Monday, January 27, 2014

In Which I Felt Like a Terrible Mom and Almost Left the Internet

Cute and vicious, like someone I once gave birth to.
(Copyright: Jonathunder)


This morning I fought with Spawnling for over an hour to go to school. I eventually picked him up, stood him in the front hall and pulled his boots on as he tried to kick them off. I stuffed him into his coat and walked him to the car. I counted fiercely until he got into his booster seat. I took him by the hand and lead him through the main doors as he scowled at me. It was really stressful, dealing with this on top of a nasty cold, and I wanted to cry a few times.

I wouldn't know firsthand, but I believe the experience was much like trying to get a rabid badger into a bath. And we have bathed this badger every school day since before Christmas break - without the help of tranquilizers. (So unfair.)

Our seven-year-old doesn't want to go because his Grade 2 French immersion class has transitioned to speaking French only, and, having missed Grade 1 because of our move from another province last year (the age requirements are different here, so he was bumped up a grade), he is lagging far behind his classmates in both comprehension and speech.

I've done nothing but email back and forth with his (amazing) teacher, talk to Spawnling, talk to friends, talk to my husband, use up every ounce of creativity I have to try and make French fun - and nothing has changed. He's still foaming at the mouth and snarling at the mere mention of school. So, I've spent most of my day trying to come up with new solutions.

Sometimes parenting is really challenging. Sometimes I feel like I'm just not cut out for it. And I think that's why I almost left Facebook this weekend.

Ok. Not really. But I thought about it. I wanted to, for a little while.

I was interviewed by a journalist last week and asked my thoughts on the costs and rewards of parenting. Essentially, she wanted to know if raising a child in 2014 was worth it.

Of course it's worth it, I said. My kids are great. They bring me a lot of joy. But there are days when I have to step back and wonder if life would have been easier if I hadn't let anyone check in to the Uterus Motel.

I posted the article on my Facebook page and received responses, which I expected. But what I didn't expect were the kinds of responses. Instead of commiseration from other tired parents, I had responses questioning why people feel that way, and why the media portrays parenting as something fraught with sacrifice.

I had parents pointing out that it's all perspective and attitude.

I had parents telling me that life would be just as stressful without kids, just stressful in a different way.

And I thought to myself, really? Because it doesn't feel that way to me. It feels like it would be a lot easier.

If I was a childless individual, I might have a really demanding job outside the home, like maybe as an air traffic controller (ok, definitely not, but let's pretend.) And maybe I might work a lot of overtime, guiding planes and passengers safely to the ground and back up again. I might even have a terrible boss who yells at me every time a plane crashes on my watch - even little ones with only a few people on board, the jerk. But when I came home, my time would be my own to do with as I wished. I wouldn't be making sure everyone eats their vegetables, negotiating homework time, breaking up fights, threatening consequences if chores aren't done, driving everyone around, having difficult talks about everything from bullying to safe sex, making healthy meals everybody will eat, and figuring out how to do it all on a budget that supports five people.

I don't think it would be just as a stressful to be childless. I don't always enjoy the chaos of my life. I sometimes daydream about who I would be if I weren’t a parent. I thought that was normal, you know? I thought that made me human. But when I started seeing that so many people seemed to disagree with me, I began to feel, well, awful.

Guilty.

Narcissistic.

Like a totally ungrateful asshole.

So I removed the post out of shame. And I signed out of Facebook. And I thought long and hard about this whole online deal full of social media, about putting my life on the internet, about thinking I was part of something bigger instead of this stand-alone island of apparent misery.

I talked to my husband. I talked to my best friend. I spent a lot of time with my boys. I went to that dark place where I often go when I feel less than. Why don't I flow with this parenting gig as easily as some other people seem to do? What's wrong with me?

 And then, eventually, it dawned on me: Nothing. There is nothing wrong with me. Life is just complicated, and so my emotions are complicated.

I have three very awesome but very unique boys. One has significant hearing loss; another one has significant hearing loss, struggles with mental illness and has a tricky processing disorder; and right now the youngest, who is naturally headstrong, is having a really hard time at school, which is only amplifying his badger-like behaviour. Together, they are a full time job and then another full time job on top of that one.

Our appointments related to special needs easily number in the hundreds by now. The days we've had serious, long-lasting meltdowns related to those needs could be counted near 1,000, maybe more - ok, definitely more. I've had to commit to not doing anything outside the home full-time so I can meet those commitments and deal with those issues. It can be, like, really exhausting. Maybe more exhausting than what a lot of other parents of more typical kids go through. Or maybe not, and I'm just not good at handling shit. Who knows? Does it really matter in the end?

But I don't regret having those great boys of mine, not for a second. The love and joy parenting brings knocks any of the bad stuff out of the park even on the worst days. I have moments, but they fade quickly. Those hugs from my former Uterus Motel visitors melt away the stress. Their little awards, their talent shows, their drawings, their jokes, their laughter. All worth it. All of it. I recognize all the good stuff that comes out of the parenting box (the manual, however, was never found.)

I can't imagine a life without kids in it. I mean, I can, but I wouldn't want it. I like to daydream about it sometimes, though. (In my daydreams I have a super sweet urban condo with only one bedroom and a cat and things that stay where I put them. That's practically porn for moms right there.)

But like all high quality things, parenting, at least for me, came with a hefty price tag. There is nothing wrong with me for acknowledging that. I won't feel bad for feeling bad sometimes. Looking after little humans is a huge responsibility and a ridiculous amount of work.

And so I will keep bathing my badger with one hand while cutting up green veggies he won't eat with the other, and even emailing his worried teacher with my toes, and I will acknowledge that I made some sacrifices in my life to get here.

And then, at the end of the day, when we curl up and read Harry Potter, and he gasps at all the good parts and laughs at all of the Weasley Twins' jokes, and his little belly shakes up and down, I will be so very grateful I made those sacrifices.

And I will not feel bad for being human, even for a second.

I'm a good mom. I really am. And I need to stop trying to convince myself otherwise.