or feeling and you commit to completing actions that move your life in the direction you want it to take. Both small feat, but something to strive towards. Now back to playing with my 4 month old while my 2 year old sleeps – because they never sleep the same time right? Lol
My 4YO lying in the streets of Lyon, France (where children are dressed and behave impeccably) screaming, “You are f*cking! I am f*cking!” at the top of his lungs while thrashing about. Yeah, I enjoyed every minute of that.
OMG- that is HILARIOUS!!! 😂😂😂You must have been absolutely mortified! But what a funny story…
The best part was, he was thrashing so hard I had to pin him down to keep him from hurting himself or me. The Lyonnaise really short-circuited over that and a few people stopped to ask if everything was okay. His swearing career did morph from incorrect usage, to expertly dropped f-bombs, to becoming a member of the swear police, and now he has mostly forgotten about it and just slips up occasionally. Luckily, “this too shall pass,” is the truth and not toxic positivity.
What a refreshing perspective. I have only recently come to terms with some parental fantasies I was carrying around. I also have 2 girls. They are now 13 and 9 and things have not gotten easier, as I told myself they would, repeatedly as I worked my way through the infant/toddler/younger years. No one tells you that puberty starts at 9 and as those hormones start raging the screaming, oh the screaming, is all.the.time. It is the same as when they were younger, just louder. If that is even possible. I feel like my children go out into the world and they hold it together, but they have anxiety, over stimulation, irritation, disappointments that they absorb and they bring home that giant boulder of pent up chaos and they dump it onto me every night. I have to take on all their emotions , plus navigate my own internal chaos. The other day I was brushing my teeth and my younger daughter came in and told me I was taking too long and punched me in the back. So what did I do? Well, a younger me would think I needed to answer that question – that I needed to respond to her in the perfect way so that we both calmly came to a resolution – that they were loved, but hitting is not ok, etc. , BUT the more important issue is what I didn’t do. I did not punch her back – because in the moment those are the feelings that overwhelm you. I am surviving. I used to inhale parenting books and think that the exact wording or facial expressions of my responses would make a difference. And they don’t. I used to blame myself for the chaos, but I have raised my girls in a stable, safe and attentive household. We have tried several stints of therapy with them. I did the best I could. Now when they tell me I’m the worst mother in the world – I quietly take money that I’ve put aside for their college and buy new shoes.
I love your last sentence.
I can relate so hard about the unrealistic expectation that my children would complete me and give me meaning. I’ve never heard about toxic positivity before this, but that was definitely at play in my life too. Counseling helped. Facing those negative emotions helped. And pursuing my own hobbies outside of child-raising on the side has been amazing! Thanks so much for sharing. Looking forward to more of this series!
IMHO, the only things more aggravating, annoying, and untrue is “all women are meant to be mothers” and “when you’re older, you’ll regret not having kids”. I have kids but I don’t less of a woman who does not.
Thank you for this post, from a third trimester parent to be! I agree there can be toxic positivity but I also feel sometimes the backlash aganist it is toxic as well. I think your writing makes it clear that you love your children but you don’t always love parenting. Which makes total sense.
A few other good resources on this would be anything by dr. Alexandra Sacks (her instagram page, her book) as well as a workbook I am using these days called Expecting Mindfully. it is a mindfulness workbook for pregnant people and for parents of small children. It’s primarily geared towards the gestational parent but I don’t see why non-gestational parents couldn’t use it as well.
I am cautiously optimistic about the birth of my child in December.
RE: Dealing with temper tantrums in a loving respectful way – I highly, HIGHLY recommend “No bad kids: toddler discipline without shame” by Janet Lansbury. It is mind-blowing.
100%. That’s one of my favorite books!!! That along with The Soul of Discipline: The Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance―From Toddlers to Teens are my go-to books on the subject!
While I’m a firm believer in rational optimism, I too dislike this toxic positivity. The main reason? It violates a very important principle: Authenticity. But what does that really mean? It means being honest with yourself. And you’re not being honest with yourself if you’re telling yourself something is great, when it’s not.
One of the thing I took away from my yoga teacher training is the idea of steering into your negative emotions. It takes some practice, as many things do, but denying them gives them a power they shouldn’t have. They tend to stick around and linger. Instead, it’s better to acknowledge those negative thoughts and emotions, and really feel them. It seems counter-intuitive, but they weirdly lose their power when you allow them present themselves as they are. This helped me get over a very bad relationship ending in a way I didn’t think possible; I was able to let go of a lot of the bitterness and pain I was feeling, because I no longer hid from it. It sucked steering into those emotions, and it was work. But it was good work, and with a better end result. Better than pretending “this is fine” when it is not fine.
I have no words. 😘
…but you do put bows on your girls, which is absolutely astounding and puts you in another league for sure:)!
This post caused me to tear up a little—and my kids are 37 and 32! The empathy the woman at church showed is what can cure a single life, our country, and the world.
Thank you for this article. I had horrible PPD and at first had a very hard time bonding with my daughter. And when my ex-husband moved to the other side of the country and I became a single mom, I dived deeper into it and it hurt. I resented my daughter for a long time because I couldn’t positively love her every day. I am a mother that needs breaks and silence sometimes. I forged ahead because I kept telling myself: “this is the hard stage”. But the truth is, they are ALL hard stages. Some more than others. Now, I am living with my amazing boyfriend and my 4 year old daughter who knows her mother loves her – but has her own emotional needs. I explain when I’m frustrated and upset and how to handle it. And she’s very emotionally mature. So even though it was the worst of times, we came out on top. Some days, I cannot WAIT to drop her off at preschool and go to work. Other days, I snuggle her closer in bed. And containing kids in public is hard! Whenever I see another parent struggling with their child, I always smile at them to let them know they are not alone.
Toxic positivity is a real issue. My husband’s family is relentless about this and I’ve had to warn my mother-in-law a number of times to back off and let my son feel whatever he is feeling. Thank you for being real about the struggles of having a child. It’s hard to “enjoy the moment” my kid just kicked my glasses off my face during a diaper change and then peed on me. I like a lot of the advice given by others in your comment section. Very helpful.
