I recently wrote the following as a Facebook status update:
Many tell me to “enjoy every moment with Roya.” I assume they mean, “enjoy every moment that’s not sleep deprived, covered in spit up, or involving you cleaning poop off of places poop shouldn’t be.” (I’m thankful to have a very good baby, but she’s still a baby!)
Several of my friends responded in agreement. Quite a few others tried to assuage my guilt or feelings that I wasn’t a good parent.
From a sociological perspective, the latter reaction both fascinated and disappointed me. Parenting is simultaneously joyous and exhausting. Most people with children wouldn’t deny that being a parent is the most rewarding role they’ve ever had and also the toughest role. Why is it a bad thing to admit that the joys and the difficulties of parenting aren’t mutually exclusive? Why is this yet another occasion when women are expected to feel guilty because every minute of every day isn’t perfect? Is a female less of a mother if she acknowledges that parenting is the hardest work out there? Isn’t it time that we – as mothers and as a society – stop making women feel guilty for how they parent or how they feel about parenting?
I don’t feel like a bad mother for admitting that cleaning poop off of the wall at 6 a.m. isn’t a moment to be savored. In fact, it’s the antithesis of fun! That’s just the reality. It doesn’t need to be sugarcoated or packaged up in a nice gender-normative pink bow.
In the overwhelming majority of households, mothers are expected to perform most of the childcare duties. It’s time that we didn’t add the need to feel guilty to our already overflowing plates! Having a healthy and happy child is all that matters! We owe it to ourselves to not give into the pressure to feel bad about whether we work outside of the home or not. whether every item on our to-do list has been completed, and how we measure up to any other mother we know. There is much in life as a parent that we can’t control, but we do have control over whether or not we feel guilty about making the right choices for ourselves and our families.
When it comes to parenting, all that matters is that we do the best we can. If we’re on the receiving end of a well-intentioned comment to enjoy every moment, just remember that nostalgia is a powerful elixir complete with rose-colored glasses. Then, just smile and say, “Yes, as much as I can.” At the end of the day, we shouldn’t be expected to do more, and our children deserve nothing less.