How raising a tiny human calls your own insecurities out into the light
For the record, I do not consider myself to be one of those elite parents who seem to have it all together. This is an ode to the real MVP's: the moms and dads who walk the difficult, uphill path of raising human children with both confidence and an air of detachment from the world around them. These are the people who make the rest of us look bad by remembering to bring an extra set of clothes and a pacifier and enough wipes to cover a potential fecal emergency.
I vaguely recall a deep desire to be like one of these parents while I had my infant sprawled out on a dirty park bench, using diapers as wipes because he crapped all over himself on one of the hottest days of the summer. True to form, I had left myself a single wipe to clean up what had proven to be a proper mess. Even the most comprehensive college degree doesn’t prepare you to maximize the surface of a single wipe to clean an entire set of baby buttocks, while gnats and flies are buzzing around you, waiting to land.
These are the moments that break regular parents like me. Forget the emergency c-section and the fact that strangers in an operating room had to shave me because I was too round in the end to reach my most intimate parts. Forget the morning sickness, the offhand comments from relatives about doing all of this all over again, the sad realization that life will never be the same, or the yearning desire to drink six or seven of those huge fishbowl margaritas from Chili’s in a single sitting. Even in light of all of those challenges, and the pull of all of those desires, I still wasn’t prepared to view the idea of raising a newborn with anything other than abject fear.
Make no mistake: despite my flaws, I can really appreciate a good parent because I know exactly how it feels to be a crappy one. Because of my flaws, I can look with objective envy upon a mother who can show her child how to nap without her and without tears. I can secretly rue the father who can take the dog and the baby to the park and feed them all with patience and good humor. I can look upon these people with a sense of awe and maybe a little jealously because no matter what I do- or how hard I try, for that matter- I always seem to get caught up in the little frustrations that leave me in tears at 3'o’clock in the morning. I can’t get past the fact that my child actually smiles at me when I’m elbow-deep in his poop as the sun rises in the window above the changing table, or that there are no clean bottles left as he screams in hunger from the dark confines of our shared room.
I’ll admit it- I can’t see the forest through the trees.
Parenting is one of those things that no one really tells the truth about. And at the risk of opening myself up to criticism, I fully understand why this might be.
If someone had sat me down prior to my pregnancy and said, “this is going to be the most difficult, thankless thing you’ve ever done”, I am honestly not sure I would have chosen this path again- simply because I hate myself in those weak moments. I hate the fact that I cry while my baby watches the emotion play out on my face, his little mouth open as he tries to find the right sounds that will comfort me and bring back my smile. I hate the fact that I just can’t keep it together long enough to find deep meaning in those brief, intimate moments between my child and I.
That my own insecurities prevent me from loving myself while I love my child.
Motherhood to the neurotic perfectionist is the greatest test of all time; daily failure is demoralizing. It forces me to wonder how those perfect, natural-born parents are handling these daily challenges. How do those flawless mothers without mats in their air and without breast milk soaked into the fibers of every single shirt cope with the constant demand of a child? How do those fathers make it look so fun when all I want to do is sleep away the best and most adorable years of my baby’s life?
Maybe this is simply what I needed- a harsh reminder that I am not perfect, that I am not the sum of my flaws, and that there will always be those other people who are better than I am in every sense of the word. That part of being an adult is knowing that you’ll never reach the same goals as everyone else and that you have to somehow make it work anyway. That sometimes, the closest you’ll ever get to perfection is watching other people do it.
So this is for those parents who are out there, doing it and making it look good every single day. The ones who smile through every miserable moment. The ones who recognize that this time is fleeting and that it should be cherished. I’ve tried and I can’t be like you. I keep getting in my own way.
Maybe some day I’ll be able to count some successes amidst all the failures. In the meantime, thanks for giving me something to look forward to.