Quandry

I’m trying to decide whether to have a full existential meltdown, or just analyze away something that’s digging away at the corners of  my mind. Let’s see where I wind up after telling you this:

A new mom, amazing person with lots of early childhood experience told me this week, “I don’t get it. This is a lot of work, but it’s just not that hard. Why do people say this is so hard?”  Cut to a few hours later, and a professional, kick-ass mom who is quite open about not finding her reason for being in parenting,  said, “There are just some women who are meant to do this. I’m not one of them.”

So I’ve been thinking, incessantly: am I cut of non-parenting cloth because I do find it hard, or are we having a difference not of opinion but of semantics? No, it’s not hard. It’s exhausting, not hard. It’s  draining, not hard. Parenting full time is more work than I’ve ever done, but it’s not, she’s right, actually hard. It is hard to do it all day every day, but the work, itself, is not hard. Hard to make it through behaving properly, but not hard to do. Fine.

A five-year veteran who doesn’t think she was  cut out for parenting has always made me feel like I’m doing okay. Now I’m rocked by a mom who has tons of pre-baby experience with children and has spent two months with her own babies and doesn’t see why people warned her it would be hard.

Maybe my phase with a newborn was different because our first four months were colored by intense breastfeeding pain. But every new family has issues that make things tough, though, so I can’t write off my lack of pleasure  as resulting from early pain.

Maybe because I start thinking, about an hour before nap and all the time after nap, every day since my child was six months old, “when are you going to sleep?!?!!!”, maybe I’m not cut out for this  work. I’ve known for a long time that my child probably deserves a more patient caregiver, but that I can’t fathom having someone else raise my child. Why have a kid, I’ve always reasoned, if someone else will spend  more time with my child than I will? But that new mom, who doesn’t think life with a newborn is hard, makes me think maybe I should have someone else do this for me. Because I don’t always like this job. In fact, I rarely like this job. Love the kid, loathe the work. The not-hard work.

I can’t get over that it’s not just the language.

Of course, I didn’t feel put out by motherhood until six or seven months. I didn’t feel completely out of my element until past a year. So maybe if I wait this out, that new mom will come over to the side of those of us who think we were probably made to do something else.

I doubt it though. She’s probably just going to be one of those who do it all well, easily, and with a smile.

Lucky babies.

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12 thoughts on “Quandry

  1. Outstanding post, lady. Now, this may sound like trite American-style feel-goodism, but I *do* think all primary parents will have their time of finding parenting hard – maybe not now, for your friend, but sometime, it’s gonna come… That being said, you ARE the best mama for your kiddo. Without question. Go do a reality check at a playground with a sack full of nannies for comparison. Yikes. Occasionally impatient and perhaps even inept but deep and unstoppable love trumps indifference anytime.

  2. Well, count me in as one of those moms who thought it was pretty darn easy until my second came along. We all have our tipping points. :)

  3. I think the really difficult thing about full-time parenting (and the thing that NObody will tell your or admit) is that, well, it’s monotonous. And, dare I say it, boring. It’s thrilling for a 2 year old to play six games of CandyLand in a row and then spend an hour in the park for hard core hide-and-seek, but for you? The adult? Not so much.

    And it’s defeating to spend the rest of the day on tasks that are unsatisfying because they never end:eg:laundry, dishes, tidying the house.

    Now maybe some women don’t find it boring, but I don’t think they have the big brain that you do. Your brain enjoys being challenged and present and involved. CandyLand don’t cut it.

    That said, I do think you are acting nobly by raising your child and think you ARE a good parent. You are just an honest one.

  4. First off, I think you’re a great mom. I think you’re doing a wonderful job. You put so much thought into what your kid is getting out of life. Just look at how hard you worked to find the right cartoons for your kid. Though I still think you need to make Pudding Day every Day! ;-)

    As for the new mom, if the baby is sleeping well, nursing well, those first months are cake. CAKE! Sean was cake until three/four months in when he got colicy for a while. Evan was not cake. I remember looking at him wondering “what am I suppose to do with you.” In those cake months, you get things done, the house gets cleaned, you read books as you nurse, it’s a f-ing breeze. But then it gets harder, and according to my mom, it continues to get harder.

    Sure, technically this isn’t a hard job in and of itself. But TKW is right it’s monotonous. We do the same thing every day. We pick up the same toys every day. We have the same fights every day. We have to clean, cook, wash, play, discipline every day without a break, and that’s what makes it hard. Harder still when we question oursleves or feel being judged. Which is why you should never tell another mom how easier motherhood is because she is mostly likely stuck in a phase of “oh, my god, my kid is never going to sleep through the night” or “omg, my kid is never going to potty train” or “omg, my kid is never going to graduate” or add any hectic phase here.

