So You Think You Know Better

When I was pregnant with my first, I assumed I would be a loving, but strict, parent. I wasn’t going to let my baby rule my life. Oh no, I was going to be the one in control and making the decisions. I had no intention of raising a tiny dictator.

Then I actually had my baby.

And most of what I thought I would do went out the window. My first baby was fussy, hard to keep content, nursed all the time, and fought sleep as hard as he could. Needless to say, I quickly changed my thoughts of “I will do whatever I want, the baby can just tag along!” to “I can’t possibly do that! The baby needs a nap and if he doesn’t get it, I’ll pay for it later!”

And that baby grew up into a demanding toddler, then a high-spirited preschooler (apparently their temperaments don’t change). So I learned to be more flexible, to let some things go and to pick my battles. Because otherwise I would spend all day chasing after my kid and yelling at him.

Unfortunately, while I think I have good reasons for making some of the parenting decisions I make, lots of strangers feel the need to tell me otherwise.

Older woman in the grocery store: “I wouldn’t let him bang those bottles around if I was you.”

Older man in the warehouse store: “Sit down! Sit down! Sit down!”

Woman passing us on the sidewalk: “That baby should have a hat on, he’s cold.”

I get a lot of unsolicited advice.

When strangers (people I’ve never seen before) make these types of comments, I’m usually stunned. Are they seriously talking to me? Do they really feel the need to parent my child instead of, I don’t know, letting me do my job? Sometimes when I get rude comments from people I’m in the middle of talking to my son and asking him to do exactly what they are asking. Other times, it just doesn’t matter and it’s my choice to do what I think is best for my child.

I always wish that I had made some witty comment back to these folks. Something that would make them realize how rude they were. How no one (really, NO ONE) wants a stranger to give input or advice.

I realize most of these people are not parents with young children. That they are looking back on the decisions they made as parents with a buffer of time, which conveniently wipes out the moments they weren’t perfect. Or maybe they just forgot that little kids don’t follow instructions well. Or they don’t remember that a 3 year old does not have the ability to behave the same way a 13 year old does.

But every kid is not perfect all the time. And having strangers shoot me dirty looks or deliver some snarky comment does not turn me into a different parent or magically convert my son’s temperament into a more calm, compliant type.

What I really want to say to these people is that I’m doing the best that I can. I’m trying to give my son the freedom to be himself and to help him grow into a wonderful adult. To do that, I certainly don’t need him to do what YOU think I should do. I think he’s pretty wonderful how he is. And I will be exactly the type of parent I think I should be so he can continue to be exactly who he is.

Tiny Mirrors

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I was so worried about how my firstborn would handle being a big brother. Would he feel neglected? How could I make sure he got the attention he needed? How would I make sure he didn’t feel pushed aside for a new baby?
I read a lot of good advice about how to introduce the baby to the older sibling, and I used a lot of it. But what I really found to be the most influential in his behavior was me.
I remember a day where I was home with both kids by myself. My son was in the middle of potty training, and being the high-spirited (the nice way of saying “strong-willed”) boy that he is, he didn’t want to pee in his potty when I asked him. Not after waking up for the day, not after breakfast, not an hour later, and not right before the play date at our house.
He did, however, want to pee in his pants right when the doorbell rang with our first guests.
Since I was getting used to two kids, I was already feeling overwhelmed and regretting having a play date at our house. My daughter was only two months old, and even though she was sleeping like a champ for a two month old, she was still a baby and I was sleep deprived. And out of patience.
So of course I yelled at my son when he peed on the floor. I had reminded him multiple times that morning that he should pee when he needed to (Just like the books say! And that should work perfectly, right?) and then he just pees on the floor?!? Needless to say, my response was not what I wished it was. Even at the time I could see myself handling it badly. Why would yelling at him be the best response? But I just couldn’t be patient and loving about it. Why must he resist me with everything?
And the more I yelled and the crabbier I got, the worse he acted. The more he resisted me.
After a few days of this kind of potty training and an area rug that was starting to smell like urine, I took a different approach. I hosed off the rug outside (Thank goodness I had purchased an indoor/outdoor rug.), bought some little toys from the dollar store as rewards, took some deep breaths, and just RELAXED. And guess what? He did a lot better. Did he amazingly potty train in one day after I changed my approach? Of course not. But our days were a lot more fun for everyone and potty training went a lot more smoothly after that.
I don’t think I can blame everything he does wrong on my shortcomings as a mother, but those are the days that I can look back on and realize were hurting us so much more than they were helping. The more negative I am, the more I yell or berate, does not make my son motivated to behave. His poor behavior oftentimes is a reflection of my behavior to him. Most times he acts out I’m not paying attention to him (a result of having multiple kids!) or am feeling disgruntled with him (peeing on the floor again!), and he can tell. He notices. So he shows it to me.
Granted, he shows me by being a little terror, but still.
I can’t always muster up the patience or find the time to give him undivided attention when he wants it, but I try. I try to not spend my entire day yelling at him or finding fault with his behavior.
And it really helps.

