“You chose to have kids, so stop complaining.”
These words—it seems they’re everywhere lately. On the lips of skeptical strangers, in the comments of blogs, in response to my own writing and that of my peers. As if suddenly, in 2018, everyone has the new right to tell others what they are allowed to think and feel (and don’t you dare have a different opinion than I do).
I get it (kind of). No one likes a Debbie Downer.
But do you know what else no one likes? Keeping things bottled up with no release. Thinking that it’s just us; that we must be missing something, failing somewhere. Feeling inadequate when the rest of the world displays only their most beautiful photos.
I don’t know that I’ve ever “complained” so much in my life as I have since becoming a mom. I also know for a fact that I’ve never had as difficult of a job, so there’s that.
It’s like saving your pennies to buy your dream car. You make the purchase, but a year down the road something breaks and you have to take your car to the shop and shell out beaucoup bucks to have it repaired. You wanted the car, you love the car, you don’t regret buying the car . . . but it really sucks having to pay to have it repaired.
It’s like going on your dream vacation. You’ve been researching maps, and restaurants, and attractions for months, and the day has finally arrived. Your plane touches down at its destination and you skip the whole way to the baggage claim—only to find that your bags have been lost somewhere along the way. You’re thrilled to be on that vacation, but dang, a lost bag really throws a wrench in your plans. It sucks, and if you’re anything like me you might have a choice word or two floating around in your head about it.
You’d probably feel the need to vent (“complain”) about each of these situations to a friend or family member (or random stranger in the baggage claim).
If you’re lucky, maybe they’ve been through something similar and have some words of wisdom to share with you. Maybe you’ll acquire some of your own words of wisdom during your journey and pass them when someone else finds themselves in the same trench.
That’s what this whole “complaining” thing is really all about. It’s about solidarity. It’s about acknowledging that something is hard, but realizing that you’re not the first (or the last) to go through it. There’s comfort in that.
Sometimes, “complaining” is less about choosing to be a pessimist, and more about reaching out for support and advice when we’re experiencing a force we can’t seem to tame alone. More about needing to be heard.
Parenting is hard. There are a lot of sleepless nights. There’s a lot of crap to put up with (literally and figuratively). There are tantrums and picky eaters. There’s a lot of touching from sticky fingers, and not very much personal space at all. There’s very little “off” time, and a lot of 24/7/365 on-the-clock going on.
There are the worries that keep you up at all hours of the night, and the hopelessness of not being able to keep the people you love most safe from all of the physical, emotional, and mental traumas of this great wide world.
There are the moments that you BEG time to speed up, and seconds that you wish would just slow the heck down. The days that drag on and the years that go by way, way too fast.
There are teaching moments—so many of those. There are times when you give in, and times when you put your foot down firmly and don’t budge an inch. There are questions and doubts—so many doubts. Did I do the right thing? Am I raising good humans?
Parenting is a series of moments, many of which are really difficult. Life in general just so happens to be the same way.
It’s also really wonderful.
That dream car that broke down? It’ll get repaired. The bill from the shop will eventually be paid off. You and that car in all of its fixed up glory will find yourselves on a joyride with the radio up and the windows down, and you’ll wonder what could ever be better than that moment, right then and there.
That lost suitcase? You’ll find it. You’ll get to your resort and stop into your room just long enough to slip out of your travel clothes and into your swimsuit. Before you know it, you’ll be laying out on that beach sipping pina coladas and listening to the sound of the waves beating against the shore, sand between your toes and the sun beating down, warming your skin and your heart.
Such is parenting.
There will be living room dance parties, homemade birthday cards, and nursery rhymes sung in the sweetest, mispronounced words. There will be the twinkle of pride in little eyes when they do something grand; a twinkle that will be mirrored in your own eyes as you watch them. Awestruck.
There will be hilarious comments from the unknowing mouth of a toddler that cause tears to stream down your cheeks and your sides to split open in deep, full, belly laughs. That laughter? There is SO much of it.
There will be moments in the peace of an otherwise sleeping house when you stare down at your baby with tear-brimmed eyes because you can’t believe your luck to have them as your own.
There will be sloppy kisses that melt your heart, and hugs that you try your hardest to memorize the exact feel of. There will be mornings of disheveled hair, and rumpled pajamas, and sleepy eyes that make your heart swoon.
There will be tiny hands that fit perfectly into your own, and moments of pure joy that you long to bottle up and carry with you forever.
There will be instances when you’re positive your heart cannot possibly swell any more . . . but it always does.
Parents complain a lot—it’s true. Non-parents complain a lot too, about other things.
It’s partly our human nature, and partly our desire to feel understood. It’s how we process out all of the junk so that we can find the good again.
So yes, I chose to have kids, and I’d choose them a thousand times over in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days. But I’ll also continue to “complain” about how hard this momming thing is, when my heart is heavy and I feel alone.
I hope you’ll do the same. I hope the world doesn’t convince you to shy away from venting, because we all need that sometimes.
And during those other times, when life is just so darn good; I hope you’ll celebrate every sweet, savory moment of this incredible journey.