Words by Janna Haynes
As I sit on the floor of my shower, hot water mingling with even hotter tears streaming down my face, I think to myself, “I don’t even like being a parent.” Shame overtakes me as I realize that while that statement isn’t completely accurate, there are plenty of times it feels true. I look down at my swollen belly growing my second child and chastise myself for thinking that having another child is a good idea when there are days I didn’t even like the one I have.
It is in these weakest moments that we are at our worst. That we treat ourselves the worst. I love my son. I already love my daughter, who is just weeks away from making an appearance into this world. But there are days, more than I want to admit, where I do not like being a parent.
Earlier this week we were outside playing after a day of frustration and tantrums. The outdoors was my last ditch effort at peace. My husband was outside with us, helping to divide the storm - a storm that had been brewing all day with tantrums and Mama feeling extra tired. I asked my son to do something, which he ignored, and I lost my mind. I grabbed his arm, twirled him around, and yelled, “Do you ever do a damn thing you’re told?!” He is 18 months old. I can’t even remember what he did that caused such a reaction, but I assure you it did not warrant my behavior.
My husband immediately stepped in, took our son gently into his arms, and said, “I got this. Go take a second to yourself.” His words were soft and kind, but his face told me that I had crossed the line and I needed to go collect myself before he would even think about putting our son back in my care.
Shame overwhelmed me. Of the two of us, I pride myself in being the calm one, the sane one, the one with the most patience. But that was before I was six months pregnant with an 18-month-old and why didn’t anyone tell me this was going to be the worst phase of my life? That I would become someone ugly and, at times, hateful.
I thought infertility was the hardest part. I thought the feelings of failure year after year of not being able to conceive was the worst part. I thought letting down my husband every month was the worst part. I thought spending tens of thousands of dollars and sticking myself with needles and pumping my body full of hormones was the hardest part. It wasn’t. Needle sticks and doctor’s appointments and tears and outbursts due to a hormone imbalance are just a distant memory.
Except they are a constant reminder that not only was this child (and his forthcoming sister) not an accident, they were the result of an expensive and hard fought battle to be in the exact scenario I am now in. How ungrateful does that make me? Sure it wasn’t easy, but so many women experiencing infertility never have the chance to be where I am now. I feel like I am failing so miserably. I question my own sanity for allowing myself the luxury of doing this all over again.
What healthy parent looks at their own child, flesh of their flesh, and thinks, “I don’t like you today. I liked my life before you a lot better.” I thought parenting was supposed to be fulfilling.
Social media, despite all its evils, has given us a small glimpse into the mirage of perfect parenting, as well as permission to air out what real life looks like. Messy houses, unbathed children, temper tantrums, Pinterest fails… #RealLife. Where are the posts that lay bare a mother’s soul when she is at her weakest? You don’t see them because while sharing a pile of messy dishes is fine, it’s still not OK to tell the world you don’t like your kids.
I’m imagining the post now: A mother, hair a little askew, makeup-less, with a clear look of frustration on her face – grabbing her toddler’s arm just a little harder than she should while a look of disappointment and fear forms on her son’s angelic face. You can already see tears beginning to gather in his eyes as he looks into his mother’s angry face and tries to figure out what he did to bring out such an ugly reaction. #RealLife. I don’t like myself either, son.
Before I had my son I knew that I was not wired for motherhood. I knew I wouldn’t find my purpose or my calling in being a mother, but I knew that my heart had the capacity to love, my husband and I could provide a stable, loving home, and what greater challenge is there than growing, birthing, and raising a human into a decent person? Challenge accepted. So I approached motherhood just like I would any task on my to-do list. Something to tackle. I can do anything, so surely I can dominate this parenting gig.
I can hear the laughter from parents all over the world at the ludicrous thought that parenting is like anything else in the world, particularly a task that can be checked off. The notion that “if they can, I can” just doesn’t apply here.
The sad reality is that most days we are struggling to make it to bedtime, the weekends are the longest two days of my life. My weekends used to be filled with concerts, wine tasting, sleeping in, breakfast, and free time. Now they start as early as he wakes up and revolve around him. His schedule, his feelings, and his agenda. And I’m bitter.
The tears in the shower scenario has played out half a dozen times over the last six months. Moments where I have crossed the line, let my frustration get the better of me, and verbally lashed out in ways a small child doesn’t deserve. Each time I mentally berate myself, think of all the ways I could’ve handled it better, and as I inevitably remove myself from the situation, I wonder if my son will grow up remembering these moments.
As I cry on the floor of the shower, my husband brings our son upstairs and he toddles into the bathroom, puts his hands on the glass and presses his face up against it so that he can see me. “Mama!” he says, with a huge smile on his face. My hot tears come harder as his mercy and love wash over me. It feels a lot like forgiveness when I least deserve it.
Motherhood has been a steep learning curve for me. Learning how to mold my life around the needs of a child that can’t accurately express what he needs or feels and learning how to accept my new normal without being eaten by bitterness. Learning that even on the days I don’t like my son, I’ve never loved so deeply.
“I don’t deserve you sweet boy, but I assure you that I love you so, so much.”
About the Author:
Janna Haynes is a professional communicator living in West Sacramento, Ca. She spends her days handling media relations for Sacramento County. She is married, has a two-year-old son, a brand new baby girl, and an eight-year-old boxer named Cali. She loves to write, wine taste, and play sports.