Parenthood comes with so many uncertainties. You have no idea what your child will look like, or how they will sleep. You do not know if they will be high maintenance or laid back. You do not know if they will talk early or walk on time. You almost have no idea how you are going to have to handle anything for this tiny person that you have never met.
But parenthood also comes with many assurances. As a new parent, you can be assured that everyone around you will have an opinion, will offer unsolicited advice, or will make a ridiculous comment. You can also be sure that many will try to compete with you.
Just read the comments (I know, NEVER read the comments!) on any parenting article, child safety law, or, you know, anything on the internet. There you will find moms, and dads shaming, judging, and one-upping each other. Oftentimes, they are out to prove that they are more miserable than the next.
Misery loves company and people love to win. Why not win at being miserable?
Parenting shares this article by Joe Paradise where he compared parenting to watching a movie with some one who has already seen it. He writes,
as the film gets to the good parts, she keeps leaning over and whispering, “Watch this.” You find yourself distracted, and frustrated. (What are you supposed to be watching for?) There’s a real-life parental equivalent of such movie spoilers, and that’s the phrase, “Just wait!”
As in, you are childless and tired? Just wait till you have kids, then you will know true exhaustion.
You think your house is a mess? Just wait till you have two kids. That place will never be tidy again.
You think he is hard to keep up with? Just wait until he is walking. You will never sit down.
What every veteran parent is essentially saying is, just wait. It gets worse.
Part of this need to be miserable comes from the fact that society loves to commiserate. Everyone can related to misery. Think with me for a minute…when was the last time you spoke out loud to no one in particular or to a complete stranger about something negative. Maybe you announced that it was too hot outside or you mentioned that you were exhausted on a Tuesday after a holiday. I guarantee at least one person was quick to join you in complaining. There is that instant connection and bond formed over speaking negatively about something. Anything.
But when was the last time you announced, unsolicited, that you had the best day ever, or that you accomplished a goal you worked hard to meet? Probably never. But if you had, it probably was not met with congratulatory slaps on the back or words of praise. More likely it was met with a side look, perhaps an eye roll. By standers were probably wondering why you felt the need to announce this to them. A particularly forward stranger might even have given you a snide comment like, “Good for you” or even followed it up with their own story of failure and misery just to bring you back to reality.
The issue here is that shared misery is widely accepted, yet announced contentment or pleasure is viewed as bragging. Just search the hash tag #HumbleBrag and you will see that anyone speaking openly about something positive is told they are bragging, or even accused of trying to shame others.
Why does the world believe that my accomplishments negate the accomplishments of others? Why if I say that my undedicated birth was a wonderful experience, do other moms who birthed a different way feel the need to explain themselves or defend their style of birth? Why if I post a picture of my breastfeeding infant do other women take it upon themselves to remind me that some moms are unable to breastfeed or make sure I am aware that formula fed babies are “Just Fine”? I would love to think they were innocently trying to connect with me over the given topic, but most times, they are making it a competition.
After reading Joe Paradise’s article, I have become painfully aware of every time I tell a new parent of the misery of parenthood. Just a few days ago, I was in a store speaking to a stranger and I cringed as I heard myself say, “When you decide you hate sleep, have a baby.” Why, Beka, why?
The world does not need another person who is quick to negativity. New and future parents do not need more stories of sleep deprivation and poo smeared walls. Expecting mothers do not need more information about second degree tears and peri bottles. What everyone needs, what I want to commit to being, is someone who spreads optimism for those coming behind me.
I want new parents to walk away from a conversation with me excited about having a toddler. I want couples planning on children to leave my dinner table believing that parenthood is going to be the most beautiful avenue they have ever walked together.
So, Mr. Paradise, as you said, “Perhaps it’s time we switch up our approach to help our fellow rookie parents succeed: to drop the “just waits” and simply be there to listen, and give our two cents only when asked.” I want to take the idea a step further and tell your readers this:
Just wait until that first on-purpose smile. It will melt your heart
Just wait until they are walking. It is the cutest waddle ever, and they become so much more fun.
Just want until those chubby arms reach for you for the first time. You will never want to put them down
Just want until that tiny body hugs you back and squeezes your neck. Never let go.
Just wait until they babble something resembling “I love you.” That sound will stay with your forever.
It goes without saying that parenthood is a challenge. It is an adjustment. It is a huge responsibility. But no one ever heard such things and reconsidered being a parent. No newlywed intent on children ever heard the struggles of parenthood and thought, “Maybe I won’t actually have children.”
Sharing the downside of parenthood never did as much good as sharing the joys.