If you didn’t read part 1, check it out here.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the comments people shared with me and why so many people that don’t usually respond took the time to jot something down. I have a lot of thoughts, but they don’t necessarily come in an orderly fashion. Be patient with me.
First, parenting is, like, SUPER hard. And if you don’t think it is, then I’m not sure what kind of fairy tale child you have. (And I’m assuming you only have one. And please remember that other children are created VERY differently than yours, and hold off your judgement on those of us who don’t think this is a cake walk.) But for the purposes of anyone who’s being honest, parenting is the most amazing adventure we’ll ever go on, but it is also incredibly challenging. It brings out in me the strongest emotions I never knew existed on planet earth, let alone in my heart and mind. Those feelings run the gamut from a love so strong and powerful you could lift a vehicle off your child or fight a bear to protect them. It’s a love that makes you physically SICK when you think about it too long. And for many of us, it also brings out some incredibly real frustration and anger. Fortunately the love counter balances the anger, so usually we can reign it in a bit.
And I think we don’t talk about the hard side of parenting in healthy and real ways very often. Maybe if you are lucky enough to have an inner circle of friends who are parents, especially if they also have challenging personalities in their home, you can be honest with each other. But in general, I think we default to focusing on the pretty parts of raising a family. OR, the way social media is often used, we shoot off a quick and angry post to vent about how awful our kid is being today and a joke about needing a glass of wine. I’m totally not above that, I’ve done similar posts myself. But I’m not sure that’s very helpful. It’s good for a laugh, definitely, but not gonna motivate me to be a better mom. I don’t want to use my 140 twitter characters to constantly berate my children. (Tempting sometimes, but not wise.)
I really wish we could be more vulnerable with each other. It was not fun to admit to world wide web-land that I had a crappy mom day. It did not feel awesome to share my weaknesses and failures of that day. Partly because we all know that was not the only day I displayed those weaknesses. It is so much more fun to share the fun parts of my life–to flip through my camera roll and choose the best of the 5 photos to post, the one where I only have one chin. Why would I want to let you all in to the ugly?
But we are just not doing ourselves or each other any favors by using social media to only highlight the awesomeness in our lives. It creates such a facade that is misleading at best and harmful at worst. I’m all for using the web to see pictures of your cute kid and hear about your husband’s new job. I really do want to see and hear that stuff. But if I’m ONLY seeing adorable pictures of you doing special crafts and coffee dates with your perfectly dressed children, I’m going to start comparing my REAL life to your FAKE life, and then I will assume something is very wrong with me. This applies to all of us as we interact on social media, not just parents. But how do we DO that?
I don’t have an easy answer, but I think it begins with feeling seen and understood. It was so encouraging to me to see so many people respond to my lousy mom moment by saying “You are not alone.” Hallelujah! Isn’t that what we all long for? To know that we are not the only ones who have bad days, who have whiny kids, who have difficult co-workers, who work hard at being married, who eat too much junk food?! It only takes a few words or an understanding smile to help someone feel like they are not alone.
I think another part of the answer is that we need honesty, but we need some hope too. I don’t want to sit around with a bunch of other moms and hear how hard it is to parent a strong-willed child without someone saying, “We can DO THIS, you guys! I know it!” One of God’s gifts to us is finding a parent who is a few years ahead of where we are who will put their arm around us and say, “It’s OK, I’ve been there and you will make it through.” It’s not going to benefit any of us if we all get super real with one another about the ridiculousness of cleaning up bodily fluids unless we also are able to laugh at ourselves–and the pee, poop, spit-up, phlegm, vomit and blood. Part of the purpose of being vulnerable with each other is to ENCOURAGE each other. I need to know when you are struggling, so I can lift you up, and vice versa. I want you to know that you are not alone, not just so we can have a gripe-fest about parenting, but rather so that we can feel like teammates fighting like crazy to WIN together.
More than anything, I think when we expose our weaknesses, we open ourselves up to need and receive GRACE. Grace from God, grace from our kids and our spouses, grace from each other, and–the hardest one–grace for OURSELVES. A good friend sent me this quote today: “Our flaws become exhibits of God’s power and grace.” Exactly! If I always have it together, why would I need Jesus? If you think I always have it together, I am giving glory to MYSELF, and not to God who honestly is the one who gets me through the hard days.
I think we are all still figuring out this life together, especially this part of life where we interact with community online. But I want to strive for authenticity, lavishly sprinkled with grace and hope. And I promise a good bodily fluid story every now and then. Because THAT? Is my real life.