Last week the New Yorker magazine ran a feature ad (on the cover, even) called “I love my children. I hate my life.” It is a fascinating read. I mean, is that even possible? What do you think? The gist of the article was that parenting, while promising satisfaction and fulfillment, according to academic research, leaves mothers and fathers feeling less happy than their childless counterparts. It stirred up all kinds of heated discussions on all kinds of websites. Some readers were shocked and angered at the brazen concept, while others shouted their agreement.
I, as I more often find myself doing at this stage in life, tilted my head, squinted my eyes and said “Hmmm. Interesting.” While the title itself put me off, I am neither appalled by nor in support of the concept. You see, I think being a parent is COMPLICATED. Day to day it can be a mixed bag of euphoria and despair. Heck, that can change by the hour. The subtitle of the article said “More joy, less fun.” That is a little less caustic, no? Because unless you live in a world I am unaware of, parenting is really a lot of work. The daily grind of the minutia and the endless chores (he’s out of clean underwear again, she spilled a large glass of something sticky all over the floor again, the sink is full of dishes again, none of their clothes fit again, your fingernails need to be cut again, I have to buy snacks for class again, we can’t find your shoes AGAIN, you broke my one pair of sunglasses again, we’re out of the-only-thing-you’ll-eat-for-breakfast-Eggos again) is anything but fun.
But I do bristle a bit at the title of this article, maybe because we don’t use the word “hate” in our house. Maybe because I’ve been pouring over adoption literature that has made me extra-sensitive to language that is used around children and how that might affect their self-esteem and self-image. Fact: my main job right now is to be a stay-at-home-mom. Fact: one of my primary identities right now is Mommy. For me to say that I HATE my life sends an awfully strong message that I don’t want to send to my kids. The attempt at softening the blow by saying “But I do love them” didn’t really work for me.
I’m not saying I can’t relate to the research. (Especially a few mentions of parents in the midst of little/big battles of the will and wishing for adult conversations.) There have been many moments of parenting that I STRONGLY disliked. I find the entire role to be exhausting much of the time. I am overwhelmed to the point of tears frequently. Sometimes I feel SO LONELY and yet I am never ALONE. Yes, I’ll admit. It does not make me HAPPY to change a poopy blow-out, move and install a bulky carseat, break up a sibling fight or wake up for the umpteenth time with a child for no good reason but that they’d rather scream than sleep. I agree and relate with the quote that “Loving one’s children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing. “
But what I cannot relate to? Is dissatisfaction with my life! I cannot relate to regret over having my children. My job is harder, my days are longer, my freetime is less, my correspondence is weaker, my clothes/body/hair are dirtier, my arrival is later, my butt is bigger, my privacy is non-existent. But my life?
Even more? I am better.
Because I am a mother, I am a better person.
My love is bigger, my loyalty is deeper, my marriage is stronger, my faith is greater, and my joy–my JOY is beyond anything I thought possible before they came into my life.
So, you know what? Research be damned. (Sorry for the “d” word, mom.)