August 04, 2004

The Wondeful World of Parenting

After Abortion linked to several discussions, both pro -choice and pro-life on abortion, Amy Richards and that "I had an Abortion" t-shirt. . One particular poster, Amanda of Mouse Words, caught my eye; not in terms of abortion but in terms of the recent spate of articles on pregnant moms. Amanda states:

The question this article tries to answer is, "Why is there a recent onslaught of pregnant women all over the gossip rags?" The answer seems clear to me--we're in the midst of a media backlash against women, and just as celebrities are used to make the rest of us feel not attractive enough, not rich enough, and not talented enough, they are now being used to make women feel not pregnant enough. It's the logical extension of the nauseating Super Mommy interviews with celebrity moms that Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels mock mercilessly in The Mommy Myth. You know the articles. They're the ones where the talented and beautiful actress cradles her perfect baby and claims that nothing in the world is more wonderful than motherhood, that it's pure ectasy all the time. Lesson: if you don't want to be a mommy more than anything in the world and/or if you don't love every minute of it, then you are doing something wrong.

Mothering, as almost anyone will tell you, is hard work. It is the hardest job you’ll ever love, as the saying goes.

It is also the hardest job you’ll ever hate. Ask any mom and demand the truth. Mothering is hard work, and takes a lot out of a person. There are days, there are weeks, where nothing goes right. Meltdowns, temper-tantrums, sicknesses, misbehaviour, disrespect come with the territory; these do not breed feelings of love and harmony, but frustration, anger, dislike, guilt and embarrassment.

Several years ago there was a right-to-life commercial on television which featured, through a hazy lens, a mom-to-be, surrounded by five or six preternaturally happy children.

Dan didn't hit Greg and Patricia didn't try to usurp Alex’s position near mom. Everyone had well combed hair, and clean clothes.No one was crying. No one was demanding mom get them this, or where was that. Everyone had on his or her socks and shoes. No child was picking their nose, no had an accident, no one was trying to take someone else’s toy away, no one even had dirty knees!

Of course it was only a commercial; but the unfortunate implication of the commercial was; this is how it is.

And it isn’t. Life with kids is a constant struggle. It is hard. It takes time, energy, money and patience. There are days parents will think; “Why did I do this? “ or: “I am going to strangle that child or: “I can’t do this anymore.” And picture, in their minds eye, running away to a childless place.

But most parents stay. They pick the screaming child off the floor and wash off the child’s face, or put the child to bed, or insist they give Gwen back the toy, or whatever. They clean up the mess and go on. But that anger is there. Anger, resentment, bitterness. These are normal feelings, and all part of parenting. Having them, feeling them about one's children is not a sign of poor parenting . Frankly, if some parent claims to be happy all the time with their kids then either they are 1) lying 2)on something or 3)alien, or 4)someone else is taking care of all the grunt work.

Of course there is also love, joy and pride. The screaming child quiets down and says "“I love you from the bottom of the floor all the way to the moon!” or gives you a piece of their pretzel- a piece you can actually see! Or draws a picture, just for you. Or gives you a long smoochy kiss, or a big hug. Or tells you that when they grow up they are going to still live with you, don’t worry. They work and work and accomplish something; a new milestone in their life.

Sometimes it is just the way they lift their head, or how their eyes dance on seeing a butterfly, or the look of their faces when they sleep; quiet and sweet. Inside you something pops, something spreads through you; a joy of love for having the fortune to be parent to this child.

At least, that is this mom's feelings.


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