Memory: My 2 year old screaming “BUT I WANT TO GO TO CHURCH” at the top of his lungs as I left mass right after communion with him clinging to my leg, while carrying the 9 month old, who was sprinkling Cheerios like a trail of breadcrumbs down the aisle. As I approached the door, someone sniffed and said, “that’s why I didn’t bring my kids to mass until they were older.” Gee, thanks.
Memory: Clasping my 5 year old with one hand, the same hand that was pushing the stroller in the other, with the kicking 3 year old in it (after wrestling her into it) screaming that she wanted to stay at the party, with I had the 1 year old in the other arm as he kept trying to pull up my shirt and nurse again
Memory: A mom of older kids saying “these are the golden years” to me at a kid’s birthday party at a casual restaurant (Johnny Rockets), while my 8 year old was hiding under the table sulking and kicking my leg b/c he got the “wrong” lunch order, my 6 year old was hiding in the bathroom b/c her friend (the birthday girl) was not paying any attention to her, and my 4 year old jumping on the restaurant booth and trying to pull down his pants. I just looked at this woman and said, “thanks.”
This, too, shall pass.
Yes to all of this. Love your series on parenting. And I’ve also been listening to “the Dream” podcast that you recommended. I think all of this is related. We as parents, especially mothers, are up against a very ingrained societal story that women should be in the home, taking care of the children, and they have to stay there because it’s “so fulfilling” and “every moment is enjoyable” and “it goes by so fast.” Forcing this message onto mothers, along with almost no social support to help with the intense demands of childcare, and you get to where we are now – mothers stuck at home (“oh but you must enjoy it!”) with no financial or institutional power and the status quo among those in power.
That is my cynical view. I try so hard to be an optimist, and I do see some changes happening in companies, but it’s very slow and not nearly enough.
Yes, I agree with you. I saw The Dream as a great illustration of this issue. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the podcast. I found it deeply thought-provoking.
My favorite thing I’ve heard about parenting is: your spouse is not the enemy, the baby is the enemy!
Obviously we’d never take it literally (though I shouldn’t have to explain that here of all places, yet I’m going to anyway), but DARN if that isn’t also the truth 😆 It reminds me of when JB was told: we’re all a team, we all do our part. Zir response: I do NOT! I don’t do ANYTHING.
We love and adore our child but there’s a reason ze was nicknamed the Unstoppable JuggerBaby since ze could creep. And that is *exhausting*.
And one of my ways of fighting that Toxic Positivity was to photo-document tantrums and tears half as much as the laughter and smiles. We’re not going to pretend that zir childhood was a totally happy smiley and shiny time without dirt, years and snot.
I am now a grandma to 6, all georgeous, despite the fact that I appear not to experience the negativity that there, hard working, sometimes stressed, plate juggling parents feel. I can and do scoop up a fractious 9 week old, who decides after a nighttime of howling, to go to sleep, just as mum needs to take the older two to school and the army has sent Dad on a course! But oh my goodness do I remember when said mum, tried to play “tug” with the bun of the lady sitting in front of us at church, or the time that her brother announced loud and clear ( 4 year olds are like that) during the quiet spell immediately after communion, ” can we go now Mum, he is washing up” – all heads turned our way. All said and done I can look back and laugh, amazed that I nurtured them to adulthood, found cookies and the odd plastic bottle, egg box or soap carton that was needed for a project, usually as we were about to exit the house on a school run, juggled work, a service husband, sick days, school plays etc and managed (I think to stay sane), of course I need a glass of wine, I am a mum😹. Occasionally managed to convince my boss, that I was still the intelligent, functioning, organised PA he had hired BC, and the law stated he had to take back, poor man; two years later, I found him sobbing in the car park, coz his twins were not sleeping and he gave me a look which said, sorry if I was mean to you, can you forgive me? I have stood in the bedroom door at night, patting myself on the back, because the look serene and beautiful when asleep, and I managed to let them live through the day, whilst realising that had I murdered them, whilst being married to a serving 👮♀️ explanations might be awkward. I also had to admit, reluctantly, like Mrs Frugalwoods that I was experiencing PPD, and that my community was not judging me, they wanted to help, could see I needed help, but for a time, I felt that as a parent I should be doing it all. Now my darling children are all grown up, and are nurturing a whole new generation, they have individually apologised, just in case I was like ……… at all, gosh, I just smiled with my grandma smile. Been there, read the book, bought the T shirt, drank the wine, supported friends, who in turn supported me. I can conclude, I ❤️ my children, I sometimes didn’t like them, I certainly found parenting hard work, but I would not have missed it for the world. For now I can enjoy a new pass, a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, a listening ear, and just sometimes an active conspirator. Good luck, and happiness to you all
SOLIDARITY, friend. It goes by so fast is one phrase I don’t need to hear ever again (although I’m not naive enough to think that’s true). It’s okay to want to fast forward some days. It’s okay to worry that the older kid might end up being a jerk because in the space of ten minutes, she poked, pushed, knocked over, and bit (yes, bit!) her little sister. It’s even okay to dream about the day in the distant but really not that distant future when they both get on a school bus and go to school. I love your parenting writing. Please keep it up.
I love this post. I don’t have kids and I don’t go to church anymore, but I related at a deep level regardless. And I laughed out loud at the airport over GIFTS. Still laughing as I type this. You’re an incredibly talented, generous writer and I admire what you do. All of it.
This made me think of something Erma Bombeck once wrote, about teenagers being told this is “The best time of your life!” She said she looked at the teens’ faces when people said that to them and wondered, is this really the best time of their lives? She said the teens’ faces looked like people who were starting to get sick and really needed to get off of the Ferris wheel but couldn’t, because everyone kept telling them how much fun they were having.
I always disliked that phrase “Enjoy every minute.” I’ve also heard people say, “Don’t you wish they could stay babies longer?” I always thought you’d have to be crazy to enjoy changing diapers and cleaning up spit-up for longer than normal. What kind of person enjoys every minute that includes the sleepless nights, the emergency room visits, the embarrassing moments, the mistakes we regret, and the poopy diapers? I fully believe you can love your kids to the ends of the earth but not enjoy every single minute of raising them. Now I can pin it down as to what is is I dislike about this phrase, thank you!
