Happy Mother's Day, am I right?
It's true though; and saying it stirs an absolute purity of relief and shame. And the very real fear of the ultimate jinx, that I have doomed my family for all eternity. A tiki doll from which there is no escape Greg Brady.
Still, I'm saying it, because I am certain that I am not the only one who feels it. And it doesn't make me a shitty parent.
So let's break this down.
First, there's the logistics. The constant driving, food prep, restocking of supplies, laundry, last minute paperwork (sports' registration, permission slips, school activity t-shirt acquisition, etc.), haircuts, birthday gift for someone who's really more of an acquaintance but holds out the possibility of future social cred, the nose-wiping-butt-wiping-brush-your-teeth-reminding, the day-to-day of it all can eventually wear a person down to the point of blurting out the impotent cry of "I'm not your slave" in response to "Mom, can you pass the salt?" And yet this is what we signed up for and none of the gentle pastel coated books on parenting warn you about. It's the business end of having kids. The necessaries that make the idyllic slo-mo backyard antics with the dog and Dad's old baseball glove immortalized by many a commercial possible. The logistics are the red-tape of parenting. They're not fun, they're not intended to be, you don't have to like doing them every minute of every day. It doesn't make you a shitty parent.
Second, let's talk about the Time-Suck. You have no time, and it sucks. What about the quality time you spend with your family and dog in the backyard? That happens, it is a rare Haley's Comet occurrence when the planets align and everyone is in the same place at the same time and not gripped by hormonal foul moods. Otherwise, your free time comes at a premium that must be paid back in increments of doing the dishes, helping with homework, letting the dog out in the middle of the night, giving your spouse an equal allotment of free time and lavishing the attention on your children that they want but won't tell you about until you do not adequately supply it. It's ok to be pissed that you have no time, it doesn't make you a shitty parent.
Thirdly, let's visit Fear, Anxiety and Panic. No matter how much yoga, meditation, or wine consumption you practice that trio of doom is always present at some level. And that presence is a constant reminder that despite your best intentions and practices, you have no control over your offspring or, more acutely, the world that is bound to inflict mayhem on them in some way. And the realization that that perfect baby who you swore would remain pure and unscathed, will, in fact, become scathed. And all rationality will leave you when your kid is in a full nelson on the wrestling mat and you will vow to have his opponent arrested while your spouse pats you on the back and tells you this is a good character building experience and you vow to undercook his chicken just a little bit and see how his character builds from that. Fear, Anxiety and Panic are not our friends, but they are our companions on this parenting trek, and like the cousin you wish you didn't get stuck talking to at the family reunion, it's okay to wish you were sitting at the cool cousin table. It doesn't make you a shitty parent.
Next, let's crack this Gratitude nut. Raising safe, independent, responsible kind children is it's own reward, parents do not need kids to say thank you. Bullshit. We all want it at some point; that twinkly swelling soundtrack moment when our kids realize all we've done for them and thank us through the magic of skywriting or a tear-stained letter to the Kelly & Michael show. Let's face it, that's what Mother's Day and Father's Day is all about? Do we need it? No. Because of that whole love thing that never goes away but deepens over time, because of tribulation and in partnership with the complexity and inevitability of flawed humans caring for one another. Do we still want it? Yep. And that doesn't make you a shitty parent.
And lastly, let's talk about guilt. I have been consumed by guilt while writing this entire post. How could I possibly admit out loud-ish that I don't like parenting? That must mean that I don't like my kids, which is code for I don't love my kids, which is code for I am a freakish monster. Well folks, even your dream job isn't a dream all the time. There's still paper work to file, you're going to make mistakes and doubt your abilities and sometimes the jelly donut you thought was going to make the day better is going to squirt out the wrong side and ruin the dress you paid too much for and are wearing for the first time. I love my kids; that is an universal absolute. And the real reason I sometimes don't like being a mother is because I'm afraid I suck at it, and these extraordinary perfectly flawed, scathed and miraculous offspring of mine will suffer as a result. And that doesn't make me a shitty parent. It just makes me a parent.
So, for this mother's day season I wish you forgiveness, fortitude, and the gratitude that does not come in a floral arrangement or Jared jewelry box, but the kind that whispers to you when you least expect it, looks nothing like you imagined and comes not on a prescribed date but at a random moment in the grocery store or passing in a hallway or during spontaneous backyard antics and reminds you that you are not a shitty parent.