Dear Millennial Mom,
I see you there with your toddler, his surfer-dude hair brushing his shoulders as he arches his back trying to escape the worn brown straps of the restaurant high chair. You look around self-consciously as your kid lets out a frustrated yelp. Your husband gets up and heads to the bar — good man. You take out your phone and snap a pic of your about-to-blow toddler while tenderly explaining to him why he has to stay in his chair. With your free hand, you gently jiggle the fussy baby strapped to your chest. Two older women at a nearby table give you the stink eye. Are they annoyed because your kid is acting up, judging you and your iPhone, or both?
I can only imagine what your status update will say. (Don’t take that as snark, please.)
Your husband places your wine in front of you with a smile just as the little dude kicks the table. Crayons go flying, wine splashes across the table, and the baby wails. The women sitting a few tables away look over, lips pursed. I see your face flush as you scramble to wipe up, give the crying baby a binky, and whisper-yell at your husband to help with the toddler who is now in full-on tantrum mode. There’s no coming back from this, and you know it. All you wanted was that damn glass of wine, a juicy, grass-fed burger, and a side of sweet potato fries. When the food appears moments later, you ask for a to-go box.
The two women titter over their salads, but my face crumples along with yours. I’m the 40-something mom sitting across the room with my magically behaving 5-year-old. My glass of wine is safely in hand mostly because I’m letting my daughter eat butter straight from the dish that arrived with the breadbasket. Despite the age gap between us, I know exactly how you feel. Parenting can be a shitshow no matter what generation you belong to.
Thanks to my later-in-life third child, I’m a Gen X mom who gets to spend plenty of time with millennial moms like you. Yes, you’re glued to your phone and some of your parenting choices baffle me, but you know what? We have more in common than not. I might opt for skinny jeans over yoga pants, nude lip gloss over fire-engine red lipstick, and helicoptering over free-range, but you and I share the bottom line: We both want to raise healthy, happy kids, even if that looks completely different for each of us. And you know what else? You’re rockin’ it, even when it doesn’t feel that way.
There’s so much more information flooding your world than there was when I had my first kid. Sharing the minutia of your life online is as natural for you as sleep schedules are for me. I know you opt in to a lot of it — the candid posts on Instagram, the virtual support groups, the news feeds touting one type of parenting, then another — but that doesn’t mean you deserve all the judgment that goes along with it. Sorting through all the advice, research, and trolls has got to be exhausting, but I get why you do it. You don’t want to parent in a vacuum. Yes, you have IRL relationships, but you also have this robust virtual community that travels with you everywhere, glowing through your handheld screen, and that feeling of support is a lifeline at times.
I didn’t have that way back when. Connecting with other moms meant leaving my house, but postpartum depression and challenges nursing kept me isolated at home. When I did venture out, I pretended everything was okay, perfect even. It wasn’t real, and it wasn’t healthy. Your willingness to share and connect feels like a more authentic way to parent than the perfection many moms of my generation felt they had to achieve in their early years of parenting.
I know you feel judged, shamed even by the tsking women two tables over, but I’m here to tell you, screw them. Parenting is hard, and you’re doing great. When you snap and post, it doesn’t mean you’re ignoring your kids. It means you’re thinking of yourself for just a millisecond in the midst of the disaster. That’s something I never felt I could do when I was around my kids, and I wish I could go back and give myself a break. You know that that small moment of reaching out is what you need to get through the next seven minutes as you scoop up your freaking-out kids, head for the Subaru, and get the hell home.
But please don’t leave on my account. I know how hard it is just to get out the door and the disappointment at having to cut that outing short is tremendous. I see you struggling, I’ve been there, it’s hard AF raising kids. I don’t know that it gets easier — there are so many phases in childhood that challenge us and our kids — but it does change and so will you. You’ll get to know yourself better as you craft your own unique way of parenting and figure out what works best for you. You will, one day, sit down with your kids at a restaurant and thoroughly enjoy that juicy burger, side of fries, and glistening glass of wine from start to finish.
And when you do, I hope you share it on Instagram for everyone to see. Because that is an occasion that deserves to be marked.