Hindsight Parenting: Dispelling the Myth of the Perfect Parent
Recently I had an essay published on mamalode.com and the response was a writer’s dream. My story was shared and discussed and appreciated. The most touching responses came from about two dozen or so mothers who private messaged me a thanks for telling the truth about motherhood…that sometimes it isn’t all rainbows and tulle tutus. And while these parents found refuge and comfort in my story, I also took repose in the fact that I wasn’t alone as a parent who has experienced hard times with her children.
Quite often in this Facebook-Instagram-Twitter universe, parents can believe that the lives of others are so much more wonderful than the lives that their families may lead. I am truly guilty of this. If you looked upon my Facebook or Instagram page for the first time, you’d see an idyllic daughter experiencing life in ways that make fantastic photo ops. I’ve even heard whispers coming out of that small town gossip mill that I speak of often that I post WAY too many pictures of my daughter being…well…spectacular. I will cop to that. I do. I certainly do because I DO think that she is spectacular and magical, but like all other families there are moments that aren’t lollipops and lullabies and I guess I should cop to that as well.
So in the spirit of full disclosure, it’s time to dispel the myth once and for all that being a parent is always and forever fulfilling and transcendent. Nope. Not in my house…
In my house you might find a woman who feels like she’s trapped in a hole shaped like a three bedroom ranch. This woman, this mother just might be a tad bit nutty because she’s only been out on a date with just her husband (sans kids) once or twice in the last two years. You may find that her weekends have been reduced to hoping that there will be a new Sofia the First on Disney Junior Friday nights and a grocery shopping trip on Saturday that “gets her out of the house.” This mama…who am I kidding…I may go to bed feeling a bit suffocated by the amount of times I’ve heard the word “princess” and the amount of times I had to sing The Little Mermaid’s “Part of That World”. I may, if forced, even admit that I tear up and commiserate while listening to Belle sing “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can say. And for once it might be grand…to have someone understand…I want so much more than they’ve got planned.” There are moments that I find that my world has shrunk so much that all conversations revolve around preschooly things. And then of course there was the time that I sobbed for two hours in bed after discussing the virtues of a cartoon character with my 20 year old son and he responded, “Mom, you do realize that he’s just a cartoon character? Parenthood is weird.” Why sob? In that moment, and many other moments, I felt that my entire existence–Logan Fisher–had evolved into a mom. Just mom. Only mom, and sometimes I want to be so much more.
In my house, you just might find that there is always an open bottle of prosecco at the ready. You would see this mom making dill chicken and rice for the millionth time while white-knuckling that wine glass. You may even feel the incredible palpable tension that emanates from the full on Oscar-the-grouch mood that comes on for no other reason than a repeating phrase in my head that says “there’s GOT to be more than THIS!”
Perhaps, just perhaps, in my house I may get so sick of playing with that blasted Little People castle that I accidentally-on-purpose begin to act out a certain scenario with the purple and pink princess that I know my daughter doesn’t like. And let’s just say this mom acts out this scenario hoping against all hope that my preschooler may hypothetically throw a fit in a way that allows me to say, “Oh! I don’t like the way you are speaking, and so, I am just not going to be able to play with you,” I may even then saunter down the hall out of sight of the incensed daughter pumping my fist for the small victory of shortening playtime just a little for one day out of seven.
And while we are on the horrific and nonstop GOD AWFUL pretending-topic that parents have to do ad nauseum, in my house, you just might find that the dishwasher full of bath toys just HAPPENS to be turned on at the same time as bath time so that I can go just one day without having to play “Mermaid hide and seek” and speak in that annoying falsetto voice. Mama may even feign a sore throat so that she doesn’t have to sing Rubber Duckie because honest to goodness he is NOT “my very best friend. It’s true!” In fact, there are some days that Rubber Duckie is my “very worst enemy. It’s true.”
Although Hindsight has taught me that yelling at your children just leads to yelling children, and fit-throwing mamas lead to fit-throwing children; there are moments if you were in my house where my skin and patience is as thin as aged paper and I just don’t have the wherewithal to be politically and mama-ally correct. If you peered through my windows, you may even see a mother who, after trying to get her daughter to take cough medicine for a half hour, left her four year old in bed crying and covered with sticky blue raspberry liquid that missed her protesting mouth more than once, twice, ok ten times. And while the four year old sobbed in her bed that “the sticky needed to be wiped off” you just might find that the mom was in her own bedroom with two pillows over her head and her face down in another pillow in order to stifle her screeches and screaming fit. She may just be stiff with rage and spew phrases like “You’ll take the medicine because I SAY SO.” These phrases may even be laced with profanity—perhaps—ok—for sure.
And while I am one who incessantly lauds how my daughter’s movement disorder has made me a better human, had you been with me at a certain birthday party, you would have found me in a stall of the ladies room texting furiously a trusted friend so that I didn’t blow a gasket on an human ignoramus who, in front of 15 other mamas, announced how her heart just breaks for my poor daughter. You would have found me digging my nails into my thigh in order to resist the urge to say incredibly hurtful and equally ignorant things like “Hmmmm…my daughter gets better and better because of her work ethic. How’s the work coming on your stupidity?” Or “Oh but as you probably have found out the hard way, inner beauty and grace just get you so much farther in life.” (Ok…I know. I know. But I didn’t SAY it…just thought it. All right, I might have let those words slip had I not barricaded myself in the bathroom stall and spoke to a much more level headed mama who understood me and what it’s like to experience some of the stupidity that we mamas have to put up with every now and then. Thanks by the way dear friend. Thanks a bunch.)
And I guess that’s the point isn’t it. We mamas (and dadas) don’t have it perfect. Find me a parent that is incandescently blissful every moment of the day and I will guarantee you that said parent has an imaginary child. Parenting isn’t fun. It just isn’t. There’s all the playing and the fake smiling, the baked goods and the being reasonable and good-LAWD all of that being a role model stuff when all you really just want to do sometimes is stomp and stamp and pound your fists and whine “What about MEEEEEEEEEEE!”
The thing is we have all been there so why don’t we just take a chance and admit it. Being real about parenthood both the good and the bad can only be a positive thing because there is nothing better than finding yourself in someone else’s experiences, especially when it is someone that you respect and admire. It takes strength, but I know we can do it. We can admit the nasty mama moments, even if it you get so desperate you every once in awhile break down and act out the above scenario. (Not that I have ever done that…purely hypothetical you understand…)
Before sending this column off to my editor, my husband read it as he always does.
His reaction: “Um…do you really want people to know that this is how you feel about motherhood sometimes?”
My response: “Yes. Yes I do. The key word here, Jeff is ‘sometimes’. It’s not like I always feel that way. But admittance IS the whole point of the column after all.”
Him: Shrug. Sigh.
Me: “What? You don’t like the topic?”
Him: “It’s good writing. But…I don’t know…you don’t mention at all anything that you DO like. Shouldn’t you write about what’s good?”
Me: “I rest my case.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (cc) Misty Smith]