I came across an article the other day that made me cringe. It was written by a mom-writer and was called “Why I don’t like my own child.” The mom opened with the admission that she’s never liked her child, and goes on to recite the laundry list of ways her daughter disappointed her from day one. How the baby girl burst the mother’s dream bubble of what life should have been like with a baby. How she never met her expectations. The mother described how, for the first 7 years of her life, she judged her daughter harshly and deemed her “hopelessly incapable of being normal.”
Now, to be fair, the article I’m talking about was somewhat redeemed by the woman finally receiving a medical diagnosis for the child that rationalized the girl’s behavior. The mom did in the end have a turn-around moment when she came to a better understanding of how to love her daughter. But dang, Mama – words can hurt, and some day the daughter could likely come across those words and her heart will sink.
When moms write about how they don’t like being mothers to their children, or how their lives were so much better before they had kids, or when they write about how they regret having kids altogether – and mean it! – my heart hurts a little. And I’m not even their child.
The words we let loose on the internet are in the public domain. Our children will at some point have access to them and my heart breaks at the thought of my child reading about my lack of love for them. Many adult relationships have been painfully ruptured over lesser things.
Articles that are published online are not private journal entries. In spite of the validation these parents might get from comments cheering them on for being “daring!” “brave!” and “so honest!” can we be a tiny bit sensitive to our kids when we write?
Our readers are not our personal support group (although we need one!). Treating our children like burdens that we can expose online so we as parents can give each other virtual high-fives smacks of narcissism, and an ugly betrayal of the innocent and vulnerable little ones that are dependent on us. There is something subtly violent about it.
How do we think our children would feel if they heard us talking to others about what a pain they are and “how, you know, I’ve never really liked her?”
Can we remember what our parents told us when we were 8? If you wouldn’t be willing to say what you’re about to say in that person’s presence, then think twice and shut your trap.
Yes, parenthood is hard. So hard sometimes. There are days we all feel the urge to turn and run. There are times of anger, and times when love is stretched paper thin. We are acutely aware of our kids’ weaknesses and highly-annoying traits. There may be times we dream of our pre-child days that contained a lot more free time, money, margaritas and adult conversation. But at the end of the day – every day – each one of our children are precious gifts, loaned to us for a relatively short time so we can train and nurture those souls for adulthood and eternity. And if we embrace the challenge of parenthood, those kiddos can help us grow and mature too.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t write about our kids’ problems, or the challenges of parenthood. We need to – for our own sakes and for others. We are all in this parenting thing together.
But our children are present when we write – whether it’s literally in the same home, or when as adults they may search for our writings, or whether they are looking down from heaven. They see – or will see – and will be touched by our words just as our readers are touched by them now. Can we write about our children and our struggles in a way that won’t leave them bruised and hurt when they come across them – as they very well might at some point?
Our children are ours to care for and protect from the violence – physical and virtual – around them. If we struggle with serious feelings of resentment and regret towards our children, it’s time to look for help and support. Can we take those feelings to God, or to a good friend, a therapist, or a support group? But not to the general public. Our kids deserve better.