Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t hate my kids.
In fact, some of the time, I downright love the little jerks! They’re fun in very specific, individual ways, which is delightful, and they’re annoying in mostly general, every-kid-is-like-that ways, which is forgivable.
But I do hate parenting, at least some of the time. It’s a tough gig. And referring to it as a “gig” is part of the problem. Because parenthood is not a job. And treating it like one – like a chore to begrudgingly complete – is bad for everyone.
You’ve had jobs. You know that they’re like, even the best ones. You have a boss, you have responsibilities, you have a schedule.
All of those things apply to being a parent too, albeit to different degrees.
As a parent, your bosses are tiny and stupid and need to be protected from themselves (ok, depending on your job this might not be that different.) Your responsibilities are unpredictable and gross and someone else’s health/future/entire life depends on you getting them done, and done right. And your schedule is erratic, exhausting, and 24/7/365. For the rest of your life.
Those similarities are the reason I frequently refer to parenting as a gig, or a job. But raising kids is both more important and more fulfilling than most jobs – not to mention more difficult! – while simultaneously being more boring and, in many ways, less rewarding.
A job comes with money. And healthcare. And overtime, if you’re lucky. And vacation! Those are all tangible benefits, and not a single one is part of raising kids. Parents don’t get paid, we don’t get time-off, we don’t get our visits to the doctor subsidized. In fact, raising kids costs money, steals all your free time, and forces exponentially more trips to the doctor. Which isn’t to say there aren’t perks. (You know what they are, don’t make me list them. That’s so boring.)
(Then there’s the other side of the not-a-job thing, which is that because it’s not a job, because it’s a choice that not everyone makes, because you don’t get paid, people who “only” parent don’t get as much respect. Stay-at-home moms don’t get their due, and stay-at-home dads get mocked. Not only do parents work as hard as employees (and many people who have jobs and have kids, or parent on their own, with or without jobs, have it even harder), they don’t get any of those job-based perks.)
But, like your job, parenting is hard work, and a pain in the ass, and it’s something you have to do everyday, even when you don’t feel like it. Unlike your job, if you win the lottery you still have to deal with your kids. Less often, maybe, but you can’t just stop going into the office. You live with them!
For most of us, when it comes down to it, it’s a choice. We’re forced to work, no one forces us to have children (except maybe ‘society’). And that’s part of the reason I get flack for whining about my kids, regardless of the fact that I’m usually joking. I should be grateful, children are a blessing! And I should shut up and stop complaining, because I chose this life! And they’re right, at least about the second thing. I did choose it, and sometimes I should shut up.
Not because some anonymous jerk on Twitter told me to, but because treating my role as a dad like a shitty job probably isn’t doing me, or my kids, any favors.
As I’ve gotten old(er), I’ve realized that a lot of life comes down to perspective and outlook. Like I tell my 7-year-old, you can’t always change what’s happening to you, you can only change how you react to it. If I truly believe that, and I do, then by constantly reacting to the drudgery of parenting with frustrated sighs, sarcastic complaints, and irritated eye-rolls, I’m probably infecting my entire approach! They say faking a smile often begets a real smile, so it stands to reason that pretending I don’t hate parenting so much might actually help me stop hating parenting so much!
Unfortunately, being positive and optimistic isn’t really my forte. It’s also a lot less funny. Especially when one of my positive things is drawing on the wall and the other one refuses to eat the pizza he specifically asked for twenty minutes ago and I’m supposed to roll with that shit and not make snarky jokes about it.
Parenting may not be a job, but I definitely need a promotion.