I say this all the time. Especially when I’m writing anything less than a glowing review of motherhood and my children. It’s a phrase that all moms and parents utter from time to time if they feel their complaints are too scathing, too cold-blooded, too un-nurturing. It’s the universal disclaimer, the parental version of “with all due respect”…
I love my kids, BUT…..
Why is this something that I feel compelled to say? Why is it that I can’t simply bitch and moan about my kids from time to time without feeling this guilt, this societal pressure, that I must at all times, love and adore my kids and worship the greatest gift that’s ever been given to me?
Why is that saying “The kids were such ASSHOLES today!” somehow calls into question the unconditional, suffocating love that I possess for my children? I unequivocally love my children. Period. End of statement. But do I like them at every moment? No. Do I like them every day? Eh, it depends on the day. To be fair, would you like a person that you’re constantly dodging right hooks from? Or like a person that dumps out an entire box of dry pasta onto the floor for no good reason other than they felt like asserting their dominance? Would you always be hashtag “blessed” if you’re having to listen to deafening whines while on your hands and knees looking for a microscopic LEGO piece that is crucial to the construction of the Police Mobile Command Center?
The answer is no. If you say anything other than that you are a big fat liar. You wouldn’t like it. You wouldn’t be happy about it. And you certainly wouldn’t be shooting rainbows out of your butt cheeks because you are so overwhelmed with love and sunshine and all things good and amazing about motherhood.
If I turned the number of times I wrote “I love my kids, but” on my blog onto a drinking game I would need my stomach pumped after the first few entries. I’ve begun to notice other mom bloggers doing it too. I’ve picked up on my friends doing it when they’re venting about the trials and tribulations of raising small children. Do I ever think that my friends don’t love their children? Or that those bloggers are heartless women that should have never been able to procreate? Never. Of course they love their kids. Of course I love my kids. To propose anything to the contrary is absolutely insane.
So why do we feel that we have to insert that disclaimer? It’s absolutely the mom guilt rearing it’s ugly head. Or could it also be something bigger? I am not a deep enough person to get deep here, but I do think there’s some sort of idea out in society that motherhood is supposed to be the best thing that ever happened to you and you are taking a massive dump all over that precious gift if you dare bemoan the less glamorous aspects of it.
I remember feeling it for the first time right after I had AJR. I was using a sitz bath on the regular, nursing every 2-3 hours, burning through tubes of lanolin daily, and dealing with being home alone with a newborn for 8-10 hours a day. People would ask questions along the lines of “Aren’t you so in love? Isn’t being a mom the best?” Thankfully most of these questions came via text so I could lie my way through it. I used the whipped out the old mom disclaimer for the first time to express how I truly felt: “Oh yes! So in love. But man, am I tired!” I remember a mom who had a baby two weeks before me and she told me she couldn’t wait to do it all over again. Like for real? That’s great she felt that way, truly, but I couldn’t be on the more opposite end of things and AJR was a relatively easy baby! Was something wrong with me? I was beyond ecstatic and grateful for my healthy baby boy, but do this again? So soon? I felt like less of a mom because I wasn’t smiling through cracked nipples and utter exhaustion. Now, four and a half years later and somewhat wiser, I realize that we are each entitled to feel how we feel and it doesn’t make one of us a better mother than the other. Newborns are wonderful, snuggly little creatures but they also SUCK. No, literally, they suck. They’re like swaddled, cherubic parasites that take and take from you until you have nothing left. Then they do something adorable, your heart explodes, you take a picture and you’re good to go again.
Motherhood is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I’d venture to say my husband is up there too. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes we don’t annoy the shit out of each other. Does that mean I take my marriage for granted? No. And if I happened to vent about a ridiculous marital tiff without saying “I love my husband, but…” no one would ever think I’m anything less than grateful to be married to him.
I don’t think I can completely get rid of the small voice inside of me that wonders whether what I’m saying makes me sound like an ungrateful mother. The voice that compels me to sprinkle disclaimers all over my writing and my interactions with friends. However, I’m going to try my best to be less apologetic because it truly has no bearing on the depth of my love for my children. I’ve always said that if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. Not sharing the craziness of Olivia and AJR’s stunts would be doing my own survival a disservice.
So, sorry not sorry that every day they’re not going to be my precious snowflakes. Sorry not sorry that sometimes their behavior is going to make me want to revoke any genetic claim I have to them and blame it all on my husband. Sorry not sorry that sometimes a night alone in a quiet hotel room is my fantasy. Sorry not sorry that those two can be real assholes sometimes, but thankfully not all the time. No disclaimer necessary.