Is it just me – or is the image of family and the experience of it jarring to anyone else? Celebs cradling their newborns in the perfectly pastel nursery while clad in sunlight and Dior; face book photos of happy families dressed in smiles and coordinates all snuggled in bed together (ok, guilty); strangers at the grocery store telling you,”It goes so fast,” as your child is pulling at your shirt begging for a tug on the ol’ boob and thereby releasing a wiff of your unshowered self? (A friend told me that happened to her once! Gross, right!?!)
Low and behold, I’m not the only one who sometimes (rarely, very rarely, so, so rare, ok*?) struggles with the reality of parenting, to watch it click here: Parenting Taboos Ted Talk.
I watched this talk months ago – and still it gets me through mamadoom moments. It’s funny, insightful, touching, validating, and inspiring all at once. So, I thought I’d share.
Longest P.S. Ever:
In case you don’t have 20 minutes to spare between diapers, dishes, and sippy cup refills … I’ll share my class notes (which will only take 19.4 minutes to scroll through and save you .6 of a minute):
Our nation goes out of it’s way to airbrush and present parenthood in the most “fantastical” way. Really, it isn’t always that way. Consequently, there are MANY taboos about parenting; here are four:
1. “The moment your child is born is the moment you will feel more love than you will ever know.” Not necessarily. Especially once the spit up and sleeplessness sets in … sometimes, it takes a little time to fall in love.
2. “Parenting is a community activity.”
Actually, parenting can be pretty darn lonely and isolating. Constant feedings, erratic sleep cycles, unpredictable behavior (ie tantrums at the market), and the need for baby-safe environments lead to long hours of being housebound in the company of … yourself and a very needy companion.
– 58% of mothers report feelings of loneliness
– 67% of mothers feel most lonely during the zero to five years old stage of parenting.
– 50% of parents today live away from extended families and support networks that previous generations relied upon … meaning 50% of U.S. parents today are doing it “on their own.”
(It always feels good to be reminded that you’re not alone. Especially when it’s loneliness you’re battling.)
3. “You can’t talk about your miscarriage or trouble with conceiving.” Conception issues are very personal, and laden with fear and pain. Women who struggle with this are part of a “secret society”because although 20% of pregnancies result in miscarriage, people don’t openly talk about the experience – which makes the experience all that much more isolating and painful.
4. “Every single aspect of my life has gotten dramatically better since I participated in the miraculous event of becoming a parent.”
NOT! “Having a baby is like driving the proverbial corvette off a cliff into a cataclysm of happiness.” According to four completely independent studies of marital happiness, which is hugely linked to overall life satisfaction, there is a HUGE drop in happiness when the baby comes along …and it doesn’t return to pre-baby levels until the kid leaves to go to college!
GULP! So … now that I’m a parent … does this mean I’m doomed?! NO!
The silver lining:
The speakers assert that by being more honest about the parenting experience (ie: my house is a wreck that I am constantly cleaning and my daughter cries when she wakes up in the morning, and when she doesn’t know what she wants for breakfast, and when I drop her off at school, and when I come and pick her up from school (?!), and she cries when she gets too hot in the car, and too cold outside, and she was born screaming and did not stop for six months – since then it’s been only 60% of the time …Anyway, I digress) … By being more honest with ourselves and each other about the parenting experience our expectations become more aligned with the reality of the situation.
With more realistic expectations and norms, the lows of spilled sippy cups and screaming households are just par for the course, and not all that AND a spoiled dream of sitcom life and utter feeling of failure as a parent.
On another bright note, while the lows of parenting are lower than ever imagined … so too are the highs. So, while parent’s average levels of contentment may drop the highs experienced along the way are transcendent. And, in retrospect, make for a happier and more satisfying life experience in the end.
In other words, tell the truth. And thank you to the Ted people for doing so.