Tantrums gonna tantrum. Genius. Helpful. Just like the whole article.
I’ve been out of the mothering toddlers business for nearly 20 years but I heard this in every cell.
I’ll share it with other moms too because we all need it.
Great post. If you need a parenting boost I would heartily recommend the BBC show motherland. It’s for a British audience so a bit rude but it sums up the real experience of being a mom so well and is hilarious.
Love this! My mom was always very against the “enjoy every minute” line and instead when asked for parenting advice would say, “find something to enjoy about each stage.” I always appreciated this because certainly not everything about parenting is enjoyable, but we can look towards the infant snuggles, the toddler walks, the child being able to communicate, etc or whatever floats your boats and gets you through the ride of parenting.
I have a comment that doesn’t relate directly relate to this post, but is parenting related, so I figured this was the place for it.
I have a wonderful 2 year old daughter and she is such a joy. I definitely hate being told or thinking that I have to “enjoy every minute of it”. Mainly it makes me feel really guilty if I am not 100% engaged with my daughter all the time. Or if I choose to get out of the house (I’m a stay at home mom) to go on a walk by myself in the evening instead of hanging out with my family. I’m important too, and I need to keep remembering that.
Unrelated, but here’s what I really want to post about. My husband and I are conversing about whether we’d like to have another kid. We always wanted 2 children, but now he’s feeling satisfied with one, and I’m still hoping for another. I don’t want him to feel like our family of three isn’t enough, but I’m not ready for the little kid stage of our lives to be over and I just really want another child.
I don’t know how to bring myself to admit we’ll only be a family of three because I’ve been envisioning a second child, so it’s like he/she already exists. I understand that this is a decision only my husband and I can make together, but I can’t stop thinking about this and I was reading through this post. So I’m just looking for what others have to say, I guess/it was nice to write all of this out.
So my questions for you folks are:
Are there any parents of only children out there? Are you happy with your decision to have one? How do you cope with everyone always when you’re going to have another baby? Is it more frugal to only have one child? Or should that not even matter when factoring into this decision.
Thanks in advance for any input or comments. 🙂
I don’t often comment, but felt moved to reply.
I am an only child, as is my husband, and we have an only child (a toddler). We thought long and hard about whether to have another–I know that feeling of somehow “denying” a person who has only existed in your imagination.
As you wrote, this is a DEEPLY personal decision for your family and I would never, ever want to project our choice as the right decision for everyone/anyone else. But for us, one kid is good.
What makes me happy about the decision to have one child? Not going through newborn sleep deprivation again. Kidding…and also very very serious. Physical/mental recovery from our baby was tough for me and I am happy to be on the other side of it. On the positive side, I think having a single child makes it easier to find time to myself and with my partner. I also love the freedom to be one-on-one with my toddler and not split my focus (or my patience, haha) across kids–again, this is what works for *me personally,* I’m absolutely not saying it’s better for my kid and I have nothing but love for those of you that parent multiple kids.
Yes, we save some money vs having more kids but as Mrs. FW has written there are ways to be very frugal when parenting. I also think that if you’re in a position where finances don’t HAVE to drive this decision, other factors loom larger.
How do I cope with the “when’s the next baby?” question? Matter of fact-ly. “Nope, we’re done!” or similar. In most places I’ve lived, onlies are common enough that people have no excuse to be shocked. If you’re talking about family, the conversations can be longer but the spirit is the same. It is no one’s business but yours and your husband’s!
I’ve also often been asked what it was like growing up as an only, by friends and family contemplating having a single child. Both my husband and I thrived as only children, and I promise we are not self-absorbed jerks. 😉 We’re pretty independent people, but who knows if that’s related. Life with siblings probably would have been great too! But in case this is on your mind, there is NO reason to worry about negative impacts on your child from not having siblings.
Whatever you decide, it will be your family and it will be just right. Best wishes for finding your choice and being at peace with it.
Erin: thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I so appreciate and admire your insights and your generosity in sharing your experience.
Erin – Thank you for writing back to me! I found your words very encouraging as you touched on a lot of points we are contemplating. You’ve given me a few things to think about.
Just “hearing” someone reply directly to me and telling me that any choice we make will be a good choice is wonderful and affirming.
Thanks again for taking the time to get back to me and for Mrs. Frugalwoods for giving us a safe space to have these conversations!
My daughter (13) is an only child as I can’t have any more and I often worried about her being alone as I love having 3 brothers. She actually loves it. In fact, she often says she is glad as all her friends seem to hate their siblings! She doesn’t know any different so is fine with it. It has made her very creative by having to entertain herself more too.
KO, I have one 7 year old son and my husband and I made the decision to have only one child when our son was 3. We both had envisioned 2 kids and we both grew up with a sibling, but for some reason one just feels like the right number for us. Do I worry that he gets lonely or that he needs to learn how to share and negotiate and get along with other kids? Sure. But lots of play dates and preschool help with that. Coping with people asking when you are going to have another one gets easier once you have definitely made the decision. I tell people “our family is complete with just one” or “It’s none of your business”, depending on the situation. People mostly stop asking after the first one gets to be 5 or so.
For me personally, I feel that I have enough mental and emotional resources to parent one child well (most days, anyway). I know parents of 4 kids that are parenting rock stars and just roll with the chaos and make it look easy. I am not that person and neither is my husband. With one kid I feel like I have some energy left for myself and my husband and all of the things beyond motherhood that make me who I am.
Financially, it is easier to afford things like preschool and piano lessons and summer day camps and travel. The material things (clothes, toys, etc.) are easy to do frugally, but activities and services are harder.
My son is a pretty happy kid who has learned to be pretty self sufficient. He can play with other kids or happily play by himself. Occasionally he says he wishes he had a brother or sister, but after spending time with friends who ceaselessly squabble with their siblings he changes his mind. The only thing I really worry about him missing out on is the life-long connection that comes from having a sibling for your whole life. I am close with my sister and it makes me sad that he won’t have that. However, I also know people whose relationships with their adult siblings are mostly a source of stress and unhappiness, so who knows.