The Truth Hurts

We’ve all seen those posts from people on Facebook. Or maybe we are the people making these posts.
“I’m so in love with my baby! I love everything about being a mom!”
“I can’t wait to get home so I can spend some time with my favorite little girl!”
“I never knew motherhood would be so amazing!”
“I wish my baby would wake up so I could play with them!”
Am I the only one who sees these posts and thinks “Do people really feel this way?”
I love my children. I do not regret making the decision to have them.
But never once have I wished that they wake up from their nap so I could have some play time. Frankly, after 6-7 hours of solid play time where I hardly have an opportunity to drink some water, I’m ready for some time alone. Some time to relax, take a breath, and maybe even go to the bathroom by myself.
And while no one wants to see social media posts that are always negative, I certainly wish people could see both sides of motherhood and not feel like they are an awful person for not feeling the way others apparently do.
Here are the Facebook posts I sometimes wish I could make:
“I love this baby, but I am so sleep-deprived and physically exhausted, that there are times I wish I had my childless life back.”
“No one ever told me that having children would drain all of the physical and emotional energy from me, so much so that I don’t even want to give my husband a kiss goodnight.”
“I’m glad I got to go to work today and I’m dreading going home, because that means I will have to cook dinner with a screaming toddler (who just wants me to hold them) and a screaming preschooler (who just wants some goldfish and someone to play with him) in a kitchen that still has dishes from last night on the counter and breakfast food on the table.”
I think this side of motherhood is something that people hide. The side that isn’t pretty on Facebook. The side that doesn’t make all your single friends jealous. The side that might even make some parents judge you. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.
When I was a new mom, seeing those upbeat posts from friends made me feel like a failure. I had a very demanding baby which meant that I was exhausted, lonely, and didn’t know what to do almost all the time. Perhaps I was dealing with some postpartum depression, but mostly I was a new mom.
And that is the part of motherhood that hit me like a ton of bricks. I was expecting the gushy parts of motherhood, but none of the awful parts. Perhaps I was too romantic in my views of motherhood, or perhaps I just hadn’t been around enough new moms to see the other side. I had no idea it would be SO STINKING HARD.
But motherhood is hard and there are a lot of expectations for moms, working outside or inside the home alike. Who doesn’t want to be the amazing mom doing all sorts of fun activities and crafts with their kids? Who doesn’t want to have a great day with their kids where the stars all align and everyone is happy and satisfied and you love your life?
I love my children so much that it hurts. And the amazing days are truly amazing.
But those days are not every day. Luckily, I have a loving spouse and a wonderful family. And now I even have some great mommy friends who can tell me that it’s not just me. Those people all help me out when I need to vent, get out of the house, or not do the daycare pick-up when I’m about to lose it. But I don’t talk with all the people in my life about how I sometimes feel about motherhood. And I think we all need to be honest and talk, REALLY TALK, about the tough parts. I know it would have definitely helped me out when I was a new mom, and maybe it will help other people as well.