Monday, January 12, 2015

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Why it’s important for parents to bitch

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Photo by Mindaugas Danys

 

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I wrote a post a while back that was published in Scary Mommy where I bitched about the questions I’ve been asked since having a baby. There were hundreds of comments, but one in particular really stood out to me: “’I’m sorry but this post and most of these comments make you all look like overly sensitive twats. Nothing in this post is offensive. Do you all wake up looking for something to bitch about?...”

The more I thought about this comment, the more I realized she was right. I do bitch a lot. I bitch about getting up in the night. I bitch about messes, fights, noise, poop, boogers, and lack of sex. And in this particular post, I bitched about getting asked questions. Like most parents, I like to bitch.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing and here's why.

Few things are as isolating as raising kids. I can’t talk with my 5 and 7-year-old about politics, budgeting woes, or marital issues. You want to know what it’s like raising small children? Imagine spending all day with a compulsive nose picker and fit thrower whose primary goals are candy and screen time. Would you really want to chat with that person about your problems?

My wife is a stay at home mom. Sometimes she goes days where I’m the only adult she talks to. I was a stay at home dad for a while, and during that time my life was exactly the same way. As much as I love my kids, they are no substitute for real adult conversation. And yet the tricky thing is, when I’m with the kids all day, all I want to do is talk to another adult. And then when I get the opportunity to talk to another adult, all I want to do is bitch about my kids. It’s a strange twisted circular thing that makes parenting all consuming. And to make matters worse, I constantly feel like I’m doing it wrong.

Just a few days ago my 5-year-old wouldn’t stop asking for a popsicle while I was on the phone, so I gave her a time out. Suddenly I realized that I was punishing her for asking questions, and felt like a total jerk. I often tell her that intelligent people ask questions, and suddenly I was contradicting myself. Stuff like this happens all the time.

I hate it.

Sometimes I just need to know that other parents are having the same petty struggles. I need to know that it is normal for a little boy to talk about Mincraft non-stop. I need to know that it’s normal for a baby to get constipated when making the transition from breast milk to regular food. I need to know that other parents don’t have the emotional stamina to let their child “cry it out” during sleep training.

I need confirmation, and bitching to other parents grants me that.

Bitching about kids online or otherwise is not new. My parents used to sit across the table from close friends, the children playing in another room, and discuss the challenges of raising children. They bitched about how my brother was such a handful, and how I was such an attention whore. They swapped strategies on how to better manage the challenges of raising children, and they laughed about the strange things their children did. My parents bitched about their kids for a million reasons, and all of it, I’m sure, was to help them feel connected.

This is exactly why bitching about kids online is so important. It gives parents confidence. It allows us to laugh at stressful situations. It grants us a feeling of shared comradery, and an understanding that we are sharing very similar challenges, and it’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to feel like you are doing it wrong. It’s okay to be moody and sleepy. It doesn’t mean that parenting isn’t rewarding and it doesn’t mean that you don’t love your children.

In fact, it means that you love them more.

When I took Ethics in college, I was asked to imagine two philanthropists. Both donate the same amount of money, only they donate money with different motivations. Whenever philanthropist A donated money, he made sure that people knew about it. Praise was his primary motivator, and if he didn’t get praise for his philanthropy, he wouldn’t donate money any more.

In contrast, philanthropist B hated to donate money. He bitched about it. However, he did it because, at the core of his being, he knew it was the right thing to do.

The question is: Who was the better philanthropist?

I said philanthropist B. Both were good people doing good things, however philanthropist B donated because his motivations were pure.

Much like philanthropist B, parenting isn’t about praise. It’s about pure love. Even though we bitch about parenting, we do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Those of you sleepless, and frustrated, and moody, and still madly in love with your children, you are the true parents. Bitching about kids is not about being a bad parent; it means you are trying to find a way to become a better parent. It means that you love your children enough to be honest about your frustrations, and you are looking for a way to laugh about your challenges so you can feel confident getting up the next morning to do it all again. 


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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter

1 comments:

Lee Rodgers said...

Definitely following you my friend! You talk a lot of sense. Best wishes for 2015!