So all in all, yes I am happy to have only one child. I question the decision at times, but I have yet to regret it. Everyone is different and none of us can say what is best for someone else. It’s a big decision and that’s gotta be tough to not quite be on the same page as your husband. I wish you the best in making that decision together.
Kath and Hillary,
Thank you both so much for your comments and for taking the time to write so thoughtfully.
We have yet to make a decision, but we won’t come to a resolution overnight. For now we are so so happy with our girl and I just need to work on being mindful and present now and stop thinking so much about this choice.
I appreciate you ladies!
The lady who came up to you after the service and gave you some reassurance and words of wisdom brought tears to my eyes. I know young mothers think their kids are disturbing the church service and they should just stay home until the kids grow up some, but I say NO! You bring those babies to church and you bring those toddlers too! I don’t mind hearing a little one fussing, they are learning how to behave at that age and old people like me are pretty tolerant of their behavior!
As a minister, I longed for the time (and finally got it — during a Christmas Ever service) when I could say from the pulpit, to the mother of a fussy baby, “Sweeter to the ears of God are the cries of a babe than the snores of a saint.” I could SEE her relax, and the baby immediately settled down. Yes, it helps a lot to be a minister-mother.
Thank you for saying this! We have seven-month-old twins, and we’ve brought them to church nearly every week since they were about six weeks old. At first, it was mostly at my husband’s insistence, for he feels that church is something that should be experienced as a family. I, on the other hand, was extremely worried that they were going to start fussing and interrupt the service, so I sat close to the back and made a quick exit to the crying room at the first peep from them. Fortunately, in the early days, they mostly slept through the service, so I didn’t often have to make the exit. Now that they’re a bit older, they tend to stay awake for more of the service, so my husband’s been working on getting me to relax more and not leave at the first noise they make (because they’re going to make noise. . . ) Just this past Sunday, one of the girls (who’s learning her consonants now) blurted out a string of gibberish that sounded suspiciously like “Blah, blah, blah, blah” as soon as the priest started speaking. I hastily handed her a teething toy and started to get up to take her out, but then some people around us chuckled. Of course, that made her babble more but it also helped me relax and realize that it was going to be okay. She started chewing on the toy, smiled at her audience, and was quiet the rest of the service! And when we went to dinner afterwards, the couple across from us recognized us (we live in a relatively small town) and complimented us on how well-behaved the girls were.
Now, I will admit we’re lucky. They’re pretty good babies overall, and they’re still at the age where as long as we feed them right before and bring plenty of things for them to chew on, they stay relatively quiet during service. I was dreading the toddler years, but reading this makes me realize that no matter what happens, things will be okay. Sure, someone might get annoyed. But overall, people are supportive and realize that we’re doing the best we can to raise smart, inquisitive, compassionate members of society.
Wonderful article and posts! I am a family nurse practitioner and mom of grown boys who have now embarked on the parenthood journey themselves. One of the things I always discuss and talk about during prenatal visits, especially to first-time parents, is to try to ignore everyone who says all those Toxically Positive things (great term by the the way, and I will use it in the future!) like “Enjoy every minute’, “They grow up so fast”, “It’s the most wonderful thing you’ll ever do”. What I tell them is that we who are on the far side of parenting have forgotten the reality of parenting–like the dismaying realization that you want ANOTHER baby, and you are so fuzzy on all the reasons why not that you actually contemplate doing it again! Which is nature’s way of ensuring the species goes on. It only looks like all those platitudes are true when you are on the (very) far side of them and have decades of life experience to put them into the context of. I want them to really know and believe that EVERYONE who has ever had a child has moments when they seriously contemplate (if even just for a millisecond) how satisfying throwing the child against the wall would feel–you just don’t hear anyone talking about it because they are ashamed of feeling that way and just know that it means they are crazy, they are selfish, they are obviously not just bad parents but horrible people, blah blah blah. Much of parenting is an endurance test. It doesn’t mean we love the kid any less, it means we are human and the reality is that there are a lot of unpleasant, infuriating times in the journey. I love all the advice about supporting each other, even the strangers in the grocery store, and standing up like Mrs. Frugalwoods to talk about a taboo subject! Bravo to us all!
I’m a big fan of honestly discussing parenthood in all of it’s ridiculousness and I am fortunate to be surrounded by many like-minded moms.
It took me a while, but I eventually determined that as an introvert I absolutely require a certain amount of solitude. With two kids (now 6 and 9) some days this was/is absolutely not possible. Sometimes this is not possible for many, MANY, oh so many days in a row. Just recognizing that this causes a major lack of patience has helped me dramatically. Instead of dwelling on my feelings of complete inadequacy as a mother I can recognize it for what it really is – running low on something I need to thrive. Eventually my preschool-aged children were able to somewhat understand “I’m sorry for my grumpy attitude, you see, mommy’s patience container is completely empty right now.” They could actually visualize this; patience as an actual finite thing. An amazing discovery! After a bit of quiet(ish) play time so mommy can read, stare into space, wash dishes in silence (literally anything to be in my own headspace for 20 quiet minutes…) and voila – miraculously the patience container is full again. OK. I might be exaggerating a bit…. but I’ll take a 20% improvement over running on empty.
I, like so many moms, am practicing the fine art of cutting myself some slack. And trying to set an example to my children that no one is perfect. Mommy is not perfect. Some days there are tantrums – from me too, not just my kids. When we are together in public and it is some other child having a meltdown, my daughter will smile an empathetic smile and say something like “she must be having a tough day” or “I bet he needs a hug” or “maybe they missed nap time, mommy? That happens to me sometimes.” When it’s me melting down? My kids are old enough now to inquire about the level of my “patience container” and sometimes they even offer me a hug.
That is lovely! I will need to find this “patience container» of my own and put it to good use.
Sitting in the moment–good or bad–is not something I’m adept at, but something I’m working on. It’s hard work, but it’s made a whole heap of a difference in my long-term outlook.
Also, “toxic positivity”–YES. A THOUSAND TIMES YES. A perfect, succinct phrase for that BS. Thank you for putting a name to it!
