It’s summertime, which means I am spending more time with my kids, which is sometimes awesome and sometimes awful, which pretty much sums up my entire parenting experience, which reminds me why parenting sucks.
Parenting sucks not (just) because of your baby’s poopy diapers or the shit that happens to your kid at school or the crap that comes out of your teenager’s mouth. And not (just) because of how exhausted you are when you’re changing those diapers, or how helpless you feel when you can’t step in and save your kid, or how furious you feel when that same baby turned child turned teenager screams “I hate you!” through a locked bedroom door as you scream back “Unlock this door right now, or I will take it off myself!”
Not (just) that.
Parenting sucks because it showcases all the choices you have made – not only for yourself, but for your children. It is an easy and cruel way to go step-by-step and painstakingly pick out all your mistakes. Note every time you veered left when you shoulda (coulda) veered right. A cruel way to reminisce and regret. (If you don’t have kids you can do this with your career or with your partner or your lack of a partner or your body or your health. There’s always something you can use to prove the ways in which you haven’t lived up to your potential.)
Parenting sucks because it yanks the rug out from under your feet and throws you up into the sky like Dorothy’s house – where it lands is anyone’s guess. It pays no mind to the careful selection you made of a partner to parent with, or the therapy you did to deal with your own childhood, or the hours upon hours you spent envisioning what your home life would look like, what your children would be like, and what you would be like as a parent. It is the ultimate in fantasy-busting, because whatever you imagined gets turned on its head. (It reminds me of my favorite book I never read: “I was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids” – because the title says it all. Kinda like “Blink”.)
Parenting sucks because you find yourself wanting things you never thought you would want, like staying at home with your kids, or reconnecting to your religion, or giving up on your dream of becoming a musician and picking a career path that is solid and stable and allows you to take care of your family. It sucks because you find yourself less concerned about figuring out your purpose and more concerned with making time to hang out with your family, because, get this – you like spending time with them. (I mean, look at them! They’re cute, they’re smart, they’re funny and they make you laugh so hard that it hurts. Who wouldn’t wanna hang out with them?)
Parenting sucks because you become unrecognizable to yourself. Controlling, petty, judgey, resentful, competitive, defensive, frustrated, nasty and critical (and those are just mine, feel free to come up with your own). Or maybe you were always that way, but at least before it was managed, repressed, tempered with enough I’ve-got-my-shit-together that you didn’t have it up IN YOUR FACE so that all the mechanisms you once used to avoid, deal and distract from it are no longer applicable (again, this is me, feel free to come up with your own). You also become empathetic, patient, tolerant, thoughtful, warm, loving, giving, generous, and fiercely protective.
Parenting sucks because it stretches your heart so wide and thin, that you can hardly breathe. Because it sends a surge of joy so deep, that you can feel the potential of anguish and sorrow standing by at the ready. Because it packs a heart and home so full, that you can sense the dread of the empty nest. Because it creates a vulnerability so raw and exposed, that you take on their pain as your own. Because it bestows upon you superhuman strength, while reaching new lows of humility.
This is why parenting sucks the most.
Because it is a pendulum swing of emotions that ravages your heart and roller coasters your world, with moments of joy and hours of anguish and yet, somehow, always leaves you wanting for more