I have no real introduction for this other than here are some unrelated things I am tired of and grumpy about in the parenting world — things that I wish would end right now. In fact, I might sound in writing more grumpy than I actually feel, and for that I blame the rainy weather and lack of good snacks in my house right now. (Also, maybe the over-consumption of media, as it relates to #2 and #3.)
Grump 1: People who scare new or expectant parents.
Y’all know what I’m talking about. The people — neighbors, friends, strangers in elevators, waiters, distant relations, employers, Facebook associates, etc. — who tell expecting couples things like, “Better enjoy your sleep/sex/freedom now!” There are also those people who “comfort” new or not-so-new parents by saying, “Think this is hard? What until he’s 2!” (Of course, “2” becomes “5” becomes “13” depending on who you’re talking to.)
Let me backtrack by saying that one of my fondest memories in the months before we decided to have kids is of a friend mine — the lovely Dorothy Robinson, actually, of the Tankini Files — talking about how much she and her husband were enjoying being parents. We were at a party, and she was wearing her sweet infant Sam in an Ergo, and she admitted that yeah, she was tired, but they were enjoying the newness and the adventure and the fun of it. Because I know Dorothy to very much be a non-sugarcoating truth-teller (See: exhibit A), it made an impression on me. (“Let’s have a kid!” was my reaction, I think.) I remembered it going forward as a parent, too, when talking to other new or expecting parents. It just meant so much to hear someone say that the challenges weren’t as defining as the good stuff. Ashley behaved in much the same way when she gave birth a year or so before me, and I found it both refreshing and comforting.
Because truly: Unless you’re a Martian, you already have heard about the tough parts. You already fear them. You know there’ll be tiredness, and you know there’ll be scary stuff and sacrifice and boredom and confusion. Vague jokes about the End of Fun don’t help, and aren’t entirely accurate, at least not in everyone’s world. What helps — or what helped me, anyway — was some good humor and some confidence-building. Like: “You’ll be surprised at how much you find fun and delightful about having a kid. And you’ll be great at it.”
Note: It’s not that we shouldn’t talk as parents about the hard stuff. Obviously, we should, and do, and I think we all appreciate the realness. Case in point 1, Dorothy, again. Case in point 2: My friend Vicki, who wrote this phenomenal book about “the second nine months.” But … time and place, right? It’s both cliched and not super awesome to emphasize to nervous people about the stuff you lose as a parent instead of the stuff you gain. Or, in the immortal words of Countess Luann:
Grump 2: Bodies that “bounce back after baby”
First, as cliches go, this is maybe the most boring, tired, overused one out there. As an editor, if I saw a writer use this phrase, I would red-pen it. With a frowny face.
Second, I am 99 percent sure that this “bouncing” obsession was invented by magazine editors looking for another reason to run photos of celebrities in bikinis, which is fine, except I’m tired of the upshot: We’ve all learned to zero in on women’s bodies, opening them up to public scrutiny about everything from baby bumps to stretch marks to tummies to dermatological conditions, even — especially! — at a time when everything about that woman’s life is in flux. Just because it often comes under the guise of being complimentary or “body positive” doesn’t mean it’s not scrutiny. (I could link to a million examples of this but won’t, because I don’t want to be part of the cycle more than I already am as an avid reader of People.com.)
Anyway, that whole circus has created the so-pervasive-it’s-almost-subconscious pressure on all of us to maintain control of our physical being and appearance at all times, above all else. I mean, can we live?
Grump 3: Speaking of Celebrity Reporting …
This gripe is somewhat ironic because — as I just mentioned — I do love me some People.com, and similar celebrity fluff. But can we please stop with all the fawning, breathless reporting of celebrity parenting wisdom/habits? I’m sure that Chrissy Teigen/Kristen Bell/Random Dancing With the Stars Person are all fun, funny and wonderful people, and I’m happy to read about what they wear or what celebrity feud they’re in or their favorite lip balm or whatever. But please, editors, stop trying to sell us on the idea that famous moms have somehow tapped into some elevated parenting wisdom or parenting chill or parenting perfection that the rest of us are clamoring for.
Because this, as Oprah would say, I know for sure: We’re all the same, we parents — being a mom is the great equalizer. We all have moments of wisdom, and great parenting hacks, and the ability to “be real” or “shut down haters”, just as we all have had poop under our fingernails at some point. So enough with the gushing #parentinggoals routine every time some celebrity says something halfway normal or true or even wise about parenting — or acting shocked/relieved/fawning when it turns out that some celebrity turns out to be a normal parent (“Even Kate Middleton Doesn’t Always Know What’s Best!” Gag.) (“Amazing! This model is breast-pumping while getting makeup done!”) — because it’s quite enough to know that they have more access to blowouts and designer shoes than the rest of us. We don’t need to pretend that they’re somehow cooler, smarter, more on-top-of-it parents, too. (See? Grumpy.)