I bear in mind tradeoffs of everything, especially the drudgery and patience-testing aspects of anything. It also helps to remind oneself of why you wanted to do whatever in the first place, and remember the joy it brings you, even if some of those joyful moments are punctuated by trying times.
One of the most comforting groups I joined during the child raising years was a multi-generational book group.
So many of the mothers had raised their children in town. Those kids were in their late 20s/early 30s (the ages of my kids today). Those moms lived through the challenges – and their encouragement (no toxic positivity there at ALL) gave me hope and courage. Always grateful to that group.
This is a story that happened before I was born but became family lore. My sister was having a temper tantrum in front of my mother and grandmother. Grandma said “We will just go into the kitchen and ignore her.” Sister waited until they were reseated, laid down on the floor in the kitchen and resumed her wailing. DS is still a drama queen today even though she no longer lies on the floor and screams. That would have been my mother when I announced I was marrying DH. Life does have it’s irony.
Best wishes from Best Bun.
I have never heard the term “Toxic Positivity”. I find it to be a very interesting concept. How can posivity be toxic? I guess it can be toxic because it is not realistic? It is not true that all experiences in motherhood are positive. When people act like it is all positive, that does not match with what we are experiencing so it creates a disonance, or stress as we try to reconcile what is expected vs what is realistic. So toxic positivity is really an unrealistic expectation that we cannot meet.
Thank you for that beautiful story. I wanted to have children partly because my mother told me it was the one single thing that changed her the most, and I am totally into transformation. I did not realize she meant “changed” the way a steak is when it goes through the sausage grinder. We had what I now realize is an unusually difficult first child. We got a lot of useless advice, and it’s a point of personal pride that I have not yet punched anyone for telling me to enjoy being ground. The best, most competent, most thoughtful and loving mother I know said this to me: “I always knew I wanted to be a mommy. I just didn’t know I would hate it so much.” You can totally love the child, love the choice, love the outcome, and also hate most of the actual moments.
Love this! My MiL once commented to a friend at church that she was doing a great job raising her girls, and the friend burst into tears as she’d been struggling so much. We need to encourage parents, and be open about the fact that parenting is hard and can totally suck at times. And that this in no way diminishes our love for our kids or makes us bad parents for not enjoying every.damn.second.
I want to encourage you Liz, that it really, truly does get easier. My two children have a similar age gap to you. Going out was hard, like tempting disaster when they were small. Church was really hard, my son is high energy, and sitting quietly is not his strong suit. I noticed things got easier once he was 2.5 (his bug sister is 18 months older).
Yesterday I took my daughter (now 6.5) out to a café for lunch as a special treat. She sat and coloured quietly, ate all her food without making a mess, and was generally just a joy to hang out with. At a café! No disasters, whinging, meltdowns any more. Living the dream. 🙂
Ahhh yes! Living the dream!!! Thank you for sharing this!
LOVE! “Enjoy every minute” is laughable- I mean thanks for the chuckle to anyone spewing that. Are there really people who enjoy poop explosions or restaurant tantrums or the kind of sleep deprivation that makes your whole body ache? I love my son and am super excited to meet baby #2, but am I already worried about how I’m going to chase my runaway toddler with an infant on my hip- yep! I sure hope there are people like you around when I shout at the zoo “Can somebody grab him?!”
“She made me feel like I was understood and seen and not expected to portray an idyllic image of motherhood to make everyone around me feel good about me feeling good as a mother.”
I don’t have kids. But this resonated for me as a chronically ill/disabled person. Telling someone else what emotions you want them to display not only negates their actual feelings but also asks them to perform emotional labor for you.
In my case, it’s not my job to make *anyone else* feel good about me being chronically ill/disabled, and *I* don’t have to feel good about it either, if I don’t want to. I’m not an actor in someone’s play. But we *are* all humans sharing the human experience.
Rock on, Liz!
Thank you for sharing this. I really appreciate you bringing this to the conversation.
Yes. Yes yes!
My last boss told me that people didn’t like working with me because of some ways my chronic illness affects me and “I should leave it at the door when I come into work”.
Oh, for God’s sake! That is unconscionable!
I have no children and have never wanted any so have no authority to say anything whatsoever. But all I will say when I am asked to comment on the subject, that all any parent is responsible for is to raise their own children, as far as they are able, and within their own children’s limitations of health and ability, to be productive members of society so that they can eventually get a good job and pay for their own therapy.
You could be the most perfect parent on this planet earth and your children will still need therapy because when they were two their sibling looked at them sideways and they remembered it and resented it for the next 27 years. My mother still actively resents her sister for a trick that was played when she was FIVE years old. They are now both in their 60’s.
Short of active physical and emotional abuse, you cannot “ruin” your children. They are their own people. Once they are adults, they have the ability to grow and correct themselves and develop to cover any deficiencies in their upbringing. You are not responsible for their entire development forever; they will be adults for a heck of a lot longer than they will be children. They will always hold you responsible for something that you didn’t do right. There is forever, now and always absolutely NO WAY to do this perfectly. Do it as well as you can. For as long as there have been human beings, children have survived, and thrived under worse circumstances.
All you exhausted people in the comments with children; you are doing perfectly fine, and better than some. Nothing more is required of you than that. Parenthood looks hellish from where I am standing, and you have all my admiration and appreciation for taking on such a thankless job, and trying to do it well.
So I’m reading/sobbing through this. Thanks for being honest. As the mom of an only/special needs child, I appreciate this. I’m not sure what my rewards later will look like. He’s 4 now & it’s still hard. I was a great mom before I became a parent.
Now there’s a way to be more informed about child-free and child-filled seats on airplanes – too bad only 1 commercial airline provides this way for parents to commiserate together that doubles as an avoidance method for those who want to distance themselves from little people. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a29250266/baby-seating-airline/
So perfect, thank you so much for putting this into words!! 💛💛💛
I loved this article and it resonated with me a ton, thank you for sharing your honesty. I did not have a word for it but the cliches that I kept getting hit with as a new parent only made me feel more and more alienated from my true experience. This helps me to feel more connected.
