Oh yes, it’s wonderful. They are wonderful and amazing, beautiful and hilariously funny. But, holy sh*t this is hard sometimes, this mom gig.
No one tells you that, not really, not fully. They rope you in with pretty pictures of adorable clothing, sweet family photos and cute baby announcements, to-die-for-cute bedding, and nursery decor. The pretty pictures are ubiquitous — everywhere you look, even when you’re not looking and can’t see straight because you.are.so.tired.
And despite the love, cuddles, giggles, and smiles, every day, from infancy to tween, I wonder every single day what the f*&%$! I’m doing wrong here? Raising these little humans into adults is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I have no idea if I am ever doing it right. We aim to win the war and not the battle, us mamas, and yet, most of the time I feel like I’ve lost every battle, or the battles I’ve won aren’t worth the collateral damage I’ve gone through to win them.
Five o’clock. Satan’s hour. Maybe I’ve said, “Fine, you can have peanut butter for dinner,” a few too many times, chalking it up to long days at work, a lack of energy, and not wanting to hear any more screaming (maybe I’ve just given up on dinner). Maybe those teeth didn’t get brushed (again), because if I had to battle anymore whining and protesting I was going to walk out the front door… forever. Maybe those pacis have hung around a year (or two) too long, because bedtime is already a two-hour process, and they’re already hot messes from a long day at school, and I’m going to spend 30 minutes trying to read to two toddlers who will spend the entire time fighting over who gets to turn the page in a book we’ve read a billion times.
Do my children squabble anymore than yours do? Do yours yell, “Not fair!” when they get a smaller piece of cake? (When I was your age, we walked uphill in the snow in Florida both ways to school AND THERE WAS NO CAKE!) Do they whine about sharing and whine about what TV show they want to watch and whine about leaving a birthday party that’s already been three hours long and whine about… nothing… other than the fact that they can’t not whine, it seems? Did yours cry all night from reflux or never take a nap longer than 10 minutes or wake up at 4 a.m. ready for breakfast, for weeks on end? And did you feel like all of this was your fault?
When I refuse to award a non-clean plate with a dessert, the wrath that lands on my head is like I’ve committed a heinous felony against my daughter’s favorite Disney princess. How much of this do you excuse? I know they are (mostly) well behaved at school, get along with their friends, are enjoyed by their teachers; I know home is their safe place to fall apart at the end of a long day. But still, bearing the brunt of their tantrums is exhausting, especially after spending so much mental energy at work. And then I wonder what I’ve done wrong in trying to do right in making them eat healthy food first.
Why is it so hard? Because we just don’t know for sure that in the end, our babies will turn out to be the kind, responsible and loving adults we feel are important to make the world a better place? Why does doing the right thing for your kids long-term make the short-term that much more difficult? Because despite all the nagging and effort and bearing the brunt of their tears over and over as I inflict rules and timeouts, make them eat things other than candy or cheese puffs, and cajole them to wash their face every three days — while I scrub chocolate milk off the wall or clean a puddle of pee or fish Goldfish Crackers out of the air vent — despite trying to do all the right things for them, I still question my ability to raise anything other than demons.
In the end, I can only do my best. They are loved, they are safe, they are held and force-fed healthy foods (okay, not force-fed… bribed, maybe) and bathed, read to and cared for, their hair and teeth are brushed (most days). I hope I’m doing all the right things for them, but there’s no way to tell, not immediately. This is a long game we’re playing here, one where the quarters last years, there’s no backup quarterback, the clock never stops, and the scoreboard is never accurate. Maybe one day they’ll put their socks in the hamper and their lunch boxes on the counter. Maybe one day they’ll say please without being reminded or clear their plate without being asked. Maybe one day they’ll do as I request without excuses, protests, or tantrums. Until then, I know they are loved. And that I’m doing my best, even if I have no idea what the f*&%$! I’m doing wrong sometimes.