When I see parents juggling the
demands of three of more children, I never wish to be in their shoes. Don’t get
me wrong, I love my girls beyond words. They bring immeasurable joy and purpose
to my life. They also make my blood boil more in a day than it did in years
without children. I’m afraid I’ll have a heart attack one morning mid-yell, and
my last words will be “Put on your light-up sneakers, NOW.”
My husband seems just as fun-drained
as I am. He’s joked about hiring a nanny and moving out (with me). “We must be
doing this wrong,” I’ll say to him as we watch a large family skip by on their
way to the park. “Look at them, they’re practically a commercial for having
Then another family will appear
with a howling, hair-pulling, snot-dripping mass of offspring and I’ll add,
“I’m glad we only have two.”
I adore each
of my girls and the bond they share as sisters is amazing, but since becoming a
mother of two, my life has spiraled into a vortex of sleepless nights and
harried days. It doesn’t help that both
my children have sensory processing issues, with a likely case of ADHD thrown
in for extra excitement. It really doesn’t help that I have sensory processing issues and can’t handle all the inevitable
noise and clutter.
“I’m overwhelmed,” I tell my
friends, my coworkers, and the stranger at the checkout line.
“Oh, but they’re so fun!” they
If the person who says this
doesn’t have children, I repress the urge to punch them in the throat. If they
have one kid, I let it slide. I skipped along through the two-adults-to-one-kid
phase of parenting just fine. I don’t want to ruin it for them. But when I hear
someone with two or more gushing about "How fun it is,” I have two
reactions: I'm either jealous because they genuinely seem euphoric or I call
If I just saw you chasing your three-year
old with a baby latched onto your sore nipple and a preschooler bonking you in
the head with a Nerf ball: bullshit. That’s not fun. Your kids may be having
fun. But you’re not fooling anyone with your “Oh, but they’re so fun!”
propaganda. So please, just stop.
I get it. You don’t want
parental karma to smack you in the face harder than that Nerf ball, so you
smile and keep a positive attitude. Because kids are a blessing, even if they
aren’t fun and all you want to do is lay your un-showered head on the pillow
for 10 years and sleep until it gets easier (which apparently, it never does.)
It seems ungrateful—unwise even—to complain about something as wonderful as
children... especially your own.
Then there are those rare
parents who I actually believe when they say “Oh, but they’re so fun!” These
are the men and women who appear enraptured with having multiple children. They
thrive in the chaos. They’re flipping beatific.
There is always joy, but there
is rarely fun.
I just stare at these rare souls,
filled with an emotion I usually try to avoid. It’s like seeing an adorable young
couple snuggling in a booth across the restaurant while you’re bickering with your
significant other over who unloaded the dishwasher last.
“Remember when we were like
that,” I’ll say, nodding my head toward the PDA-happy pair.
“We were never like THAT in
public,” he says. But he smiles as the memories of our pre-kid years play
through his mind, and we pause the never-ending dishwasher debate for a while.
When I see the pure joy on
another parent’s face, I think back to my first year of motherhood. I had that
joy. I did. I have it still in moments so swift they flit past before I can
truly savor it.
“I love you, Mommy,” my
youngest will say, wrapping her thin arms around me and squeezing with an
intensity that surprises me every time.
“I want to write stories with
you,” my oldest will say, settling on my office floor with a stack of printer
paper and crayons. We sit together for long stretches of time, pausing now and
then to smile at each other while we each try our best to coax words onto the
So, when I see other parents
having the time of their lives on a regular basis, I’m envious. I want that
way more than I want my partner of 17 years to go for a public cuddle.
Because I know if that cute couple makes it as long as we have, they likely
won’t be canoodling in a restaurant booth (or even on their own couch) every
night. Instead, they’ll love each other in ways they couldn’t possibly
understand so early in their relationship—dish fight and all.
Parent envy is different.
Childhood flashes by and if I’m not having fun now, when will I? My oldest is
already a first grader and my youngest has left toddlerhood behind. I have no
more babies. All the work and all the fun of that portion
of childhood is gone, and I’ll never get it back.
Perhaps all those parents who
are clearly lying through their teeth when they say “Oh, but they’re so fun”
are just trying to fake it until it is.
I know I’m guilty of this. We
have impromptu dance parties. They start out awesome and end with someone needing
an icepack because we’re all pretty clumsy. We do arts
and crafts that should guarantee a good time. They’re OK, until glitter coats
every surface of my house, including my three-year old’s tongue.
Maybe the fun times, those
moments of joy, just stretch a little longer for some parents. The next time I
see someone having the time of their life with their kids, I’m going to ask
them how. Because I’d really like to know.