Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.
I know that this message is right and good. But as 2011 closes, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.
I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers – “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” - those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.
I agree with these well-meaning (grand)parents Glennon speaks of, these strangers who approach me in the grocery store, urging me to enjoy every minute: it does go by fast. And thank God for that! If it went any slower sometimes, I don't know if I could handle it. Seriously, if you haven't parented a child who hated almost every moment of being a baby and continues to regularly have meltdowns because his socks are on wrong or we spent too much time at the grocery store at the wrong time of day or we spent two minutes too long on Skype with relatives, then please don't be condescending by advising me me to enjoy every minute of parenthood. Parenting neurotypical children is a hell of a hard job anyway, I acknowledge that fully. When there are any added challenges, it (naturally) just gets even harder.
I feel it's exceedingly important for parenting bloggers (or bloggers who happen to be parents) to be honest in writing about the many challenges present in parenthood. I believe that it's only through openness that we will ever be able to overcome the excessive "mommy guilt" that's piled on us each and every day. The fact is, no one's experience of parenting is all sunshine and roses. If we can't admit that none of us is June Cleaver—and that that's normal—then the myth of "supermommy" lives on.
Yes, we parents are awesome people, and we do an incredibly difficult job 24 hours a day. We often have to juggle the needs and demands of many people at once, all while trying to keep our sanity, get enough fuel in our bodies, and take a shower every few days. That said, parenting isn't unlike any challenging career or calling: there are easier days and harder days. There are happy minutes and heartbreaking minutes. Pretending that the difficult part of parenting doesn't exist (or choosing never to talk about it because that's the polite thing to do) does a disservice to ourselves and to other parents: past, present, and future. Lying to yourself and others about it doesn't make it less true.
It's important to me to be honest about my experience of motherhood, and if I can't be honest here on my blog ("in my house," so to speak) then keeping this blog running isn't worth it to me. After I wrote my post about hating Mondays in early October, I had a significant conflict with a family member. My intention in writing that particular post was to overcome the guilt I was feeling about not enjoying my experience of motherhood as much as I wanted, and share my truth anyway. I was grieving the loss of the babyhood I wanted for both Daniel and me. I needed to be open about how hard it has been for us, particularly because of Daniel's unique sensory challenges. Most people responded with commiseration and understanding, with empathy and love. One response (though I know it was intended to come from a similar place) left me feeling attacked and wrongly accused, defensive and just plain hurt.
Because of the personal repercussions of publishing that raw and honest piece, I've struggled with whether or not I feel safe here anymore, to share my experiences freely and openly. After much thought (and month-long break from blogging) I've decided I will continue to write honestly here, in spite of any opposition I have or will encounter. The fact is that this is my space and one of my most valued creative outlets. It's a way for me to stay in touch with my "real life" friends and family when I have few opportunities to keep in touch in person because of Daniel's special needs. Blogging here is also a way for me to be connected to others who are in a similar phase of life, who have similar philosophies about parenting, or who also parent children with high needs or special needs. Above all else, the content on this blog is an expression of my life and my thoughts, and it is one of the few spaces I have in my life where I can communicate about anything I want whenever I want to.
I spend the majority of my time giving myself wholly to another human being, meeting his every need as best I can. When I write here, I'm doing something for myself. I'm participating in a vital self-care activity which (in part) helps me to process the intense experiences and feelings I'm having on this journey. Writing here also keeps me connected to an invaluable online community of others sharing their individual experiences and journeys in life.
I'm making a promise to you today: I will continue to write openly and honestly about my experience, regardless of what happens in my personal life as a result.
All I ask in return is that you try to consider this: the next time you encounter a parent, please think twice before giving her advice. Please reconsider before making assumptions about her character or parenting prowess based on her children's behavior. Please pause and remember before advising her to enjoy every minute, because you may have forgotten what it feels like to be climbing that mountain. Instead, please seize the moment as an opportunity to validate the experience that parent is having right then: Tell her she's amazing and that you get it, do a practical favor for her if you can, and try your hardest to leave out any judgment or advice.
I appreciate you taking this time to consider. You're doing a great thing for parents everywhere: killing mommy guilt one precious moment at a time.