I’m in my 50’s, my kids are all adults. I also taught preschool at my church for a few years which my class was myself and another teacher with 18 -4 yr. olds for 4 hrs. 3 days a week. I’ll just say I’ve seen it all -the good, the bad and the ugly! Mostly when someone my age says enjoy it, it’s because it truly is nostalgia now that our kids are older a lot of us do miss when they were little. We’re not judging you. Treasure the good, and just keep pushing through the bad. Kids are kids, they’re not adults. Yes we can set boundaries, but they have minds of their own and they’re still growing,it takes awhile but they will understand sooner or later.Toddlers will have tantrums, it’s expected. There are a lot of us older moms who completely understand what you’re going through. Motherhood is one of the hardest things a woman can do! It can be very rewarding but yes there are definitely times when we wish to run for the hills no matter what their age. lol I will never forget when my first child was born, she’s almost 35 now…I had a C-Section, was exhausted, had pain etc. and was finally allowed to drive so I took her to the mall with me. She was born in Nov. so this was in Dec. it was cold and I had her dressed in a little fleece -type snowsuit. We went through the side door into a store, not kidding- I was not in the store even five minutes yet and some lady looks at my daughter in her stroller that I had just gotten through the foot and her cheeks were red. I had only been a mom for all of four weeks. This older lady came running up to me and starts yelling at me…look at your baby’s red face, she is too hot in that snowsuit in here with the heat on and you need to get that off of her immediately. I actually held back my stunned reaction…mostly because I was still in pain from surgery and exhausted and too tired to deal with this intrusion and calmly told her, “look, we literally haven’t even been here a full five minutes, and you have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about! My baby is not hot. And before you tell me then it was from the wind outside, she’s not cold either because I had a blanket over her on the way in here! What it IS is a rash similar to prickly heat and I’m treating it with a prescription cream from her pediatrician! (Which was true. Happens to many newborns.) So you really have no reason to be sticking your nose in my business, please get away from me and my child or I’ll scream for security.” lol She quickly left. But I will never forget that. It left a huge impression on me of the kind of mother and woman that I never wished to be, one like HER. I promised myself when I got older I would never criticize another mother like she did to me. Mothers could use a hug, not talking down to.
Absolutely appreciate this post so much. It’s exactly what I needed to read, especially the part about tolerating (embracing!) unpredictability as the kids aren’t programmable! I have a seven week old daughter and it’s wonderful to read encouraging words about how some moments are just hard and unpleasant, and others are good. I needed to hear this and be encouraged to be gentle in myself and not feel guilty for having these feelings. Thank you Mrs FW.
I love your honest mom insight. It speaks to me specifically because in 7 short hours we move into our new home where in two short weeks we will welcome our second daughter. It’s also my birthday today 🙂 I’m feeling all the emotions and probably won’t sleep tonight thinking about our first ‘baby’ sleeping in her first room for the last time tonight. This transition is so difficult and the timing couldn’t be worse but everyone tells me ‘it’ll all be worth it!’ and I can’t help but scoff. I’m so grateful to be in the position I’m in (I had a miscarriage before getting pregnant this time as well as this new home is practically my dream home) but it is so so hard at the same time. My daughter is aware of all these changes and wakes up multiple times a night so on top of my 100+ trips to the bathroom right now I’m getting about 4 interrupted hours of sleep a night. I find myself compromising on what motherly morals I thought I had and I’m learning to be ok with that. Owning it and respecting those negative feelings will do me well in the end and I’m so thankful for this timely post of yours❤️
Wishing you a smooth delivery and a smooth move! Oh wait, smooth move doesn’t sound right… er, an easy move? An uneventful move? Wishing you all the best.
Thank you- this was the right encouragement at the right time.
The only benefit I see of taking out small children until age 5 to church service is to save on baby sitter. Why do parents insist on taking their toddlers out on events which are age inappropriate, I simply do not understand. With the children this small you are lucky if they are calm and behaved 15 minutes. Than take them and leave and let others to enjoy the service and church, and, no I do not feel that fruit loops are appropriate there. If you care about your own sanity and the sanity of people around you, alternate baby sitting with your husband. Take your children out and teach them to behave in public spaces once they are capable to grasp a concept (around ripe age of four or five). Parenthood does not have to be so difficult neither on you nor on the innocent bystanders.
Maybe we are from different faith traditions. But the churches I’m part of hold to Jesus’ words “let the little children come and do not forbid them, for such is the kingdom of heaven.” One of the beautiful things about Jesus is how he valued and honored people society actively devalued and dishonored – foreigners, slaves, women, children. I love it when churches welcome everyone, not just those who’ve got it all together.
I love the pics. I particularly like the one of Littlewoods having a meltdown – can practically hear the cries of frustration and sadness; the “Woe is ME!” cries coming from that face. It’s what I see so often with little kids, and I’m glad to see a parent acknowledge and accept it, rather than try to hide that their kid is not a placid ball of sweetness and light 100% of the time.
I’m not a parent myself but I so hear you on the “Enjoy every minute” thing. It’s unrealistic, and it’s bullying parents into feeling ashamed if they don’t. Similarly, I hate it when people try to jolly me into happiness to make themselves feel better. No; just ‘No’. I will feel what I feel, thank you very much.
I am not a parent (although I aspire to be!), but I loved this article. I resonate strongly with its message, and also the humor and humanity with which it is presented.
I also was struck by this line: “I am not a person who can be fulfilled by the presence of other people in my life.” Struck because this is precisely my experience, that other people cannot fulfill me, cannot light up all of the parts of me that want lighting up.
For that, I need meaningful work as well.
Loved this. Thank you!
Right now I wish my kids could be “everything” to me, but it’s just not a reality. I need to feel loved by a partner, and feel connections to others and be fulfilled by my calling(and work is failing me right now lol!). I’m home alone the majority of the time with my kids, and they can run me ragged for sure. A little me time away from the kids goes a long way! But yeah-I try not to sweat the small stuff and handle hurdles with as much grace as I can!!
