Disclaimer: I am in no way ungrateful of being a parent. I love my children more than anything in the world and I do my best every day for them. I chose to become a parent and I would never take it back. They are the most important people in my life and I do not regret a single thing when it comes to raising them or taking care of them.
Now that I’ve made that clear I want to talk about the part of being a parent that nobody ever talks about. It is true that when you look back on past experiences with your children you only remember the good times. You forget about the bad and smile at the fact that you were there to experience their growth and little personalities. That’s what we tend to talk about when people ask us what it’s like to be a parent, and that’s great. What we don’t do is talk about the bad stuff because in our society you look like a bad parent when you complain about your children.
I understand that there are people who can’t have babies and I hate that for them. I would be devastated if I could never have children of my own, I am a very lucky woman. I know that I shouldn’t complain about getting to raise my own children but it is so very, very difficult. Raising kids is not easy at all. I think that we as parents should be allowed to vent our frustrations and be reassured by other parents that we are not alone in our struggles and that it will get better.
I want to start with pregnancy because that is the first area that doesn’t get a whole lot of discussion either. When you’re pregnant you’re supposed to be “glowing” and so very happy. While you may be happy that you’re going to have a sweet, little human you’re also: nauseous, uncomfortable, tired, cranky, hungry, sore and it only gets worse the bigger you get. When I got pregnant the first time I was shocked by how painful it was to be pregnant. No one ever told me about that part. It hurts to be pregnant. Your body is going through some major changes and all the stretching and organ movement can be really painful. While your uterus grows, all your internal organs have to move up into your chest to make room for the expanding uterus. Your ribs move up and can pinch nerves while doing so. Your stomach becomes squished and you experience heartburn and acid reflux. It’s hard to breathe because the baby is pushing it’s way into your diaphragm. Your bladder gets squished under your growing uterus so you can’t hold very much urine so you’re constantly going to the bathroom. You’re so constipated it’s ridiculous. The weight of the fetus pushes down on your pelvis and your hips can barely stand the strain. You are absolutely miserable. On top of all that you can’t sleep because you aren’t allowed to sleep on your back. Your muscles are so sore from stretching. Your back and legs are sore from carrying all that weight that it isn’t used to. And you’re nauseous, tired and so very, very uncomfortable. And that’s a normal pregnancy! That’s without any complications whatsoever. While you’re going through all this you have so many people giving you advice on how to take care of your baby. It is overwhelming. You’re already anxious and emotional about becoming a parent and wondering how you’re going to keep this little person alive, then you have these people pushing their “wisdom” on you. When I was pregnant with my first I wanted to be careful about what foods I ate, I was told I was being ridiculous. When we chose his name people were very verbal about how they didn’t like it. I didn’t rest the way I should have because I felt pressure to keep up with everyone because someone told me one time, “When I was pregnant I could still do everything like normal”. When I was pregnant with my second I was so hungry all the time. I had to eat a lot and I was losing weight even though I was eating constantly. I was told by someone who wasn’t pregnant that “it was all in my head” and that if they can control their appetite then so could I. When we told people what we were naming our second son I was told his name was too feminine. It wasn’t “manly” enough. All these comments were from family members. When it comes to being pregnant everyone thinks they have a right to say whatever they want about it. And it doesn’t really change once the kid gets here.
Once your child is out in the world the real fun begins. Yes they are sweet and amazing and wonderful little innocent beings but they also are imperfect, just like you and I. If you never want to have an uninterrupted night’s sleep again, have a kid. You will never have normal sleep again. You will be tired. You will be cranky. You will want to cry all the time from lack of sleep. For the first year they will wake up to eat at night, or they’ll lose their pacifier and you’ll have to get up and give it them, or they’ll be congested and you’ll have to hold them so they can breathe through their nose to fall back asleep. First time parents have it worse because they’ll think their baby needs help falling asleep. They’ll rock and pat and bounce for hours not realizing that if you just put the baby down while they’re drowsy they’ll learn how to fall asleep on their own. There’s so much noise. The crying, the whining, the “I just want to see how loud I can get” yells. They are so noisy. There will be toys everywhere. Your house will always be messy. There will be dirty bottles everywhere but when you need one you can never find one. When you have two you have to make sure the toddler isn’t trying to kill the baby by giving him food he can’t chew. Oh and the more kids you have the more noise you’ll get. They get more demanding as they get older to. They follow you everywhere when you’re at home but the second you’re in public they run off. You never go to the bathroom alone. You never eat alone, they want what’s on your plate even if they have the same thing on theirs. They do not know what personal space is. They need to climb on you, they need to touch you, they need to sit on you. They want to sleep in your bed but then they kick you all night. You will hear “mama” 50 million times a day. You are literally never alone.
