Monday, March 7, 2011

Navel Gazing on Motherhood

Over the weekend, I more than once found myself thinking about how happy I am being a parent. And then wondering if I am truly happy, or if I'm just glossing over the bad stuff because I'm becoming an optimist. And then, as luck would have it, Jezebel linked to a study that claims to answer this question. And the answer appears to be "yes, you are kidding yourself".

That answer comes from a study of fewer than one hundred parents, and is mostly based on the financial burden of child rearing. As is often the case the comments are infinitely more informative than the content on dear old Jez, and the readers pull apart the fabric of this study, which is typically flimsy as a one-off investigation. Besides more careful examination of what this study might actually mean, many of the women (and handful of men), weigh in with their feelings on parenting, or not parenting.

As for me, I don't think that parenting is for everyone, and I don't think there's anything wrong with anyone who recognizes that fact, for any reason (from distaste for kids, fear of losing your figure, focusing on career, whatever). In fact, I think that's commendable and (here comes a thinly veiled political position) that decision should be protected in every way. I also totally get why it can be irritating to hear parents wax poetic about the poop they cleaned up last night, or the peacefulness of 3 a.m. feedings.

I am sure that plenty of people exaggerate their enthusiasm for the role in an attempt to balance their feelings with their reality. And I know plenty of people who take the opposite tack and voice their complaints and irritation at all the same "joys", to make it clear that parenting isn't their one and only vocation. Everyone handles their life circumstances differently, and I've met plenty of people who fall into one or the other of these camps regarding their professional lives, too.

In my case, when I say that I love being Ollie's mum more than anything else in the world, I am pretty sure I'm telling the truth. There's always the chance that I'm deluding myself, but as far as I can tell, I love it. It helps that I'm a person who has always liked kids and is comfortable with a certain amount of noise, chaos, mess and disorder (although not TOO much). And beyond the plain old joy of having a giggling baby in the house being a mother has opened up the possibility of becoming a better version of what I have been in the past.

Although I have a lot of really excellent qualities, I also have a lot of not so hot ones. I'm an organized person with no discipline whatsoever. I'm passionate about a lot of things but I tend to lack follow through. And I can be the happiest, silliest person in a room, but I can also be the darkest, most unpleasant too. Being Ollie's mommy for the past year alone has been the balancing piece on all of my best and worst qualities. Of course, I still get into a funk, drop a project or stay up too late eating piles of candy from time to time, but the next morning there's a little guy greeting me with a smile that needs encouragement or a tear that needs hugging, and I have to really consider what matters in the moment, and try to drop all of the bad stuff that comes with being human.

I fail at that all the time, of course. And I do have fleeting moments of thinking that maybe I'd like to be the woman flirting charmingly with the barrista around the corner rather than the one who is discovering that there was a chunk of squash in her hair the whole time she was out grabbing a coffee (true story), but all in all, being a mum is better than I ever could have imagined, in every single way.

Which is good, because I can't afford to become an optimist. No one will be able to recognize me.

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