    I think if you have the desire to by a mom, you got the mom jeans in you. Sure, we all have days were we thinking we’re failing, when we can’t wait until bedtime, when we want to go away. But we have good days too. We’re good moms because we stay and do it the next morning, even if we were up all night with a child or a child who wakes up at dawn. And we’ll be there tomorrow and the next day. We just have to catch those moments when it’s the sweetest so we can remember why we did this. That and a night out every once in a while would be nice too.

    Um, Naptime. I’m sorry I wrote so much. I think you’re a kick ass mom and you shouldn’t worry about what others say, just keep being kick-ass.

  5. Yeah, what Faemom said. Although I don’t think I actually make it through a whole day of “good”…more like 2 hour chunks of good or bad. Although I have had days that were entirely bad, and those days I need to lock myself if the laundry room for a little while.

    My neighbor has a 7 day old baby who is what I call a LOS (lump-of-shit) baby. Excellent eater. Sleeps ALL the time. Already pooping on schedule. Just coos all the time. Fae is right that if you have an easy one, it’s easy at first. I think you can probably guess that God didn’t give me LOS babies.

    Hang in there. I appreciate your honesty. It makes me feel like I’m not alone, and that is something we “strugglers” definitely need.

  6. Parenting IS hard. It’s difficult. The decisions we make at home are even more important than the ones made in the board room. (Even if they only affect the people living in our home, and not an entire population of students or consumers or wall street traders.) More important and difficult because we are more emotionally attached. These are our kids, dammit. We love them and it aches.

    That said, I think that the decisions, tasks and duties we make and perform as mothers can indeed be easier for some women than others. One of the reasons, I think, is due to confidence. And another because of pressure and perfection. (And I think there are certainly many more than that.)

    Women with more confidence in themselves as individuals seem to more at ease with mothering. Women that strive for perfection, pressuring themselves to balance everything perfectly – right foods, right schedule, right activities – also seem to struggle a bit more. Motherhood is imperfect. It’s so hard to see this from the beginning. The world expects so much from a new mom – that she will love it, that she will will inhabit it, that she will always know what is best (for herself, but most of all for her child).

    I’m sure I will be judged for thinking such thoughts. But why should motherhood be any different from a sport or an art or a talent? Some things we pick up easily and some we have to work at. Thing with mothering is, we don’t have a choice to drop the activity if we aren’t performing so well. We have to persevere and make it better for everyone, and for the world to see.

  7. I’d give the new mom more time. In a lot of ways, it’s easier when babies are really young, but once they get out of a sleeping groove and show a bit of unpredictability and require more attention and energy, then she may find it a bit more difficult.
    And just because you love your kid’s nap time doesn’t mean that you aren’t cut out for this work. We all need a break and nap time may be the only time we get one!

  8. I so get you on this…sometimes I see other parents who make it seem easy or worse, say that it IS easy for them, I get all in my head about my own struggles in being a mom, being a good-enough mom, staying true to the values that I am clear on and flexible on the rest of the stuff.

    LOS baby is the best description I ever saw…I will so treasure my incredible non-LOS baby memories…the girl never slept more than 2 hours at a stretch for months and most of the time it was 45 minutes. It called on developing a certain dark humor to survive it. Btw that and a horrible, painful breastfeeding experience I was out of my mind with exhaustion, distress, and so on and so on….I had thought (pre-actually having a baby) that I wanted to have natural childbirth bc I’ve been kind of a physical wuss in my life and that would be some kind of physical milestone. I have to say, for me, childbirth while not easy, was cake compared to surviving the first few months. That was hard….

    I think that what I’ve discovered about myself as a mom is that after a lot of effort to learn my best style for learning and working….that doesn’t always work for my kid and (because of the kind of parent I’ve chosen to be) I’m the one who adjusts for the most part. There are times when this is really hard for me to do and if that set up were at a job, I’d be looking for other work, no questions asked.

    That said, I’m in agreement about all that’s been said about stages. I learned I’m not really much of a baby person but I do love this toddler action…and even within this stage that I enjoy, there are days when I’m pulling out my hair, overwhelmed by this job…I started wondering about homeschooling after reading some lovely blogs about it but I think I am completely unsuited to the task.

  9. Lovely post and great responses. I completely agree that she probably just hasn’t hit the part that’s hard yet… and she will. There are a million different opportunities for parenthood to be difficult. And, I agree that most of us have a certain age that just works well for us — maybe it’s infancy for your friend, but she’ll be tearing out her hair with her toddler/preschooler/pre-teen/teenager. And, even if she doesn’t…. even if she sails through in a mirculous halo of angst-free mothering, that probably says more about her amazingly easy child or lack of thought in her parenting decisions than her innate skill.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that I could have been your friend a few years ago — I was in this cloud of magical baby-love for about a year-and-a-half, and now I am constantly scheming about how I can arrange to escape for an hour to go to a coffee shop and read in peace.

    And, I still think I’m a pretty good mom. I just am a much better mom if I get an hour to myself every day (which only happens sometimes).

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