I’m just curious if there are any other mothers out there who want to be with their child whenever they can. Maybe its because I wish i could work part time, or from home, or just be a sahm but have to work full time to pay the bills. Or maybe its because he is my one and only child and we aren’t having more so i feel like I will miss something if i’m not there. Maybe its because he is such a well behaved child. He actually listens to me, hates getting in trouble, never wants to disappoint me. (I will admit age 2 was hard but it didn’t deter me away from him) I absolutely love spending time with my son (who is now 7) and husband. I will chose this over anything. I think i’ve gone on weekend vacations without my son like 3 times in his life and everytime, i’ve missed him so much and i wished he was there with us. We have always done everything together because he never had a sibling to play with or cousins his age. It was me playing at the park, going down the slides. Playing action figures (i had to learn lol). And now that he is older, he is playing with his friends more and its so weird not having him around me all the time. I don’t mind the phrase “enjoy every minute” because i know i dont’ have much time left until he does want to be with his friends more than me. I will be in my mid-40s when he graduates high school and i know i will (hopefully) have a lot more time to myself when he is out of the house on his own, so i am going to spend all the time i have with him until then. So just wondering if i’m the only one who is not begging for a “girls night out” or a babysitter to watch my kid so i can go out and have time without him. (So i don’t get yelled at, i don’t think its wrong to want to get away every once in awhile. There isn’t anything wrong with that. And i do go out with friends, I just try to do it when my son is at school or after he goes to bed.) Yup, I’m a homebody and not ashamed of it.
Fellow homebody here! I am 10 years down the line from you and felt the exact same way. I think part of it is when they are the “only” and you know this is your one and only time to be a parent. I would tell my husband that I wanted her to be the one to pull away, not me to push her, and that is exactly what happened. Believe me, when they get to high school, even before they graduate, and you will definitely have more time to yourself as their life becomes busier and more social 🙂 All of this combines with the topic of toxic positivity, because her senior year of high school this year is more difficult (for me) than I could imagine. There is an internal pressure to constantly”cherish every moment” because they will be going away to school next year. There is also the fact that they are feeling restrained and reaching for the adulthood that is just within their grasp. So much emotion for everyone packed into one year! The hardest thing I have ever had to do as a parent is go through the process of letting go, but it is also fulfilling in knowing you have raised a successful human! 🙂
Perhaps, I can lend a different perspective to the conversation. I am a mother of nine. About half of my kids are grown and out of the house.now. I am the person who says to “enjoy these days” not out of toxicity, but because one day you might miss them. You probably won’t miss the dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and tantrums of childhood. However, you will miss the sweet smell of a baby fresh from the bath, the little finger holding onto yours, the feeling of a baby falling blissfully asleep on you. Don’t get me wrong….motherhood isn’t for wimps! It’s tough work, and there are days you wonder if you’ll survive. Moms need encouragement. However, just as I’m sure there can be “toxic positivity,” there can also be “toxic negativity.” We can get so caught up in the bad things of raising kids that we forget to see the beauty there. When my 7 year old was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer, I began to treasure every second with my kids in a way I had never done before. I tried to memorize moments because I didn’t know if I’d get anymore. I tell moms to treasure the time with their children because it is precious! Sometimes, we are just too bogged down with the very real, very hard work of raising kids to stop and enjoy the time with them. Moms (and dads!) definitely need encouragement! Our “every moment has to be perfect” social media society creates toxicity. We need to lend a hand to the mom whose child is having a tough day, not give her a snide look. My kids weren’t/aren’t perfect. We had plenty of those “challenging” days. Liz, I love hearing about real life with your kids. It makes me laugh because I had so many similar experiences with mine. Somehow, we all survived. We all still love each other. We all still laugh about all the crazy moments that made up those days. We had two sayings that our family has lived by….”Never a dull moment” and “Better to laugh than cry.” To all you moms that I advise to “enjoy these days,” please try to, and also be encouraged the crazy toddler days don’t last forever. You are doing a better job than you think you are. No one has it totally together!
And because this is a sweet caring community, I know people will ask. My daughter is now 13 and healthy (five years cancer free) thanks to the amazing work of St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Thank you for this beautiful perspective, Debbie. I deeply appreciate it. And, I’m so glad to hear your daughter is healthy and cancer-free!
Thank you for sharing the “out-takes” – both literal and figurative – of life as a parent.
Yup and yup. Luckily, we figured this out early on in our parenting. It helped that I realized that I enjoyed parenting and working and we made decisions to support the lifestyle that we wanted. No regrets. We have two good kids. Not perfect kids. Good humans.
I became a mother this week. Thanks for the encouraging words as I sit here pumping in between breastfeeding sessions in a sleep-deprived haze. There is a lot to love and a lot yet to come.
Enjoyed the article but what is a Progressive-Liberal church sounds like politics vs religion???
I laughed…. It is so true (same in France)! Children are exhausting and in the end, you still worry when they are grown up. But I am so proud of my beautiful son and we manage to have a good honest relationship. So keep up!
My kids are 8 and 6 and I think in my short parenting timespan, that the best thing we mothers can do for each other is to simply be honest about it all. “I love my kids but I’m struggling.” Some seasons are infinitely harder than others and painting it all with a cheery brush does ALL of us a disservice. Like most moms, I love my children so fiercely that I would die for them. But I am also a human being with my own needs and NOBODY can function optimally in the long-term without pausing to fill their own buckets from time to time. 😉 Thanks for staying honest and real.
Just remember that this too shall pass. My son is grown and I now have grandchildren, but I remember the days you’re talking about and I see it happening with my son and daughter-in-law in their dealings with my two grandchildren. I used to think I was raising a child with no manners whatsoever, then one day I dropped him off at one of his friend’s homes and I see him ring the doorbell, wipe his feet on the mat, take off his ballcap and shake hands with his friend’s father as he entered the house — with no prodding from anyone. He didn’t even know I was watching! it was then I knew I was doing something right and he’d be a decent human being. So like I said, this too shall pass. Enjoy the good days, and just survive the bad ones.
Not related at all to children, but I live in Hawaii and “toxic positivity” is taken to a whole new level here. If you complain or say anything could be improved you are told to get over it because you live in paradise. Grocery and utility bill tripled? It’s the price of paradise. Garbage piled in the porch of your neighbors house? Look the other way or think how beautiful the beaches are. Homeless living in every public park? Well, that’s sad that you could never take your kids there, but what is to be done, just go to a different area and find a good beach. Racial slurs yelled at you? That’s just because the tourist industry is fickle and the people who live here are bitter that they have been priced out of everything. Toxic positivity is absolutely stifling and denies reality.
