Parental Pariah: What the Books won’t tell you about Motherhood – the BoredomWritten by Leah Lederman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
My father served in Vietnam. He explained that being in war was –- contrary to what we’d think –- about the most tedious thing he’d ever encountered: hours of mind-warping boredom punctuated by moments of sheer animal terror. A friend told me that working in an emergency room is about the same. I’m here to tell you what no one else will — so is motherhood.
There’s the excitement of the first smile, the first little tooth jutting its way out, the first time they roll over, the first time they roll the other way; then when they sit up and, of course, the first steps. All these firsts. They are amazing, I’m not arguing that.
What they don’t tell you about are the not-so-joyous firsts: the first time the kid bites you, the first time they roll over off of the couch, the first time you learn what the ever-so-cute syllables “uh oh” really mean.
Then there’s the millionths. Okay, maybe not millionths, but it seems that way when you’re up at 2 in the morning with a wailing child cutting another tooth. The millionth time you’ve told them not to bite you (eventually, just bite back. But I shouldn’t have that in writing …), the millionth time they unlatch the child-safety lock on the cabinet and help themselves to screwdrivers, scissors, detergent and more, the millionth time they run away from you on their surprisingly speedy little legs (usually with a pair of scissors or bottle of Windex in hand).
Momblog groups like “Moms who Drink and Swear” have gained a certain notoriety on the Internet lately for apparently ‘telling it like it is’. Their aim is to be superlatively offensive, which is sufficiently off-putting for many. I believe that their amped-up candor is merely a response to the centuries of mommy-hood literature that hangs over their heads, dripping with the sentiments of unconditional love and patience with which every mother is, apparently, naturally imbued. It’s classic; it’s Victorian; it’s contemporary; everyone knows that moms are the most patient and loving creatures in the world.
Peruse any book in the “Parenting” section of your local book store and you’ll find it filled with maternal regalia, championing the unconditional, sweetest love that a mother holds in her heart for her child, it being the purest love that exists. American author Joyce Maynard once wrote, “I think of my children’s births –- carry them around with me –- every day of my life.”
If that quote didn’t make you throw up in your mouth a little bit, well, it should have. But at least hear me out. Every day? Each day of your life? I wasn’t even in labor yet and I was already trying to block it out. I look at my son every day, and I even kind of like the kid, but that’s because I don’t think about that one time, that one horrible 24 hour period, when I birthed him.
We have become oversaturated with romanticized and unrealistic prose about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
Yes, yes, babies change our lives.
What a wonderful adventure it is — especially for your hormones and your nerves …. No, you never sleep the same. There is the worry that translates into premature crow’s feet and grey hair.
But let’s talk about what babies really do:
Sleep. (check). (check again to make sure they’re still breathing).
Poop. (check). (then check your face, hands, body, and surrounding walls and carpeting to make sure there wasn’t any “foul” poop).
Did I mention there’s a lot of crying during and throughout each of these intervals? Crying because they’re hungry; because you didn’t get the food to them fast enough; it’s not what they wanted; it’s too hot; it’s too cold. Crying because they don’t want to take a nap; because they missed their nap; because they overslept and now they’re overtired. Crying because they have to poop; because they just dirtied – no, violated – a diaper (and their pants along with it), and you have the audacity to clean the whole thing up; because they pooped on the floor and stepped in it, and it’s all your fault.
Now that Bambino has become a little dude, and the weather permits a few hours of being outside, I thought that I could finally be free from cabin fever, and we’d have adventures in the backyard. While I coax him towards the toys and activities we’ve set up for him outside, he ignores me. Instead of the buckets, shovels and slide, he’s spotted a puddle. He sees a rock. He picks up the rock, and throws it in the puddle.
Cute, of course, especially with his resounding “wooooow” in response the splash.
Aaaand we’re back to the millionths.
Eventually, he saturated the puddle with the rocks he found from around the yard, and during this time, I have little choice but to join him in the search. For rocks. I thought that, by journeying outside for the first time in months, I’d be in the “combat” zone, so to speak; I was ready for adventure. Instead, I found myself looking for rocks (and, if it was a really good one, he’d permit a stick).
In the end, yes, it was a good day. But books that sap with the abounding discoveries of motherhood obviously haven’t seen my driveway — picked clean of gravel.
Despite the massive amounts of eating, sleeping and pooping that factor the largest parts of my day, I can’t necessarily just write off the pre-existing motherhood literature. It’s there for a reason. While I balance extra napkins and silverware at a restaurant, and reach into my purse –- by the cellphone, iPod and lipstick –- to find the sliced apples (now slightly browned) and flashlight that might keep him quiet for the comfort of the other patrons, I realize that I haven’t taken my eyes off of him in fifteen minutes, but I’m not tired of looking at him. I’m discovering his facial expressions and sounds and interests, moment by moment, waiting eagerly for the next new thing to arrive, because if I don’t watch constantly, I’ll miss it.
Leah Lederman lives in Toledo with her husband, their 2-year-old son and a boxer dog. She has 11 nieces and nephews. She can be reached at email@example.com.