“If you had to do it over again, would you?”
This question was raised to me recently at a girl’s night in, a ritual that I have cherished since I was a teenager. Girls getting together does something for my soul. It renews my spirit in the collective, and refreshes my mind. It’s like going to the spa for my entire being.
So when I was asked this question, a late night filled with trash talking, advice, sailor cursing, and praying, I paused, because I wanted to give a true answer. An answer that didn’t trivialize the work that parents do, or the frustration we sometimes feel at the lack of understanding of the task at hand of raising whole beings, yet spoke to the reward we parents feel without glossing these truths over or sounding overly mushy.
So, for all those with children, and for those who have yet to have children, these are my thoughts from a mother with young children.
Let me first say, Parenting is hard. Really, really hard.
When I first brought my first born home from the hospital, there was a feeling of anxiety. I read tons of books, looked at countless videos, signed up for several classes on baby care, caring for newborns, what to do the first year. But none of those books prepared me for trying to get a baby to sleep when he’s colicky and the gripe water doesn’t work, nor does rocking, or swaddling, or singing, or moving feet.
Everyone jokes about sleepless nights. I remember countless times friends with kids said, “Get your rest now, because when the baby comes you aren’t going to get any! lol” This was a direct quote. It’s not a joke. It’s not even really funny, and lack of sleep can have major consequences on a parent. Even getting sleep before the baby arrives won’t do anything for the lack of sleep once a baby is here. Sleep is not on reserve. You can’t go back and get the sleep you had before the baby and insert it in present day, life doesn’t work like that.
No one talks about the time it really takes to breastfeed. Everyone totes the good qualities of breastfeeding, how it helps babies, how it’s the “best source” early on. If you breastfeed exclusively, no one talks about how you and baby are essentially attached to each other for the first two months of life. By attached, I mean if your baby is hungry and you are about to use the bathroom, you sometimes have to take your child to the bathroom with you and feed and pee. Yes, that happens. Or if you are at the grocery store and your child gets hungry, how you sometimes are shamed for feeding your child. I once went to a baby shower (a baby shower nonetheless!) and had to feed my child. I was told, “The bathroom is over there.” Yup that happened too.
No one talks about not being able to take a shower early on. Days would sometimes flow together because of the daily cycle of feeding, eating, sleeping and changing. I had both of my children in the winter months, some of the shortest days of the year. The day would be over before it started. 5pm would come as if it were 11a and the drive to take a shower at 9p would be nonexistent. One day would turn into two, two would turn into three. Everyone just jokes about it, and makes it seem like it doesn’t really happen, or if it does, it’s THAT one person, not the collective. but it’s the collective, trust me.
What we do talk about are the feelings we get holding our baby even though they are crying. The simultaneous feeling of unconditional love and frustration, are feelings I have felt as a parent. The instant my children are silly, smile, hug, or have shown that they have learned something from what I or their father has taught them, fills my heart with immeasurable joy. Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, and all other social media tools show these moments daily. This is why the collective community love these posts so much. They restore our love of children and the unknown possibilities of these little lives.
What we need to talk about are the times where we secretly love that our baby needs us so much that we have to feed them in public. Or when we pee. Or when we are late to the meeting, work, playdate, party, or whatever we go to because we had to make sure our children ate, or had their nap before we leave, or had a bath, or did their hair. It’s uncomfortable, and it takes extra time, and it makes us look bad, and it gives us a bad name, but secretly I would rather spend time with my children than go to said event, meeting, or job.
To me, children are the best and worst version of ourselves. At times when we are at our best, we can see the same flashes of this in our children, at times when we are at our worst, our children can amplify this feeling to infinity. In my opinion, if you want to see who you really are, have children. They will give you all of your emotions unfiltered. Learning to mold and shape my children to be genuine, honest and respectable beings, has been my greatest life lesson so far.
So if I had to do it over again, would I? I would in a heartbeat.