Parenthood is hard. Maybe it’s an obvious statement to you or maybe its not, but whatever the case is - admitting this is totally normal. The other day I was complaining to my grandmother about the never-ending laundry in my household, to which she remarked “You know what, be grateful you have a machine to do it, back in your day I had to soak dirty clothes in the tub and then scrub one by one”. Cool grandma, I mean yea that’s worse, and yet it doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better. It does give me appreciation for living in modern day and age, but is it a competition?
On the surface, this comment seemed so innocent and lighthearted, but it is one of the reasons we are afraid to admit that parenthood is hard. There is always someone on the receiving end of that statement ready to pounce at you with “Yea that’s tough but at least be grateful that _________ (insert shaming comparative statement here).
In my pre-child life I worked in TV production. The hours were long, the commute was tough, the expectations were high, and the overtime was none. I remember working in a production office, often late into the night, alongside senior producers who were either pregnant or had small children at home. I distinctly remember the feeling of being so exhausted at the end of the day, physically and mentally, that I couldn’t even fathom going home to household responsibilities - laundry, dinner, dishes, children to bathe and put to sleep. “I am tired just thinking about this” I remember saying to my fellow child-less colleague. And that hour(plus) train ride into the city, on a sardine can packed subway car, while 7 months pregnant. Girl HOW? #NYCliving
Today I am a parent to a wonderful two year girl, my sweet Valentina Rose. There is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for this little bean. I am also incredibly fortunate to only have to work part time.
Being raised by a single mom, in a home where financial struggles were all too familiar, I understand the rarity and privilege of my situation, and feel incredibly grateful. I was pregnant during the pandemic, which also allowed me to not have to commute in an exhaustive, large, having-to-pee-every-five-minutes, state.
Spending your day with a toddler is definitely a multifaceted experience - navigating her different moods, assuring intake of proper nutrition, doctor appointments, playing, entertaining, reading, teaching... And yes, even though I don’t have to go wash her clothes in the river, the endlessness of it takes a toll.
I am certain there will be parents that may disagree with this statement and love spending full days with their toddlers, I imagine those people may be professional educators, sitters, nannies essentially people who make a choice to engage with children all day long. If you are more like me, I know you feel me.
And if you are like most parents with a full time job & commute - You are a literal hero in my eyes!
Even right now, as I am writing this I can’t shake this nagging sense of guilt. I can’t shake off my grandmother in my ear reminding me of stocking the fire for heat, getting water from a well, and peeling potatoes well into the night …. Okay maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.
For me, one of the most challenging aspects of parenting has been the feeling of pre-motherhood identity loss. I am only now starting to find my footing again. It’s like, before you are a parent you have all these goals, aspirations, professional achievements, social events, work shit - all these different things people want to talk to you about. Then suddenly you become a mom, and this is all you are to the world. Suddenly you have to fight to regain your independent identity. The person you were before motherhood. And society expects it and expects is fast! You have bounce back into pre-baby body, you have to make your child an absolute priority (rightfully so) but also start planning your return to work the minute that baby pops out of you. As a woman, you are fully expected to go through this INSANE COMPLETELY LIFE CHANGING THING Then GO BACK TO A CONTRIBUTING tax paying MEMBER OF SOCIETY IN 5 MINUTES! And don’t you dare bring any of your “mom” problems into the “real world” OH and also, don’t you DARE NEGLECT your child, for your professional life! Don’t you get it - you have to do it all and be it all! Or you have failed.
Parenting is tough. It takes a toll on you - mentally, physically, emotionally. This doesn’t even need to be said in a “complaining” type of way, its just acknowledgement of real feelings. Feelings that develop quietly and become our own enemies. Make us resentful towards ourselves. Or worse, towards our children and spouses. But that’s all they are, feelings. Normal, natural, human emotions in response to an entirely shifting paradigm of reality.
Contemplating these thoughts in my own mind and speaking to parents around me, I began to notice a trend. There are a LOT of parenthood related things that we do not discuss publicly. Encompassing everything from the choice to have or not have kids, external pressures of these decisions, issues with fertility and conceiving, difficult pregnancies, miscarriages, challenging deliveries, pre-mature births, postpartum depression, developmental challenges. So on and so forth. These conversations are hardly conducted in public, and in the rare instances they are - it’s on the hush hush, between closest of friends, usually over a glass of wine… or several.
Truth is - WE DON'T WANT TO ADMIT OUR PARENTAL STRUGGLES! Women and men all around the world are doing this all day everyday right? So how are we any different? We must be weak. That’s the only legitimate conclusion. And who wants to talk about their weakness? What if people know I am secretly struggling behind my esthetically beautiful instagram posts of the nursery? What if people find out that after I took that adorable Paris filtered shot of my toddler, I cried in the bathroom about how I miss just reading a book sometimes?
I say enough. WE SHOULD TALK MORE!
And it’s not even so much about the “end goal” of these conversations, it’s about the journey. The time. The space. The ability for parents to simply open up, without judgment, about their personal stuff - big or small, to acknowledge this in each other, and know it’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay.
I’m Lex - Welcome to the WSTM Podcast.