Parenting is hard.
Everyone knows this. Parents know, the child-free know, even kids know. They don’t care, but they know.
Caring for and raising and protecting and molding and teaching another human being, from scratch, is mentally taxing, physically exhausting, expensive, boring, and stressful. Even if you think it’s the greatest thing in the world, you can’t deny how challenging it is.
So why do we lie about it?
If you read this blog, you know that I don’t sit around gushing about parenthood. In fact, I do the opposite. I complain about it nonstop. I exaggerate how much I hate it, and I downplay the things I love about it; I don’t pretend it’s easy and I don’t pretend it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. My kids are the best things that have ever happened to me, but being a parent is not. If I could afford a nanny and cut down the amount of time I spend dealing with the worst parts, you’d better believe I’d have one!
I don’t see the value in platitudes or blanket statements about how great it all is, how every moment should be treasured, and how it’s all so worth it. And I don’t understand the impulse to say those kinds of things to non-parents.
Is it to convince them to have children, because the experience is so amazing they want to share it? Is it because parenting tends to isolate you and drafting others into the ranks serves as a bulwark against loneliness? (Personally, I like having people in my life who don’t have kids.) Or is it simply because misery loves company?
I honestly don’t know, but I do know that dishonesty about this gig serves no one.
I once got the following comment on my Instagram page:
“What is the purpose of your page? Is it to scare people off or is it supposed to be some kind of joke? Because if it’s supposed to lift mother’s spirit [sic], or women’s spirit [sic] in general, it’s absolutely not working for me, This page only makes me more and more sure I want to remain childfree for life.”
Of course it does! You already want to be child-free! But I don’t care if you have children, and I’m not here to lift anyone’s spirits. I’m merely writing my truth – heightened though it often is – and venting about the hard shit to keep myself sane. Some people don’t get it, which is fine, but others appreciate that I “keep it real,” and maybe it some parents feel better about their own struggles.
Acting like parenting is always amazing only makes those who don’t love every minute feel like they’re doing something wrong. But they’re not.
The purpose of my Instagram or my blog or my new podcast (SUBSCRIBE!) is certainly not to scare anyone away from having kids. (As I’ve said before, if a sarcastic blog post about why parenting sucks is the reason you opt out, it was probably not for you to begin with.) But neither do I care to pretend that it’s all sunshine and lollipops. That serves nobody, least of all me! I couldn’t paint a rosy picture if I tried. Besides, parents already know the truth, determinedly child-free people suspect the truth, and anyone planning to have kids deserves to know what they’re getting into.
I suspect that part of the reason people pretend parenting is great, grand, wonderful is that they’re trying to convince themselves of it, and maybe they’re trying not to be a downer. It’s the same way you respond “Good, you?” when someone asks how you’re doing. Some things are too complicated to get into, lying is just easier. And no one wants to listen to someone drone on about their kids in the best circumstances; they definitely don’t want to listen to you complain. Especially if it makes them question their own choices. (This is why I don’t have many friends.)
I can’t tell you if parenting is worth it because that’s up to you, but I can tell you that it’s difficult, occasionally degrading, often demoralizing, sometimes even depressing. But that’s okay. Because occasionally, it actually is great, grand, wonderful and more. Occasionally it actually is the best thing that’s ever happened to you. The pits are more plentiful than the peaks, but the highs are higher than the lows are low.
No, parenting isn’t all terrible, but there’s a lot of terrible. And you best be prepared for it or you’re going to be in for a rude awakening.