Going places with kids is sometimes impossible. I don’t really go anywhere unless I have to. You get used to taking your kids with you but it’s still pretty exhausting. You have to make sure the toddler doesn’t run off into the parking lot and get run over while you’re trying to get the baby out of the car. You have to get them both into a shopping cart so that you can shop without stopping every five seconds. They will grab everything they can reach. They will have a meltdown if you don’t get them candy. They will want to “help” but really they just get in the way. They will not want to go home. They will kick and scream if you try to put them into the car. They will ignore you, push your buttons and tell you no. You will repeat yourself so many times you’ll go insane. They have to touch EVERYTHING. They’ll make you look like an incompetent parent and make you look crazy. On top of all this there will be people who will have their opinions on how to discipline your kids and you will constantly feel judged on how well you can keep it together in public with upset children.
Going on trips isn’t very fun with little kids either. I just went on a trip to visit my sisters and it was extremely stressful. We didn’t get to do half the things we wanted because the kids were uncooperative. If you don’t take your kids you have to find someone who is willing to keep them for you, which is not easy. If you do take them you have to take so much stuff with you it’s almost not worth going. You honestly can’t go on any trips until they’re older if you want to enjoy them.
One last thing I want to touch on is your friendships. Yes they are affected when you have kids and your friends do not. People who don’t have kids don’t understand how hard it is to get out without your kids or to make time to hang out. Some of your friends will stop hanging out with you because they don’t want to deal with sharing your attention with your kids. They may even make you feel guilty for never spending time with them. Dump these people, you don’t need them. It may suck to lose a friendship but it’s not worth you feeling guilty all the time and feeling like you’re responsible for their happiness. You already have enough to worry about. There are so many people judging you on a daily basis that you can’t think straight. If you complain about your kids, you’re a bad mother. If you want time to yourself, you’re a bad mother. If you choose to have a career, you’re a bad mother. If you don’t choose to breastfeed, you’re a bad mother. If you let your kids watch TV so you can have a break, you’re a bad mother. And a lot of the time being the mom automatically makes you the one who has to do everything for some reason. No one expects dad to do anything because mom is supposed to be able to handle everything without a break. It’s okay if dad takes a break but God forbid mom suggests taking an hour for herself. I can’t tell you how many times other women have shamed me because I dared to say “I don’t care.” when it came to leaving my husband alone with the kids so I can take a mental break from them.
I wanted to talk about this because there are people who honestly think being a parent isn’t that hard. I used to be one of those people before I had kids. You don’t know what it’s like to be a parent until you have a kid, so take it from me, just keep your mouth shut. If you’re trying to decide to have children or not I hope that this post gives you something to think about. Being a parent is the best part about my life but it doesn’t come without it’s difficulties. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to have children, whether you’re pregnant now or not. I don’t want to sugar coat parenthood because it’s not always happy babies and sweet toddlers. It’s really hard and it tests your limits. Becoming a parent is not a decision to make lightly. That’s why I support womens’ reproductive rights. I believe that women should have access to free birth control and abortions, to make their own decisions on whether they’re ready to become a parent or not. I chose to have children, it was something I wanted but not every woman wants to have children and that decision should be respected.
I know that in time it will get easier as they get older and less dependent on me but right now I’m going through the tough years. I love my sons and I know that people know that. They may drive me crazy sometimes but they have my heart one hundred percent.