Sometimes the greatest gift we can give one another is the reminder that we are not alone in our struggles. So far, so many lessons I've learned from parenting are clichés -- "The days are long and the years are short," and other aha! that's why they said that sentiments. However, just because they are clichés does not make them untrue. Many of my feelings about parenting are in fact not unique, but surprisingly, that gives me comfort -- because maybe, just maybe, you feel the same way too. It feels good to be able to share our own truths about parenting to provide insight and encouragement about the most excruciating and exhilarating roller coaster ride around. Welcome to parenthood, make sure you enjoy the ride.
I am lonely. There are days I am surrounded by people yet still feel unbearably alone. We are humans passing by each other all day long, often without ever really connecting, everyone knee-deep in their own life. Many of us simultaneously busy and bored all at once. Most of us have so much in common and we don't even know it because we are afraid to put ourselves out there. The single mom, the working parent, the parent of a child with special needs, the stay-at-home mom or dad -- we all feel the lonely and think it's because of our circumstance, but I think it's a trait we all share at different times in our parenting cycle. If we can tell the honest truth about how we are feeling, we can create beautiful and real opportunities to connect.
I am scared. I don't want to screw this parenting gig up. It's the most important work I've ever done, and it truly means a lot to me. I was walking through the aisles of my grocery store the other day, my two beautiful boys in tow. I read labels now like it's my job, and I'm damn good at it. I don't know who or what to believe anymore, though. Money buys the latest brand of truth and that's not OK when it comes to what I put into my little ones' bodies. MSG in Campbell's Soup? Why? I had no idea. No Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Easy -- except they are in almost every product containing sugar, corn and soy unless specifically marked 100% organic. I hear avoid the synthetic food preservatives -- nitrates or nitrites which are in most meats. Stay away from red dye #40. Avoid gluten, soy and dairy, especially dairy products in which the cows were treated with growth hormones like rBST. Don't buy processed food. Watch out for the commercial diapers and soaps; they cause cancer. Some say, "Just buy all organic." Awesome -- I'll get right on that as soon as we win the lottery and have time to go to five different grocery stores every week. Not to mention I can't even get my 4-year-old to eat one single vegetable.
To vaccinate or not? Cry it out or not? Everywhere I look there's a parenting article that is yelling at me. THE TEN THINGS YOU ARE DOING TO SCREW UP YOUR CHILDREN, CHRISSY. The voices are so loud, it's hard to silence them long enough to hear my own.
I am tired. Most days I wake up tired, talking myself into the day. I pour coffee in until the world starts to make sense. Some days a small nap is the only thing separating me from insanity. I am tired, I look tired and I feel tired deep in my bones. Many days I don't get a shower. I look down at my shirt; the remnants of the day serve as crusty memories. A peanut butter face wiped off on my shoulder. Coffee stains down the front of my shirt. Black mascara pooled under my eyes. It's hard when it shouldn't be, Mom-ing. How do these little tiny humans push my buttons so completely? Sometimes I'm afraid I've lost it -- my sparkle and shine. I think she's still under there, though, hidden beneath the tired eyes and crusty shirt. I'm hopeful one day she will come back around.
I am grateful. Sometimes I stare at them and still can't believe they actually belong to me. Love so deep it feels like insanity. I feel like every love song on the radio was written just for me and them. I breathe them in. I rock them to sleep. I try to make much of my parenting experience on-purpose -- I remind myself to breathe in the moment and just be present. I get to take them to Speech Therapy, I get to go to the park with them.
I get to take care of them when they are sick. I get to watch the sun set with them, closing out another exhausting and exhilarating day. I try to get to more and have to less. It's an honor to parent in a time when there are so many resources. A time when sometimes the village is just a click away.
I am enough. Some days I have to talk myself into making that statement a fact. I know that one of the most important gifts you can give your child is a happy you, so I work to be happy and enough, exactly the way I am. I was in sales in my pre-mothering life, and I could swiftly whip up an Excel spreadsheet detailing my output and worth. I don't really know how to measure parenting output, though. I start a million projects every day, and some days I am lucky if I finish one. Some days I feel like I undo more than I do. I still must remember that right now, I am enough. I don't engage in Mompetition -- competitions amongst mothers -- because I promise: YOU WIN. You cook better than me, your house is cleaner than mine and you are more crafty and creative than I am. We see where others shine and in our reflection we immediately focus on where we lack. I like to take pictures of my children. It comes easy to me; it's my thing. You may feel guilty because you don't take many pictures. You see my pictures as an invitation to feel bad about yourself. I see your cooking and weekend excursions as an excuse to feel bad about me. Let's call the whole thing off and just focus on what we are good at while celebrating our differences. There is one thing you are not better than me at, though -- loving my two little boys. I am awesome at that. The same holds true for you and your loves.
No matter how lengthy or difficult the days are, it's nice to know we can get through them together, arms raised high, enjoying the ride.
Follow Chrissy Kelly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@lifewithgrey