A Life Not Worth Pinning
Some parenting moments are not Pinterest-worthy. Some moments are the stinks. And that’s okay.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, a week overdue and miserable, the midwife told me to enjoy this time with the baby inside me, revel in the feel of her movements, and not be too anxious to give birth. Basically, she wanted me to stop whining about my swollen ankles and bladder, my joint pain, and my nine-months of vomiting. What I wanted was my body back and my baby in my arms. I was so far past done, I couldn’t bear to take her advice. I needed an extraction.
I wondered for a brief moment if there would come a time after the baby was born that I would miss that feeling of having her inside me, if the midwife was right and I should have enjoyed every second of the pregnancy right up until they pried the baby out with a crowbar ten days after she was due. That time never came. Because some moments are not precious. Some moments are hard. While I do look back at many moments of my pregnancies with fondness, feeling the baby flop around or seeing the heartbeat on the ultrasound monitor for the first time, there were also many moments I would never want to relive.
The same goes for parenting.
I’m a huge advocate of positive thinking, of cherishing the moment, of learning to be happy in any situation and love your life. This is what I write about, what I speak about, how I try to live my life. Focusing on the good has made my life beautiful.
That being said, there are also days when you hold your baby over your head and she vomits in your mouth, when you can’t remember what it’s like to have a conversation that doesn’t include the word binky or poop, or when you’re so overtired that you take a nap and sleep through the pediatric appointment you had to book two months in advance. You don’t have to love th0se moments. They can suck and it doesn’t mean you do. It means you’re human and being the mother of young kids is hard.
When I was a young mother, I frequently heard people talk about how precious my life was, about how I shouldn’t wish away my kids’ childhood because too soon it would be gone and I would miss every second of it. Mothers of teenagers would smile knowingly as I struggled and say, “These are the good times. Enjoy this!” And I did, often, but when I didn’t I would feel guilty. This is supposed to be precious. I’m supposed to love every minute of this. I feel angry or lonely or frustrated and my house is filthy. What is wrong with me? What kind of a person gets mad at a three-year-old?
A human person, that’s who. You don’t have to like making endless meals that no one eats. You don’t need to enjoy cleaning up excrement or scraping boogers off the wall. If picking a sobbing, kicking three-year-old up off the floor of Target and carrying him to the car without buying any of the things you went in there for is not your definition of fun, that’s okay.
There will be tender moments, moments so sweet your heart feels like it will explode, but even these amazing times are often accompanied by your daughter’s hair being a ratty mess or your son smelling like sour milk. These moments are beautiful. They’re just not perfect.
Websites like Pinterest are filled with happy, well-dressed, children playing with pristine wooden toys next to gorgeous leather sofas, children who never wet the bed or decide they hate all orange foods. As much fun as it is to read and discover ideas online, it can set up unrealistic expectations for what life should look like.
To me, Pinterest is like cheese. It’s wonderful, frequently delicious, but consuming too much of it can make you fat and depressed.
When you’re reading online, remember that the snapshot you get into the life of a Pinterest family is like the snapshot people get of you when they see your family Christmas photo, the one magical shot when everyone is looking at the camera and smiling, wearing their best clothes, probably photoshopped.
It’s real. It’s just not the whole story. You are living the whole story and that whole story has many shades of awesome and less-than-awesome.
As you’re mothering young kids, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The bad times will make the good times seem that much better – When things are rough, keep in mind that they will help you appreciate the sweet times so much more.
- Don’t feel guilty if you wish the tough moments would take a hike – You don’t have to cherish every single minute with your kids. It’s okay to want to send some days through the shredder.
- It’s okay to look forward to good times to come – It’s a mistake to wish your life away, thinking “When my kids are older, things will be easier and I’ll finally be happy.” This mentality causes you to miss out on all the good things you currently have in your life. However, it’s okay to look forward to the next stage on the horizon if you can do it while appreciating the here and now.
- Let someone see your dirty dishes – It’s okay to let someone else know that you’re struggling, even if it’s just inviting them in when they stop by, despite the fact that your sink is full of filthy dishes. It might help your friend to know that other people have hard days too.
- Time changes perspective – Don’t be too annoyed at that older mother who tells you she misses the late night croup-fests and tooth-brushing battles. Chances are that with time you’ll look back on your kids’ young childhood with an airbrushed, hallmark-channely filter too. She may actually miss those things… with the eye of nostalgia. It doesn’t mean she enjoyed them when they were happening.
I’m at a place of graduation in my mothering. My youngest started kindergarten this week.
I didn’t cry even though I love her so much it hurts. I actually kind of threw myself a party.
I can honestly say that I was an often mindful mother of young kids and I cherished enough of the tiny moments. But I didn’t cherish them all. Some were just plain rough. And as I drop my last kid off at school and walk past the mother holding hands with a toddler and a kindergartener and carrying a baby in a Bjorn, I think, I’m okay being done with that period of my life, and, I salute you!
We love Kathryn’s views on parenting – check out some of these other great posts that will have you feeling GREAT about your role as a mother: