My family recently took a road trip to upstate New York, where our family has a cabin. When my boys were babies, this trip was quite an ordeal. The four-hour ride easily turned into an all day affair, with frequent stops to nurse and change diapers. Plus, my babies were both car-screamers, which meant that we had to stop very frequently to soothe them.
I still remember looking back at my babies trying to twist their way out of their car seats, their faces all blotchy from crying, and their little fists shaking in the air. It was torture — for all of us.
Suffice it to say, I’m very glad that that phase is over.
As we were heading home after our trip, we stopped at a rest stop for a Starbucks fix. My husband and two sons waited peacefully in the car (i.e., sat there glued to their screens) while I went inside and waited in the endless line of caffeine-seeking road-trippers. Behind me, a dad was bouncing a baby on his knee, trying to keep him happy while we waited.
The baby pulled at my hair. I laughed.
“Sorry,” the dad said. “He’s just really cranky today.”
I told him I didn’t care at all that his baby had pulled my hair, and I thought it was adorable. Then I asked him why the baby was so sad.
“Oh, he just really hates the car,” he said.
I went on to tell him how much my kids hated it too, and how difficult our car trips used to be. I think it made him feel a little better.
Then he said, “But I’ll miss it, right?”
I laughed. “You’ll miss some of it, but not the crying in the car!”
He laughed too, and then we waited to order our coffee.
By the time we got to the end of the line and were waiting in a small group for our drinks, the poor baby was crying again, tears sliding down his pudgy little cheeks.
The dad began bouncing the baby vigorously, looking a little embarrassed by the baby’s cries.
I heard him say it again, to a stranger, “But I’ll miss it, right?”
I totally know where he was coming from with that, and if it helps him feel better to say that, more power to him. But frankly, I kinda wish that expression didn’t exist.
“You will miss it” was something that was said to me frequently when I was a brand new mom. I’d complain about the sleeplessness, the relentless needs of my baby, and how I felt like I wasn’t myself anymore, and all I’d get was, “Oh, just wait. You’ll miss it all.”
Not very helpful, if you ask me. Saying that only made me feel pressure to like every aspect of motherhood without question. Yes, there were absolutely things I liked about it. And for sure, I miss my boys’ babyhoods tremendously now, with a raw ache in my heart.
But the really hard parts? I don’t miss them. And when I was knee-deep in the hard stuff, I just needed a safe place to vent. I needed to be real about how much those parts sucked. By saying “you will miss it,” my feelings were being invalidated, and I was made to feel like I was being ungrateful just because I had a few complaints.
So, to that dad at the rest stop with the screaming cherub, and to all new parents struggling: It’s okay to vent. You don’t have to love every second of it. Some of it just freaking sucks. Getting puked on at 3 a.m.? Sucks. Sleeping one hour at a time for six months in a row? Fucking awful. Bouncing a colicky baby around your house for six hours every night for three months? Torture.
Complain about it all you want. Don’t apologize. We know you love your kids like no one else does. We know you are having a million memorable moments with your little ones — moments you wish you could bottle up and save forever. We know you’re #blessed and #grateful.
But it doesn’t make you any less of a parent to say that sometimes parenting tiny human sucks balls. It seriously does sometimes.
And I doubt you’ll miss the puking all over the place, the never sleeping, and the screaming and crying. You’re not supposed to love those parts. But what makes you amazing — and maybe what all that hard stuff is for in the first place — is that you do it anyway. You muddle through. You push through it all like a mofo. Why? Because you love your babies so damn much and you would do anything for them.
Basically, you’re a badass, a goddess, and a miracle worker. All parents are. So enjoy the good stuff, complain all you want about the parts that suck, and carry on.
And know that you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. And we all deserve a nice venti iced mocha Frappuccino for our efforts. Bring it.