I feel like moms do a big disservice to one another by not being honest about what being a mom (or a parent in general) is really like. I mean, maybe there really are people whose kids never lie down in the middle of the aisle at Target because you won’t buy them an adult-sized pair of New York Yankees flip-flops. And maybe there really are people who never lose their patience when being asked the same exact question for the 45th time in a row, despite having answered the question, without losing their patience, 44 times prior.
Only, you know what? I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that those people exist. They’re just lying. And for what reason, I do not know. I think everyone would feel a lot better if we were just all honest and admitted that some days we’d like to run away from home and never return, rather than listen to the whining for ONE. MORE. SECOND.
Back before I had any kids, I would hear people talk like this about their children, and I’ll be honest—I thought they were horrible people. How can you say these things about these sweet, chubby-faced little angels? It just seemed so harsh. Until I got there myself.
Before we had kids, the only thought I gave to parenting was whether or not I’d be able to survive the newborn phase. I don’t do well without sleep. And I need a lot of it. Eight hours of sleep a night is the bare minimum that I can survive on. With fewer than eight consecutive hours of sleep in a given night, I turn into a horrible, mean, irrational, monster of a human being. So the thought of going days (weeks? MONTHS?) without sleep was just about more than I could fathom. I worried about it. I stressed about it. I spent all my pre-parent time worrying about something that (a) is a fact of life with a newborn, (b) was basically completely outside of my control and (c) is, as it turns out, a passing phase.
Don’t get me wrong. Going without sleep was as awful as I’d imagined it would be. I was miserable. I felt like I was drunk from lack of sleep—but not in a good way. In the way where you leave the house wearing your slippers instead of real shoes. The kind of tired where you cry spontaneously because you are really, truly convinced that you’ll never feel rested again as long as you live.
But it didn’t last forever. And before long (even though it felt like an eternity when I was going through it), I was able to sleep a reasonable amount again (although it is amazing what a “reasonable” amount of sleep means after you have a baby), and I went back to feeling like a normal, functioning human.
And it turns out, while I was busy worrying about not sleeping, I had failed to consider what the rest of parenting would be like. I guess in my head I just thought that we had to survive the sleeplessness of newborn-hood, then we’d get a toddler who would throw a fit or two. We’d teach them right from wrong and good from bad, and BAM! they’d get a job, move out and buy us a vacation home on Maui.
Um, SPOILER ALERT: This is not at all how it works.
Terrible twos? That’s nothing compared to age 3. So you assume age 4 has to be better. Right? Right? (You have to because if you didn’t assume it was going to get better, you’d hurl yourself off a cliff.) Um, no. It does not have to be better. In fact, it can be worse. And then they turn 5, and they get sent to the principal’s office on the fourth day of kindergarten.
And the scary part is that my husband and I are really, legitimately trying our hardest. We don’t let these tiny tyrants get away with anything. They get sent to timeout starting at 18-months. There are consequences for poor behavior. We model good behavior. (I mean, neither of us is in jail, so that has to count as modeling good behavior, right?) We teach them right from wrong and good from bad. The problem is: They do not care.
They’re tiny and irrational and flat-out crazy. I’m beginning to think that they either will or will not turn out to be decent human beings who either do or do not murder other people for sport. Only, I don’t think my husband and I get a say in it. At this point it seems like nothing my husband and I do is making a bit of difference one way or the other.
Those of you without kids (and maybe some of you with kids) are probably judging me like crazy right now. That’s fine. Maybe your kids will never squawk at you like a wild animal instead of telling you what they’d like for breakfast. Maybe they won’t insist on speaking only in gibberish despite having full command of the English language. Maybe you’ll be lucky. And if that’s the case, go ahead. Judge away. (Although I won’t believe that you’re not lying through your teeth when you do it.)
But in case you’re not so lucky, I felt like I should share some of my truth with you.
Also, please take this advice: Despite being tired, enjoy the newborn phase (as much as you can when you feel like your eyeballs are going to fall out of your head if you have to keep them open for another second). It goes by so quickly. It really does. And once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. And, while it might not seem like it at the time, you will miss it. (You can all please remind me of this when baby No. 4 gets here, and I’m totally brain dead from lack of sleep.)