I am tremendously thankful to the more experienced moms of older children who have guided me through some of the crappy ages and stages of infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool-age tantrums. The best among them have simply come over with wine and distracted me from the mind-numbingly awful moments of parenting. Yet, there are some who feel the insistent need to point out that It gets better as soon as I feel comfortable enough to share the moments that are making parenthood hard for me: the sleepless nights, the difficulty of getting everybody ready to leave the house, the exorcist-style fits of fury when I won’t give them candy at 8 o’clock in the morning.
Instead of agreeing that, yes, these things suck, some more experienced moms try to show me the light at the end of the tunnel. Someday, my kids’ sleepless nights will turn into lazy teenage mornings. They’ll be able to feed and dress themselves. They’ll stop throwing tantrums that involve kicking and screaming in the middle of the grocery store. They will become less creature-that-eats-floor-food and more fully fledged humans. Don’t worry, they tell me. It will get better. It will all be worth it.
Then they go on to tell me that I’ll seriously miss these days of cuddles when they’re behind me. That I’ll long to hear their little high-pitched voices (which, for the record, spend 99.9 percent of their time whining “Mooooooooooom. Mom. Mama. Mom. MOOOOOOOOOM!”). They tell me I don’t realize how much I’ll want this time back after it passes, which adds guilt and panic to the mixture of unsavory emotions I was already feeling when I started complaining.
I nod politely. I admit that yes, I do understand that my kids will not always be taking off diapers in the middle of the night and peeing all over their mattresses, blankets, and pillows. And then, generally, I change the subject, because I no longer feel like I’m allowed to talk about motherhood or the struggle it entails. Because telling a newer mom that it gets better is essentially telling her to shut up about her problems.
Honestly, I’m pretty tired of hearing the it gets better and you’ll miss it when it’s gone soapbox speeches. New moms are aware that parenthood will shift and evolve and that the troubles which plague us now are not permanent, but you know what? It still sucks right now! Knowing that it gets better does not change the fact that I am currently going through a stage where my kid likes to sneak into the garage and jam his hand in the cat’s litterbox. There’s not a whole lot of consolation in being told the obvious fact that he will not do this at sixteen.
During these times when parenting is really weighing down on me, I need to vent. I need someone to listen and validate my experience. The point of airing grievances is not to get advice, it’s simply to get it out there, because so much of the struggle of motherhood is experienced alone, with whining kids and frustrating messes and no one to bear witness.
So what we need from more experienced moms is solidarity and empathy, not a proverb on enjoying the late night feedings that make us feel like absolute zombies. We need to know we can speak freely about our frustrations and get the empathy we really need from others who have been in our shoes. Try to put yourself back in that overwhelmed, why-does-parenting-suck-so-much-right-now frame of mind, and meet us in that place of frustration. Sometimes, that’s all we really need.