The truth is, no, I don't LOVE this job of parenting. I don't love being responsible for another life. The weight of this task is almost unbearable at times.
I am about to say things that may cause me to lose friends, be judged (harshly), and may even make people question my right to be a parent. I am aware of this, and I am OK with it. Some things just need to be said.
Here is my truth.
I love my daughter more than I love the air I breathe into my own body. If, God forbid, there were ever a situation where it was my life or hers, I'd save someone the trouble and take my own life. No questions. No hesitation. Done. But if you ask me do I love being a parent, many times the real answer is NO.
I know, it sounds awful. And you may have just had that thought that we, as moms, always have when we hear other women complain about parenting — "Why the hell did you have a kid if you didn't want to be a parent?" There are plenty of women in this world who can't have children, how dare you complain!" — but, I implore you, keep reading. You may just find a piece of yourself in my words.
The truth is, no, I don't LOVE this job of parenting. I don't love being responsible for another life. The weight of this task is almost unbearable at times. I am charged with making sure I don't raise a psychopath, useless bum, arrogant bastard, mean girl, master manipulator, or any other label we deem NOT GOOD. I'm charged with making sure I fill her cup with enough self esteem, confidence, and self-assurance that she won't seek it out in a boy with lying lips and a cheating heart. I'm charged with making sure she applies herself academically, and doesn't back down from educational challenges so that her teachers always see her abilities and potential, and not her wheelchair and communication device as limitations. And the list goes on and on with things that, as a parent, I am supposed to do and feel. And since I'm being 100% transparent with you, I'll tell you: It's exhausting, it's heartbreaking, and sometimes it's a 1,000-pound mindfuck.
I worry if she's eating enough. I worry if she's making friends at school. I wonder if she's grasping and retaining what she's learning. If we're at Target and a sketchy character approaches us in the parking lot, I immediately switch into crazy mama-bear mode, ready to claw their face off if necessary. I look at every face I pass when she's with me, trying to memorize it in 2.5 seconds in case they try to abduct her. I play out "if this, then this" scenes in my head while I sit at red lights. If someone approached my car right now and wanted to carjack me, what would I say and what would I do to make sure my daughter remained safe throughout the ordeal?
I have to make decisions about her therapeutic care and health on a weekly basis that will affect the rest of her life. The rest of her life. Do you know the weight that comes with having to decide whether or not to use an iPad for communication versus working her to the bone to teach her to talk? It seems trivial, but trust me, it is not. Communication is good, regardless of how it happens, but when you desperately want to hear your own child's voice one day say, "Mommy, I love you so much," or even "Mommy, I hate this dinner and I want a lollipop instead," the decision seems like a red-wire-or-green-wire moment. You'll either survive, or it's going to blow up in your face.
I don't love this. I don't love any part of it. I don't love the fact that a life is in my hands every moment of every day. It is emotionally exhausting, mentally exhausting, and heartbreaking all at the same time.
In keeping with the notion of being transparent, I also long for the life I thought I might have if I never had a child.
I said it.
Now you don't have to.
I fantasize about the life I might be leading if I had never gotten pregnant. And in my fantasy, my life is awesome. It is full and rich with experiences and people from distant lands. It is New York and Paris. It is Bali and Kenya and Puerto Rico. Austria. Seattle. Miami. It's high fashion and Chuck Taylors. It's weaves and extensions and bright red hair and purple highlights. In my fantasy, my life is a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with records and magazines and books piled high all around me. My fantasy life doesn't even include a boyfriend. It has me tied to nothing but my composition notebooks, a pen, a laptop, and an external hard drive. I move through life with ease — loving no one romantically, but everyone fully, and hard. I have long nights of drinking gin with friends and expounding on the merits of Kurt Vonnegut. I go to concerts, I go dancing, I get on stage and bless the mic at jazz clubs and coffee houses. I find the balls to do improv and stand-up comedy because, hell, why not? This is the life I envision I would have had, had I never become a parent.
And if you're being 100% honest with yourself, you've had a similar fantasy life in your head for some time. It may not include stand-up comedy or composition notebooks, but it holds in it something you don't have or haven't done, but wish you could or did.
I'm writing this to tell you: That's OK.
It is OK to have these thoughts and wish these things, and even say them out loud. The International Being A Mom Is Awesome Club says it's not, but I'm here to tell you it 100% is. It is human to long for the almost — to crave the daydream. I call it the "grass is different" way of thinking. It's not that the grass in your fantasy life is necessarily better, it's just different. It's not what you currently have. It's the grass in Montmartre, France as opposed to the grass in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It's just different. And yes, it would be nice to see what the grass in France looks like.
Here's the flip side of it, though. Even though I don't love being a parent for the myriad reasons I just gave, I love being E's parent. If I could go back to when I was 31 and choose NOT to get pregnant ... but know that in 10 years I could have her, exactly as she is today, special needs and all, I would do it. There is not a single thing about this kid's heart and soul that I don't inhale with each breath. I love everything (everything) about who she is, how she is. I love the way she rolls her eyes at me when I try to get her to eat zucchini. I love how she will beat a joke into the ground, and laugh harder and harder with each telling of it, so much so that you can't help but laugh right along with her, until there are tears streaming down your face. I love her fierce determination, her "I can do anything you can do" attitude. Her sensitive and empathetic heart blows me away, because at 5 years old, she knows not what it is to discriminate against people — only vegetables. I have learned more about life, the human spirit, and myself in five years of being her parent, than in my previous 32 years of just being me. Being her parent forced me to take hold of my dream and run with it. She was my push and my shove. My rock and my hard place.
My fantasy life is tempered only by the fact that I have this child. I would not want any other. But I would be lying to you if I told you that sometimes — OK, a lot of times — I want to see the grass in France. And if we're being honest with each other, I bet you do too.
And that's OK.