Over the weekend I found myself sitting in my dark closet and sobbing uncontrollably. You know, the kind of snotty, ugly-faced cry that you never see in the movies. I'll spare you the details of all that led up to it, but suffice it to say that it's not the first time that it happened and it certainly won't be the last. And the cry locations vary. Sometimes, it's the pantry or laundry room and sometimes it's in the car with sunglasses hiding my eyes -- basically anywhere my 3-year-old won't see me hating parenthood.
That's right, I said it: Being a parent sucks.
I heard the collective intake of air from those of you judging me right now.
How could she say that?
Parenting is such an awesome thing!
Kids are such blessings!
True. All of that is true and I do feel that way. However, despising parenthood on occasion doesn't mean that I don't love my child more than life itself or that I hate being a parent all the time. Sometimes the love for my kid and my feelings about being a parent swells my heart so big that I'm sure it's going to burst out of my chest. Other times? I end up in the closet sobbing and wondering what happened to my sense of self and my old life.
The thing that I don't get is why "parenting sucks" is a hushed phrase that we only whisper to another parent after a few glasses of wine or write to another reluctantly in an email when we've reached our wit's end, hesitating before we actually hit "send." Why are we ashamed of it?
Here's why: We're afraid of the judgment. (Yes, you know you are. I can tell because your finger is itching to click away from this post right now or poised for reprimand.) People judge you if you don't confess undying love for parenting every single second of the day. But, here's the thing: It sucks. It consumes you. It takes away your life. In many cases, it takes away the identity of who you are and who you used to be. Once you have a child, you are never, ever the same as before. That person is gone forever and you don't even get to mourn her. If your job -- the one that someone pays you to do -- made you feel this way, you would talk to everyone who would listen about how awful it is. But because parenting deals with kids and family, we make it a taboo topic, not allowing ourselves permission to speak about it in a derogatory way, lest we think ourselves failures (or worse yet, someone else thinks we are a failure).
A few weeks ago, a new mom emailed me on my parenting site and asked if I liked being a parent. My response was something like, "If you are asking if there are days when I want to bash my head against a mirror and use the shards to carve curse words into my legs, then yes. I have those days. Sometimes everyday." I didn't hear back from her so I was afraid my imagery was a little much. When I reached out to her again, she let me know just how much it meant to validate exactly what she was feeling. I later had a similar discussion with a new dad who said he had been MIA online because "this parenting thing is so much harder than I thought it was going to be."
What would happen if we all sat around alone, being overwhelmed and never talking about how hard parenting is? We would just continue to spiral, thinking we are awful and guilting ourselves into never-never land.
However, I'm here today to tell you that you're not alone in feeling overwhelmed by parenting. And, guess what else? You don't have to be perfect. I'm releasing you from that right now. As a matter of fact, I'm giving you permission to hate parenting and to even talk about it. It is possible to feel disdain for parenting, your kids, your spouse, your dog, your [everything] on occasion without it making you a bad person. In fact, it makes you quite normal (even if your friends won't talk about it).
So, the next time you feel guilty for saying how much parenthood sucks, remember this: Those parents who seem like they have it all together and will only talk to you about the positive aspects of parenting are secretly crying that snotty, ugly cry while hiding in their closet, too. They just aren't talking about it.