We’ve recently had some proper catch-ups with dear friends, the kind of lengthy, intimate conversations that get to the real substance of what’s going on in all our lives. It’s been lovely, but it’s also left us questioning some of the weird stuff we’ve caught ourself saying. We’ve insisted to childless friends that, when they have kids, they’ll *definitely* want to work full-time. We’ve said (repeatedly) that all second children must be accidents. We’ve compared caring for the Little Lady to being Britney Spears’ conservator.
In fairness to ourself, we were kidding. But still, these statements haunt us. They’re not true. They’re not entirely false. But why tread in such deep hyperbolic waters? We love our child and (like all parents) are convinced she’s a beautiful genius destined for greatness. The Hus-b and I daily raise our eyebrows at one another when the Little Lady does or says something miraculous, the unspoken meaning always the same: She will be smarter than us by fifth grade. And every single night after she’s gone to bed, we shuffle through the thousands of pictures on our iPhone just to marvel at the gorgeous child we’ve created.
But we don’t tell people this. We tell them about how scared we are that the Little Lady will run into traffic, how exhausting the flood of “no!”‘s can be, and that our nanny is an angel sent from heaven to preserve our sanity. These things are true, but they’re only a small (and rather negative) part of an otherwise happy story. What, then, is keeping us talking about the downside of motherhood?
Sometimes it depends when you’ve caught us because life with a toddler can change FAST. We are a puddle when the Little Lady brightly exclaims “Mama!” from her crib each morning, but half an hour later we’re scraping pancakes off the hardwood, imploring her not to touch her hair with syrup-covered hands, and quietly counting the seconds until naptime. We are alternately in states of wonder and exasperation. (And did we mention she’s a toddler?)
To friends who don’t yet have children, we also feel compelled to impart just how difficult parenthood can be. We were prepared for late-night feedings and occasionally getting barfed on, but no one warned us about how draining it would feel to be wholly responsible for another human being every second of every day forever. (Or that banana poops are the WORST.) Mind you, no one is asking us to perform this public service, and frankly, it’s probably pretty annoying to hear us complain about how hard life is with our normal, healthy child.
We also feel influenced by the polarity of contemporary mommy rhetoric. There are the Pollyanna’s who wax poetic about every diaper (Hi, Beyonce!) and the wine-swilling cranks who rue the day their children were conceived, none of which really resonate with our experience. Has it become impossible to tell it like it is about motherhood without hiding the love in your eyes? Does candor always have to equal snark, or is it enough for it to be true?
So here we are today telling the God’s honest without irony or embellishment: we are utterly devoted to our beautiful, brilliant, magical child, but she tests the boundaries of our patience every day. We’re not sorry for being candid, but we regret that our attempts at humor rung so false. We will always refuse to sugarcoat the experience of motherhood as part of some gender-wide conspiracy, but that doesn’t mean we have to spout horror stories, roll our eyes and demand more mommy juice, either. It’s more difficult to tell the nuanced story, and it might not make for as clever a punchline, but it’s certainly the party line we plan to toe from now on.