Whenever I write a post that in any way criticises the holy sanctity of motherhood, I ready myself for the onslaught. Thanks to the wonders of the Facebook block-and-ban function, most of the onslaught now occurs in my own head, but it happens nonetheless.
I know – you see – that it is largely frowned upon to complain about parenting, because – you see – there are people out there in the world who have lost children. There are also people who wanted children, but couldn’t have them. There are even people whose lives – apparently – were wholeheartedly incomplete until they were hashtag blessed by hashtag little darlings. As such, to complain about healthy, living, life-affirming children is JUST NOT ON. It’s inconsiderate and disrespectful and, well, I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but those little children of which you scorn? THEY WON’T ALWAYS BE LITTLE. This is my favourite of all the arguments. “One day you’ll wake up and your little kids will be all grown up.” NO ACTUAL SHIT. People announce this as though they have a dramatic insight into the future. YOUR KIDS WILL GET BIGGER. Fuck off! No one told me this! I was unaware! You mean they won’t always be knee-high dribblers leaving brown fingerprints on my white trousers? Get out of TOWN.
Guys? I know this, on account of not being an actual fuckwit. I know that my kids will get older, and not need me as much. I know that these are the wonder years. I know I’m hashtag blessed. There are moments when the wonder of my children takes my fucking breath away – moments when I would give anything to press pause and freeze frame this precious moment in time – but they are not in playcentres. They are not at birthday parties. They are not at birthday parties in playcentres. Don’t tell me that one day I’ll miss taking my children to playcentres, and birthday parties, and birthday parties in playcentres, because I can assure you – by swearing on my Coronation Street teapot, no less – that I will never, ever miss that shit. You have my expletive-laden word.
I’m in no doubt as to my blessed nature. I spent Wednesday afternoon with two women from the Kids Cancer Support Group – one of whom had spent more than three years holding her son’s hand through leukaemia, the other of whom had lost her small son to brain cancer. Two weeks ago, I stood at a memorial for a 12-year-old school mate of my son’s. I KNOW how lucky I am. Don’t ever question that. I hold my children close and I breathe in their magic. I do this daily. I adore those little fuckers with an intensity that folds me double, sometimes. I know they are precious, and I know I am blessed, but I also know that they have the potential to be proper little arseholes who drive me to weep in the pantry. I know that for every memory-making moment, there are 20 others that I’m going to have to pay a psychiatrist many dollars to try and repress. Guys, yesterday I picked up a human turd, thinking it was a sultana. I will never miss picking up human turds disguising themselves as sultanas.
Here’s what I need you to know: it’s okay to admit this. It’s okay to confess to not adoring parenthood ALL of the time. It’s okay to call your children arseholes. Not to their face, I grant you, but behind their back? Yeah, that’s fine. It’s healthy. What’s not healthy is pretending that you’ve got this parenting gig completely sussed, and that it completes you totally. NO ONE HAS THIS PARENTING GIG COMPLETELY SUSSED, AND NO ONE IS TOTALLY COMPLETED BY PARENTHOOD. If anyone suggests this to you, they’re fucking lying. They’re also going home to cry in the pantry, and stick their head in a jar of Nutella.
Take a moment to imagine a world in which we were honest about motherhood. “How you doing today, Sally?” “Yeah, my daughter’s cute, but this morning I pissed myself when I sneezed.” “Oh Daphne, isn’t your son the sweetest little thing?” “No. He has a blank-eyed stare that follows me around the room and he robbed me of my freedom. Help me.”
Like, you might have a great job, but no one would blink an eye if you said, “I love my boss, but my desk overlooks a wasteland of broken files that makes me want to cut myself. And the coffee’s shit. And also my chair’s a bit wobbly, and doesn’t provide adequate back support. And I have a letter of resignation saved in the drafts folder of my emails, but I’ll never send it, because I love my boss.” That’s reasonable, am I right?
There’s a moment in the new series of Catastrophe where a sanctimonious school mum cracks and declares of her small son: “HE’S FERAL AND I HATE HIM.” I laughed far too loudly and for far too long at this line, replaying it over and over. Because of course she doesn’t hate her son – not on a long-term basis, anyway – but in that moment, that wonderful, life-affirming moment, she said what we all think, from time to time.
I swear to god, we’d all feel a lot better about ourselves if we didn’t feel we had to live up to the mythical benchmark of perfect parenting; if we could just TELL THE TRUTH without fear of being judged or condemned or considered anything less than top-notch. Cos yeah, we’re all hashtag blessed, but our kids are still (on occasion) hashtag little twats. That’s parenthood.