This week I encountered two situations in which it was implied that I am a horrible person if I do not adore every loud, raucous moment with my children.
In one scenario, mothers who work outside of the home wrote on a message board that stay at home moms who complain about anything related to their children should not have had kids at all. The assumption was that stay at home moms have such luxurious, stress-free lives that any of them who could claim they were worn out, or tired of the screaming going on 16 hours a day, were too selfish to have procreated in the first place. The attitude was, “If you’re going to complain about your life, you shouldn’t have chosen to stay home with your kids.”
The second occurrence was more personal. I received a comment on my last blog post which made it clear the commenter thought I found my children’s lives trivial since I dared try to joke about an evening that was so full of mishaps I had to laugh or I might have cried. Her words stung – she implied I would rather spend time on Pinterest than go to my son’s baseball game. I think most people can read the humor and intent into my post, but for those who also misinterpreted my words, let me clarify for you – I want to be at my son’s games. I love him and am proud of him and wish I could cheer every single move he makes. My blog post was about being unable to cheer every move because I was busy chasing other children. It’s about the difficulties I had one night because my younger children didn’t listen to my pleas that they stay in my sight. I was at the game, but my poor Miles would barely have known it. I was too busy locating and disciplining runaway kids. That does not mean I hate going to baseball games, or that I’m going to stop going to baseball games. It means baseball games, when I’m the only parent keeping track of my four, are stressful.
Moms of any variety work hard, and I’m not going to get into who has it harder, because it’s not a contest. This isn’t about The Mommy Wars. But while it’s acceptable for moms who work outside of the home to complain about the stresses of their office jobs, or the difficulties in parenting while working those jobs, it is apparently completely abhorrent for a stay at home mom (ahem, work at home mom) to utter a single negative word about the stresses of entertaining, feeding, protecting and cleaning up after children all day, every day.
I love my children, but there is nothing easy about this gig. Just because most of the time I enjoy spending time with them and feel fortunate to be able to do so as much as I do, it doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to need breaks, or that I don’t have bad days, or that certain moments make me want to scream in frustration, like any other person in the working world.
When I raise my voice to tell a story about how my energetic toddler ran through the home improvement store and I couldn’t get my shopping done, it’s like the waitress complaining to her friends that a kid ran circles around her tables during her lunch shift and she had a hard time getting to her customers. When I write about feeling exasperated when the kids turn up their noses at the dinner I spent an hour making, it’s like the communications coordinator saying she wanted to cry when she was told to go back to the drawing board after her boss dissed the copy in her newsletter article. When I whine that I had to pick up 723 pieces of toy food for the sixth time in two hours while also doing laundry and trying to help another kid with homework, it’s like the nurse who tells her husband at night about the patient who clicked the call button 723 times while she was trying to help other patients at the same time. My children are precious to me, but it doesn’t mean their behavior is precious 100% of the time. I don’t adore my children any less just because I sometimes need to be alone, or want to get out of the house with people who aren’t going to wipe their snot on my pants. If there are women out there who think it’s fun to clean up after poop accidents, or enjoy it when their young children dash off in crowded places, or are happy to scrape congealed cereal off of hardwood floors for the ninth day in a row, I might suspect they are taking illegal levels of mood-altering drugs.
I love my children. They are, hands down, the most important people in my life, and my work as their mother is the most important work I will ever do. Being a mother rewards me in ways no other job beforehand did – the kids draw me pictures with hearts and families holding hands and fantastical creatures and guns (that’s the boys for you), they tell me I’m the best cooker ever when I make meals they like, and I get an ample amount of hugs and kisses each day. No one ever hugged me when I worked at Express in the mall, I can tell you that.
I get to watch my kids grow, miraculously, day after day and year after year, into incredible people with their own separate personalities and dreams and strengths. Mundane things that adults no longer find magical become amazing again when I get to see them through the eyes of my children – like puddles and daddy long legs and puppets. But I also have challenges unlike any other I found in jobs that earned paychecks. And I sometimes need to complain about those challenges so that someone can tell me everything will be okay, or laugh with me at the absurdity of it all, or just to say, “Girl, I’ve been there, sorry you had a bad day.”
This post was written to participate in Just Write, a free writing exercise put on my The Extraordinary Ordinary.