Sunday, March 17, 2013

I Wish I Had Known

Thank you to my friend Matt for forwarding me this article on Lifehacker, 10 Things I Wish I had Known Before Becoming a Parent.  This is yet another mom-penned article outlining in detail all the things that are tough about parenthood, and ending with the requisite bitch and backpedal about how it's all worth it in the end.

The author of the article covers familiar ground:
  • Getting pregnant is not easy
  • The first few months after the kid are born are torture
  • You get no sleep for months
  • Your house gets overrun with baby crap
  • The expenses never stop
  • It's hard to maintain a career, and working at home is not an easy solution
  • You stress out a lot over whether the child is developing on schedule
  • Going out anywhere is a stress fest
  • For better or worse, you and your partner (and your relationship with each other) will never be the same
It always amazes when when parents say they wish they had known these things before they had kids.  I have never had a child and yet I am well aware of the downsides of parenting because:

  1. I have 2 eyes.  At least 70% of the people I know have kids and I can directly observe what their lives are like.  I see they are a shell of their former self.  I see their house is overrun with kiddie crap. I see they are having a hard time staying above water.  I see they are stressed over their kid's every move.  I see them spending $200 a month on diapers. I see the burden it is for them to go anywhere. I see their marriage deteriorating. I see how tired and stressed they are.  How can anyone observe people with kids and not know the truth of what parenting is like?
  2. I have never known a single parent who appeared to be more happy, fulfilled or better off in any way than I am - unless you count their tax breaks and stork parking (which I help myself to anyway).  In fact, many of them seem downright miserable.  And exhausted.  And stressed.  And broke.  And nobody can convince me that some kiddie kisses and "I love you mommy" are going to undo all of that.
  3. Given #1 and #2 above, why would I be surprised to learn that being a parent is hard, full of drugery, no sleep, exhausting, draining, life-sucking and all the rest?  Why do people so easily believe the fairytales about parenthood when their own eyes can tell them the real truth, if only they would open them?
The backpedal at the end of "it's all worth it" is just a way for the complaining mom to redeem herself because we all know it is taboo for a mom to be honest about the suckage that is motherhood. For a woman, to say that it sucks to have kids is the same thing as saying "I am an awful mom", but that can be erased by qualifying all of her complaints with, "it's all worth it" at the end.  Saying "it's all worth it" also has the added benefit of bestowing saintlike martyr qualities on the complaining mom, because god knows the saint/martyr label is one that moms love to wear with pride.  LOOK AT ALL I HAVE SACRIFICED FOR MY CHILDREN! 

(Of course, if she wants to avoid having to keep up the appearance of being a good mom and claiming "it's all worth it",  she can post her bitter complaints about motherhood anonymously on the internet, as many parents are doing these days).

If ending their venting sessions with "it's all worth it" makes it a little easier for moms to endure their lifelong prison sentence and to be honest about the downsides of childrearing, than I guess we can give them a pass - for now.  At least their increasing openness about the realities of parenthood is creating a counter-balance to the overwhelming and unrealistic pronatalist mythology that has a death grip on our culture.  My hope is that as more moms and dads write articles about the harsh realities of parenthood, fewer people will feel compelled to put their pens to paper to scribble out regretful "Things I Wish I had Known Before Becoming a Parent" lists, long after it's too late to turn back.  Instead, they will put to good use the shared experiences of parents and non-parents (and hopefully their own observations) to thoughtfully and intelligently weigh out the costs and benefits before making a monumental and life-altering leap.