Upon having my first child I was shocked to learn that I am still an introvert and do best with lots of alone time. Yikes! That’s been a hard one to figure out! Over this past summer I took my 3 year old and 3 month old to the grocery store. It seemed like a good idea since it was rainy outside and I felt like could count as an activity. WRONG. It quickly escalated to me changing an explosive infant diaper in the trunk of my car while my toddler had a potty accident and stripped himself naked before I could attend to him. Naked as in no underwear or diaper. He then hopped around the car. I also got a really good spot that day out front of the store. Soooo many people must have loved seeing that that day!! The fear of this kind of thing happening kept me isolated when my first was born but now (after my second kid) I’ve learned to embrace the chaos and just go enjoy the ride. <3
Oh girl, I’ve so been there. It always SEEMS like such a good idea to take the kids to _______ (anywhere outside of our house/yard) and, when we get there, it’s just… tough. Hang in there. I like your mantra of “embrace the chaos and just go enjoy the ride.” Very, very well said.
Yes, Im a single parent and i need to remember alot of this. I think alot about what others think of my screaming kid, wearing dirty clothes i feel like i have to explain to them that he was clean that morning. When im getting him mcdonalds i feel like i have to explain that he doesn’t always eat it! But i always forget to not judge myself most of all. No one will remember this years from now. My family often says things that are very judgmental without realizing and it hurts. But in the end i try to remember that if i told them how i felt they would be remorseful they had said it. I blogged about the challenges of single parenting, parenting is hard, single parents need to remember that there may not be anyone else to tell us we are doing a great job, we have to tell ourselves!
100% all of this.
A friend of mine pointed out once that when we tell mothers to enjoy every moment, we’re asking them to reach what is basically the highest level of Buddhism like *that*, without years of practice, without mentors, without training, nope, just smile a Zen-filled smile as you carry your screaming, kicking four year-old out of the grocery store/library and everyone is staring at you; ditto for when your six year old screams and throws her library book at you because you corrected her reading.
Toxic positivity is everywhere, and I’ve had it directed at me far too often since having a…let’s call her intense- child. A lot of those comments have hurt when I’ve already been struggling (seriously, if someone is telling you they haven’t slept more than two hours at a time in over a year, exactly what part of their life do you think they’re enjoying? There’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture…); the best experiences I’ve had were when people offered help- holding a door as I struggled with a stroller full of a screaming child, offers to unpack my grocery cart onto the conveyor belt and help me pack my bags afterwards (I think of that woman so, so often; I thanked her profusely and wish I knew who she was so I could thank her again), things like that. Telling parents to enjoy every moment is unrealistic and only further serves to deflate our sails if we’re already struggling.
Peace to you. I understand exactly how hard it is, I’m there too. We’ll make it- maybe with a few scratches and scars along the way, but we’ll make it. 🙂
So well put. Mine are late teens now and one has left home, but I still feel for people in those early years – the sheer hard work was relentless, and time seemed to pass so slowly. I’m careful about what I say to young parents. Acknowledging the job they’re doing is definitely the best option, and I wish that had happened to me at the time. Telling me ‘it goes so fast’ and ‘cherish every moment’ just didn’t resonate.
However, ghosts do walk amongst us. It’s bittersweet to be in the company of young children, and the feelings of longing are so strong. If I could only go back for a few minutes and have one more cuddle! (Only a few minutes, though – wouldn’t want to go through the whole shebang again 🙂)
This flash fiction piece by Tracy Fells captures it beautifully. I don’t know the writer personally, but these are the feelings we live with, as older parents. It doesn’t go away, so please forgive us if we sometimes say stupid things. It’s because we long to go back, no matter how nonsensical that is:
Please don’t take this personally, but this is a discussion I’m REALLY glad is behind me and knowing that this is to be a series I will probably look for new blogs focusing more closely to the personal finance/financial independence journey. Early parenting years are hard for many. I had further disadvantages of being poor and not having a semblance of a support structure (other than my spouse). I think the worst week was selling my high school band instrument to a 15 year old (who drove up in a boat on a posh lake in Austin) so we could afford the Uhaul on our move to WI where my husband was transferring to a new graduate program. I was 32 weeks pregnant and there we were trading off on driving the Uhaul pulling my husband’s car and the SUV carrying our autistic toddler. And we got poorer still once we arrived and had the baby (there had been an issue with funding and I had no more musical instruments to sell off).
Losing or finding myself in motherhood wasn’t a battle I could afford in those times.
These days, I just don’t care…
A wonderful and honest look at parenting. I think that people should read this BEFORE having kids! Not because it would make you change your mind – it wouldn’t – but because you’d have a better idea of what you’d be in for, and would not set unrealistic standards for yourself.
Being child free by choice seems more accepted now than it was when I married 41 years ago. I made the correct choice and have not had second thoughts. Having children does not mean they will care for you in your old age. I knew I would not be a good parent and I am glad I did not screw up a human being. If someone expresses they are planning to be child free please be accepting of that choice.
As someone who’s been struggling to become a mother for 5 years, this really helps me. I was becoming resentful of women with children and how “perfect” their lives are and how mine may never be perfect if I don’t have kids. But I saw so much of myself in this article even though I’m not a mother, it made me feel like we’re not so different… Like how you find fulfillment in yourself. I am learning to feel that way too. I think it’s really good that I’m learning this lesson now because a lot of people may find the only meaning in their life and their children and I don’t think that’s healthy for either of them. Thanks for this insightful post.
You sound like a good Anglican, would I be right? I know because it sounds exactly the same as my childhood! I also totally agree with your sentiment- it aligns with how I feel about having kids ( gf wants kids and just sees positivity, I see both sides- I’m more biased against though, unfortunately). Greetings from Ireland!
I think ” Enjoy every minute” probably has a different meaning to someone who has lost a child. It speaks more to gratitude than toxic positivity.