Parenting is hard (a stream of conscious rant)

Photo by Ervin Bartis

This is about wanting room for angst on a rainy Sunday but needing to pull it together and parent instead.

They are at swim class, and I am, for the moment, free. I want to go to the movies. I want saltwater and sticky salt air in my hair, warm sun, cold beer, long nap. A dunk in the ocean. I want the freedom to be depressed today, to lounge and putter and feel angsty, to have space for that angst, without having to force it down to make a cheerful lunch, a soothing naptime.

It’s been two and a half years, now, and in some ways, motherhood is so natural, always has been, from the first moment, even when I was pregnant, and I am aware that she lights me up inside, and yet every day there is still that heavy feeling, that waking up and realizing there is work to do, AGAIN, the unrelenting work of being a parent, and making space for my own moods is so hard, allowing room for my own needs, my own unstructured unconstructive desires that are not summarized in a Daniel Tiger tag line, not answered in the pages of Elephant and Piggie books. “Pick up a hobby,” you might say, and I have plenty, I read, I write, I do the occasional improv show (I’ll do more once we relocate back to DC this spring, where my support network can help), I meet friends for coffee, I run my own business for Chrissakes, I am not “only” a mom and yet despite it all, in so many ways, I AM “only” a mom because of its primal encompassing of me, the way she swallows me up, and yet, again, when I drag myself tired to her in the morning and hug her, sunshine warms my body, SHE warms my body, she fills it, she is everything. But she is not everything. She is everything and she is not everything: ay, there’s the rub. How can you make space for something that takes up all the space? How can you yearn when you are consumed?

Every day I look at her and think, “Holy shit, we MADE that.” Over two years later and I’m no less stunned. I didn’t spend my life looking forward to this. For some reason as a child I never pictured what my husband would look like, or be like, or having a baby… if anything, all I assumed growing up is that one day I’d get a master’s degree, after college, though I wasn’t sure which one. I guess I assumed I’d get married but boys weren’t important to me, I wasn’t boy-crazy, I didn’t fantasize about that outcome or path. And then I met Jordan and everything was clear. And for so long, we didn’t want to have a child. For SO long. Our narrative would be love and romance and adventure and travel, art-making, Sunday mornings with bloody marys.

And then I changed. And eventually I convinced him. And then we wanted this, or we thought we did. But how can you want it when, until you have it, you have no idea what the fuck it’s all about? A quandry. But we wanted to turn this corner, take this leap, explore this experience. And then she was born and we loved her with the intensity of a thousand dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs – a love so ancient and powerful, huge, foreign. And it was disorienting. And it still is, two and a half years later. 

It’s like we stepped into someone else’s story, and yet it’s our story, all at the same time. Our story with her, she is not abstract, she is not “a child,” she is Alison, she is our Alison, and we love her deeply, but Jesus Christ it’s hard work, and we’re needy people, not in a desperate way but in a busy way — we want a lot of things, need a lot of things, artistically, domestically, emotionally, and we are not in some Zen place where Baby submerges all of our feelings, she expands them, extends them, influences others, tests some, but we still want what we want. She has changed us – we want different things, to some extent – but mostly we want many of the same things, and now we want her, too, and there just isn’t enough fucking room.

So basically: parenting is hard. And we don’t talk enough about the ways it’s weird when you aren’t someone who spent your life coveting or dreaming of it. That’s the key idea, the thesis statement, but fuck that, my heart is messy, and for the love of God, let me be messy about something right now. Ok?


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